Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reading List: Something For MOHE

If we want to start producing Nobel Prize winners, we’d better start moving:

The Road to Academic Excellence: Lessons of Experience

When I published my first book on World Class Universities two years ago, I certainly did not anticipate the world-wide exposure it received. Now, I sometimes worry about having contributed to raising expectations about the importance of world-class universities.

When I visited Nigeria last year, I was told that the country wanted to have 20 World Class Universities by 2020. Recently, Sri Lanka announced that it would increase its higher education budget in the hope of having at least one world-class university. Today we launched The Road to Academic Excellence, a new book I edited with Professor Phil Altbach, and already, the burden of guilt regarding the possible consequences of the new book haunt me.

This new book brings together nine case-studies, telling the story of 11 institutions undergoing a complex transformational process as they strive to become world-class research universities, either by following the “upgrading” or the “starting anew” path to academic excellence.

The sample of institutions reviewed is too small to be conclusive, but the case studies suggest that establishing a new institution is a relatively faster and more effective approach to becoming a world-class research university. Still, new research universities face special challenges. They need to sufficiently innovative and represent a convincing alternative to existing institutions to attract top academics and good students. Indeed, the book identifies global talent search strategies among the most powerful accelerating factors for establishing world-class research universities.

The book’s available here.


  1. It's a pipe-dream. We were once the toast of the commonwealth for the academic excellence of our students and the quality of our teachers and lecturers.

    At pre-university level, Penang Free School, Victoria Institution and St Johns Institution were some of the stars. At university level, Universiti Malaya was much admired regionally.

    Today all are gone. Some say goners. At pre-university level, only the national-type Chung Ling in Penang and Sam Tet in Ipoh are holding their own whose students can rank pari passu with those of Singapore's national junior colleges.

    If both our students and teachers are not prepared or equipped to interact with the best of breed of the world, how can we develop a thinking-knowledge-research culture that even save the future of our industries and economy?

    And here we husband our charts to wring encouraging signs of growth from aggregated data! What about real progress from the sinews of the mind that will cleave darkness, build new gadgets, and dispel the cobwebs of ignorance to find truths beyond the last brick and the next baloney?

    Where are the illuminations that will attract minds to interact at the nearest warung by whose intelligent fertile conversations new ideas can be tested by deft white-heat genius into the wee but exciting hours of the morn?

    Nein, kameraden. Kaput.

  2. I think one of the causes of the relative decline in the quality of education has been the need to fit as many bodies into the education system as possible after independence. Obviously the emphasis on quantity eventually affected quality, as Malaysia was and is too small of a nation. Good teachers got spread too thin, and the need to churn out teachers to match the number of students meant the average quality of new teachers also fell. That's my hypothesis anyway.