Why is closure of UM pharmacy programme shrouded in mystery?

It is sad to note that the Bachelor of Pharmacy programme at University Malaya, that existed for the last 18 years, will be axed following instructions of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), an accreditation unit of the education ministry, on the recommendation of the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia (PBM).

This programme that has churned out hundreds of graduates of high academic standards will see its last batch of students graduating in 2021.

The real reason for this is unclear. However, UM’s Faculty of Medicine dean Adeeba Kamarulzaman said as the pharmacy programme did not have its own faculty but was constituted on an interdisciplinary basis, it had been recommended to be terminated.

This is after years of existence, although I am not sure what the members of MQA were doing all these years and why all of sudden the PBM has sprung into action to the extent of asking UM to close down its pharmacy programme.

I am not sure whether the university authorities were warned in the past and it is not clear whether they had responded to these directives. I am sure there were correspondence on this matter, but the public is not privy to this.

Given the global curriculum changes in the course contents of various academic programmes, I am not sure whether anybody can claim to have a sole monopoly on how programmes can be conducted or taught.

If I am not mistaken, the present global trend among institutions of higher learning is towards integrating a multidisciplinary approach in imparting knowledge across academic and professional disciplines.

Whether a full-fledged faculty is needed to conduct and sustain an academic programme such as pharmacy is yet to be established.

If the pharmacy programme had been ordered to close because it did not have a faculty, such a reasoning cannot be accepted.

The PBM, which advised the ministry of education or MQA, might defend its traditional approach, but surely its members should also understand that even professional courses are taught in a multidisciplinary manner in some of the developed countries.

The actual truth why the programme is closed down is not altogether clear. The UM authorities should go beyond the rhetoric of saying that the closing down of the pharmacy programme was not related to the quality of the programme but a technicality.

But surely if there are technical problems, these can be addressed without undermining the programme that had existed for long.

The UM officials should not adopt the recommendations of the MQA uncritically, if not UM will be seen as a mere appendage of the larger bureaucracy.

We cannot celebrate “new Merdeka” if officials involved in the teaching and management of academic programmes are doing things that are shrouded in mystery.

The public demands transparency on this matter!

P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang

The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.