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Barisan Nasional MPs should “grow up” and be prepared to wrestle with “hard questions” such as recognizing that the real reasons for decline of academic excellence and university quality is lack of meritocracy both in student intake and appointments/promotions of academicians

Media Statement        
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Thursday) : The din and pandemonium in Parliament yesterday during question time over my supplementary question on academic excellence and university quality is most deplorable as it was caused simply because Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs cannot stand “hard” questions but only prepared to entertain “soft’ questions.

The original question was from a BN Sabah MP, Edmund Chong Ket Wah (Batu Sapi) who asked the Higher Education Minister “to state that out of the 20 local public institutions of higher learning, how many are listed on the Academic Ranking of World Top 500 Universities”.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Higher Education Ministry, Datuk Dr. Adham Baba gave a tepid and colourless reply, who dared not address the real problems of higher education in the country, failing to mention a single international university ranking.

This was followed by two supplementary questions by BN MPs which only enabled Adham to skirt the problem of decline and fall of academic quality of Malaysian universities.

In my supplementary question, I said that while Adham had said that Malaysia will use the National University of Singapore as a benchmark for public universities in the country, I pointed out that the University of Malaya had started out at par with the University of Singapore until the seventies in terms of international recognition for academic excellence and university quality.

However, Malaysia has slipped back to the international academic backwaters, as illustrated by the following international rankings:

  • Omission from Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Ranking for 500 Top Universities;
  • Omission from Newsweek’s Top 100 Global Universities;
  • Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) QS World University Rankings – with University of Malaya falling from No. 89 in 2003 to 169 in 2004 and 192 in 2006; Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) from No. 111 in 2003 to 326 in 2004 and 277 in 2006; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) improving from No. 288 in 2005 to 185 in 2006 and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) from No. 393 in 2005 to 292 in 2006;
  • 2007 Webometrics Ranking (WR) of 3,000 Premier Universities – where the best Malaysian university, USM is ranked No. 1,193, behind eight Thai universities and two Indonesian Universities. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia is ranked 1,317, Multimedia University 1,338, UPM 1,426 and University of Malaya 1,475.

The citation of these facts and figures was too unbearable for the BN MPs who created a din and caused a pandemonium – but that did not deter me from winding up my question, asking when the government was going to end its denial complex and restore full meritocracy as the precondition for academic excellence and university quality, and when the university search committees were going to result in the appointment of non-Malay Vice Chancellors in the public universities.

BN Ministers and MPs can only be used to “soft” questions but their din and pandemonium are not going to stop DAP MPs from continuing to field “hard” questions during Question Time.

Barisan Nasional MPs should “grow up” and be prepared to wrestle with “hard questions” such as recognizing that the real  reasons for decline of academic excellence and university quality of Malaysian public universities is the lack of meritocracy both in student intake and appointments/promotions of academicians. 

It is no use BN MPs privately agreeing and admitting that the lack of meritocracy had been the bane  of Malaysian public universities, but none of them, whether Umno, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, or from the Sarawak and Sabah component parties, dared to speak up in Parliament to publicly call on the Higher Education Ministry to take the most important step towards academic excellence and university quality –   

  • firstly, end the farce of “fraudulent meritocracy” in having two different university entrance examinations, i.e. the more difficult STPM and the much-easier matriculation, and having instead one common exam, whether STPM or matriculation as the standard university entrance examination; and
  • secondly, elevating meritocracy as the primary criteria for the appointment and promotion of academicians, including Vice Chancellors, Deputy Vice Chancellors and Deans of Faculties.



* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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