Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ranking: Three Malaysian universities enter Top 500

PETALING JAYA: Three Malaysian universities have made it to the top 500 out of 12,000 universities ranked in the Webometrics Ranking Web of World Universities released Saturday.

They are Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (419), Universiti Sains Malaysia (428) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (462).

This is the first time that Malaysian varsities have entered into the top 500 since the ranking's inception in 2004.

Meanwhile, American universities dominate the Webometrics ranking, with the top five universities being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, and the University of California, Berkeley respectively.

The ranking is an initiative by the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group part of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas (CSIC) in Spain.

According to the Webometrics website, the aim of the rankings is to encourage universities to have a better web presence and researchers to publish more scientific content on the internet.

Among the main indicators used to analyse university web presence are the size or number of web pages recovered from search engines; visibility; number of rich files available; and the number of citations found in Google Scholar.

The rankings are published every six months, and survey around 20,000 higher education institutions worldwide.

Details at:

Monday, July 18, 2011

1,022 geran penyelidikan bernilai RM178.4 juta diluluskan - Berita Harian

18 Julai 2011

PUTRAJAYA: Sejumlah RM178.4 juta dana penyelidikan untuk 1,022 geran penyelidikan membabitkan penyelidik daripada Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam (IPTA), Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Swasta (IPTS), Institusi Penyelidikan dan Jabatan Pengajian Politeknik, sudah diluluskan bagi fasa pertama dalam Rancangan Malaysia Kesepuluh (RMKe-10).

Menteri Pengajian Tinggi, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, berkata jumlah itu adalah sebahagian daripada RM741 juta dana penyelidikan yang diperuntukkan kepada kementerian.

"Ia adalah peningkatan 260 peratus atau hampir tiga kali ganda daripada jumlah yang diterima kementerian dalam RMKe-9 bagi program pembangunan dan penyelidikan (R&D) untuk tempoh dua tahun pertama pelaksanaannya mulai tahun ini," katanya kepada pemberita selepas melancarkan Dana Penyelidikan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi dengan tema "Bekerja untuk Malaysia" di sini hari ini.

Mohamed Khaled berkata, kementerian sudah menstruktur semula dana penyelidikan dengan mewujudkan empat lagi program geran penyelidikan baru iaitu Skim Geran Penyelidikan Eksploratori, Skim Geran Penyelidikan Jangka Panjang (LRGS), Skim Geran Penyelidikan Pembangunan Prototaip (PRGS) serta Dana Insentif Penyelidikan sebagai tambahan kepada Skim Geran Penyelidikan Fundamental (FRGS) yang sedia ada.

"Ini adalah satu ruang kepada IPTS untuk bersama-sama dalam soal ini, bagi universiti kita untuk turut sama terlibat dalam R&D. Mungkin sebelum ini, IPTS tidak ada peluang untuk mendapat dana, sekarang ini, kita dah buka, jadi ini bermakna potensi untuk mereka membangunkannya.

"Jika mereka benar-benar mahu terbabit dalam soal ini, untuk mendapatkan peluang diperuntukkan geran, sudah tentu mereka akan mengambil pensyarah terdiri daripada kalangan yang mempunyai PHd yang turut memberi kebaikan kepada IPTS tersebut," katanya. - BERNAMA

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ministry comes down hard on errant private colleges - The Star

By Richard Lim

PETALING JAYA: The Higher Education Ministry is coming down hard on private colleges which offer unrecognised courses.

The ministry has issued 47 summonses to several colleges and university colleges to appear in court for offering unregistered or unapproved programmes, and has warned that students enrolled in unaccredited and unrecognised courses run the risk of missing out on job opportunities or avenues for further studies.

The colleges were also hauled up for various other offences, such as relocation to new premises without approval; and for employing lecturers without teaching permits.

The ministry's enforcement and inspectorate division director Dr Naimah Md Khalil said the most recent cases involved two private providers which contravened the guidelines under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) and this was a serious offence.

“Only the registrar-general can approve courses which have been given the stamp of quality from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency,” she said.

In the first case, a college in Petaling Jaya which specialised in fashion and jewellery design (which has since changed its branding) was fined RM120,000 for offering five unapproved courses.

Several factors were considered by the Sessions Court judge, such as the number of students enrolled and the course fee for each programme, among others.

As a result, the fine for offering a degree programme in fashion design was RM50,000 while the degree in jewellery design earned the college a RM10,000 penalty.

The second case, involving a university college in Kuala Lumpur, was more intricate as the private provider realised albeit too late that it had made an error.

Attempts to rectify the problem the offering of five unapproved undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to music were made and the judge took everything into account.

However, the college was still slapped with a RM65,000 compound fine.

On the verdicts, Dr Naimah said such action would serve as deterrents for errant education providers.

The court cases complement recently released ministry statistics, which reveal that 47 compound notices were slapped on errant private education providers from January to March this year, compared to 47 last year and nine in 2009.

The cumulative amount of compound notices issued up to March was around RM470,000.

In April, higher education deputy director-general (private higher education institutions) Prof Datin Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the ministry would also get tough with colleges that use gimmicks like “free laptops and accommodation” being offered to new students.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy people make better, faster decisions - Straits Times

A study published on Thursday in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that it's better to go shopping when the going's not so tough, and we're in a good mood, because we make faster and more consistent decisions. -- ST PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR

WASHINGTON - THERE used to be a saying written on some shopping bags that said, 'When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping'. But a study published on Thursday in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that it's better to go shopping when the going's not so tough, and we're in a good mood, because we make faster and more consistent decisions.

Researchers Paul Herr and Derrick Davis of Virginia Tech, Christine Page of Skidmore College and Bruce Pfeiffer of the University of New Hampshire conducted a study to determine how mood influences the 'very basic element of decision-making' - deciding whether or not we like or dislike an object.

The authors manipulated study participants' moods by showing them pictures of positive things, like cute puppies, or unpleasant things, like diseased feet, and then showed them pictures of common objects, one at a time. The objects were flashed on a screen and then replaced by a word - like, dislike; good, bad; favourable, unfavourable; appealing, repulsive.

The participants were asked to press a key labelled 'yes' if the word matched their feeling about the object they had just seen, or the key marked 'no' if it did not. The researchers found that people who were in a good mood - probably the ones who had seen the pictures of puppies, not diseased feet - responded more quickly and more consistently to the words.

In other words, if they responded that they liked an object, they were less likely to respond later, when the same object was shown again but with a negative word associated with it, that they disliked it. The study's findings are relevant not only to shoppers, who might want to hit the mall when they're in a good mood because it will mean they'll get home faster and are unlikely to regret their purchases, but also to retailers and manufacturers.

Because retailers want shoppers to spend more in their stores, they 'may want to be aware of factors that can induce negative moods, like abrasive salespeople and negative shopping environments,' the authors of the study say. And the study's findings may help manufacturers to understand why some new products fail where others succeed: it could have something to do with whether consumers like or dislike a new product at first glance, which in turn might be affected by the consumers' moods, something manufacturers could manipulate. -- AFP

Monday, July 4, 2011

Doctoral dreams - Tales 2 Tell - Star

By Roslina Abdul Latiff

Pursuing a PhD is a long and arduous task, one that is best undertaken when you are absolutely ready.

OF ALL the questions my colleagues and friends ask regarding my doctoral studies, most of them are a variation of “How do you do it?” and “How do you cope?”

Pursuing a PhD would be a challenge for any other person, but with kids taking important exams, teaching final year students, handling final year projects and going for my doctoral classes at night, would be a pretty tall order for anyone.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. When I tried to start my doctoral studies sometime last year, it was a bit hard to cope while holding two administrative positions as associate dean of the faculty and head of the Mass Communications Department at a private university in the Klang Valley, on top of teaching three final-year subjects every semester.

But I guess there is always that someone who “nags” you to start your doctoral studies. For me, it was my previous boss who gave me the nudge and support. It made sense — in the education field, a doctorate degree gives you an edge in the organisation you work, as well as leverage in the subjects you teach.

Roslina at the university library.

But most importantly, you need to do it for yourself. You need to be prepared mentally to start and finish as it is a huge commitment.

You also have to set your momentum because you are very much on your own.

For me, it started when I was “ordered” by the human resources group manager to go on leave, as my leave days had accumulated to more than a month. The truth was I really needed to rest, refresh and revitalise before diving into the New Year and the new semester. I felt so drained, deflated and depleted.

I took the leave as a good opportunity to get away from everyone and everything that constitutes work. It also gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate the important things in my life. The first priority was of course my children who were taking their SPM, PMR and UPSR exams in 2010.

So when I officially stepped down in December 2009, I started re-writing my PhD proposal. I researched, read and re-wrote my half-baked proposal with the hope that I would be accepted as a doctoral student.

When I was about to submit my application, I told my mother and she asked me again if I was sure. Mum was very worried if I was capable of taking in more stress and challenges given the difficult year I went through.

Although I wasn’t sure I could handle it, I knew it was something I had to do for myself.

The other unacademic reason for going back to school was also to find a neutral ground I could call “home” again — an unbiased place I could be like any other student, going through the rigors of night classes, searching the lonely aisles of the library to find books that are a prerequisite for any dissertation and treading the unfamiliar doctoral path with my trusted laptop.

So in between ferrying the kids for tuition classes on different nights of the week, preparing them for the upcoming exams and preparing for the classes that I teach, I go for my doctoral class on Thursday nights, find time to do my assignments and do lots and lots of reading for my doctoral, my classes and for pleasure.

How do I cope? The simple answer is “one day at a time”.

I don’t really think of it so thoroughly, neither do I dissect it in detail nor psycho-analyse it — I just do it.

But having said that, there are a few things that would actually help to ease anyone into a doctoral dissertation (or thesis, depending on where you study).

The first and most important is to have a productive supervisor-student relationship. There are great expectations on both sides.

Having gone through a Master’s thesis will give you a rough idea of what it’s like, but this time on a much bigger scale and with much more at stake.

Supervisor-student relationship

There needs to be shared expectations between your supervisor and yourself. The important question for you is: what qualities are you looking for in your supervisor?

For me, a supervisor who is supportive, accessible, professional, experienced in the research field, gives freedom to me to express my ideas, cooperatively listens and compassionate rigor is what I hope for.

I consider myself lucky as my supervisor, Assoc Prof Dr Faridah Ibrahim, or Dr Dah as she is affectionately called, has all these qualities. Since our industry background is journalism, hers being print and mine broadcast, we have hit the ground running as the platform for the discussion is solid.

We bounce ideas back and forth, and discuss what theories or models would work. She’s very frank and direct with her comments on my work. But best of all, she has treated me as an equal although I’m still a struggling doctoral student with a lot more to learn.

Your supervisor also needs to know what your expectations are, so take the time to chat about these fundamental things.

While you’re at it, ask your supervisor what they are expecting from you as a PhD student. When I asked Dr Dah, this was her reply: perseverance, critical questioning (which is required of any PhD candidate), organised, rigorous, willing to learn, a good communicator and open mindedness.

If by any chance your shared expectations are not the same, then you need to re-negotiate and come to a compromise on what is best. Resolving these issues and clarifying any misunderstandings should be done from the very beginning, before you take that giant bungee jump!

You also need to be proactive. Know your rights and responsibilities. Work out together, who is responsible for calling meetings.

For us, it’s simple — communication via email on simple and quick questions, text messaging for delivery of proposals or chapters and meeting for discussions after the reading process. This is where we identify problems and weaknesses plus find solutions and elucidate the research.

Set agendas for meetings if there is a need to; if not, just plunge into the discussion head first.

Keeping your supervisor informed about your progress is also an excellent idea as they will worry when you go AWOL on them. But most importantly, be assertive.

The other thing that I did when I embarked on my PhD was to have a peer support group. This group comprises colleagues in the same boat, who meet once a month over lunch or coffee and discuss ideas and progress.

Although all of us are from different fields and doing research in diverse areas, the intellectual discourse is great.

I believe in some universities, these peer support groups also include supervisors with all their supervisees. If everybody had a common time to meet, this kind of group would be good, but if not, something like what I have would be sufficient. Just a bunch of friends mulling over coffee, pouring out discontentment and suffering and sometimes, it’s not even about the PhD!

On some days, when you get back your chapters full of markings and corrections, you can feel disconnected from the rest of the world.

I’m not sure how smooth or rocky my journey will be in the next couple of years but since I started off with a 4.0 average, I’m hoping to continue fruitfully.

I have also pledged to my supervisor I would complete my thesis in the designated time and let her retire in peace without her going on contract because of me. And that is a promise I intend to keep to Dr Dah and to myself.

If I emerge from this experience still unscathed, intact and sane, I would be able to share those experiences with many who are still pondering on the question: “A doctoral study... to do or not to do?”

My answer is “just do”, but only when you are absolutely sure.

Roslina Abdul Latiff is a Broadcast and Journalism senior lecturer, mother of four and PhD scholar