Remove all politically appointed varsity heads, NGO tells Maszlee

The Malaysian Academic Movement calls for reforms in public universities, saying varsities are about more than just providing labour for the market.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) has called on new Education Minister Maszlee Malik to replace all politically appointed senior office-bearers in public universities to ensure the institutions are led by quality and experienced academics.

These include chairmen, boards of directors, vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors and other top management officers, it said.

In a statement, the NGO said the practice of appointing individuals on political grounds had to stop in favour of “independent-minded, honest, accountable, creative, empathetic and altruistic leaders”.

It said the action was needed as part of reforms to make Malaysian universities more vibrant and progressive.

Gerak also called for the National Council of Professors (MPN) to be dissolved.

“At many instances since it was formed, MPN was used to legitimise the previous ruling party (Barisan Nasional) rather than to promote knowledge and help the country in nation-building,” it said.

“Furthermore, professors should not be institutionalised. They should have the freedom to engage with the government, CSOs, society or other stakeholders without the need to go through a council like MPN.”

It said Maszlee should also ensure that the recruitment of academics and support staff, as well as the enrolment of students, are undertaken on merit.

It also urged him to establish a committee on institutional reforms of higher education.

“Among the examples are the appointment of academics/support staff, promotion criteria, the abolishment/reform of MyRA (Malaysian Research Assessment Instrument), and the red tape in accepting external fundings,” it said.

“Gerak believes that with these fundamental reforms, Malaysian universities can finally reclaim their autonomy and freedom; both crucial in producing academic excellence.”

The NGO also said the Universities and University Colleges Act, the “Aku Janji” pledge and the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act must be abolished.

“They do nothing to make academia grow intellectually; instead they control and constrain academia for rather idiotic political reasons,” it said.

Universities should also allow academics to publish in all reputable journals instead of being restricted, it added.

“The role of universities is higher than that of just providing labour for the market.

“We urge the new minister of education to uphold this philosophy so that we can truly develop, nurture and facilitate more creative and critical individuals who will have more to offer to society.”