Calls for university autonomy
UNIVERSITIES should aim for autonomy and accountability which is crucial for the growth and development of the higher education sector in the country said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chair of higher education Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak recently.
Speaking at the National Higher Education Conference 2017: How to Make Our Universities More Autonomous? last week, he added that universities are currently operating like a bureaucracy rather than centres run by intellectuals.
“This conference serves as another milestone where issues related to university autonomy are being re-articulated after a period of intensive research and consultative discussions culminating in the historic meeting of minds.
“This is a defining moment for higher education in Malaysia, especially in universities, to once again put forward the agenda of university autonomy on a national platform. I am very optimistic that we will arrive at another high point to elevate our universities as autonomous and accountable institutions,” he said.
The National Higher Education Conference 2017 was held as a follow-up to IDEAS’ comparative study on mended the abolishment of the Universities and University College Act to be replaced by a National Higher Education Act.
Also present at the conference were Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Yayasan Sime Darby governing council member Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Wan Noordin, who led the committee tasked with making recommendations to improve higher education in Malaysia in 2005.
The Wan Zahid report made 138 recommendations to Parliament and includes proposals for academic freedom, financial autonomy and selfgovernance in universities, many of which were adopted by the Malaysia Education Blueprint Higher Education 2015-2025.
Wan Zahid said: “I am pleased that the government took into account our call for autonomy in the Higher Education Blueprint. Through this project, nevertheless, we hope to strengthen current higher education policies in Malaysia to bolster our institutions further.
“This project, which aims to strengthen current higher education policies, is in line with Yayasan Sime Darby’s objective of complementing the Malaysian government’s efforts in enabling society to gain quality higher education for the future of our country.”
Yayasan Sime Darby supported IDEAS’ research and advocacy initiatives based on the recommendation and findings from the comparative study.
Throughout last year and earlier this year, IDEAS conducted four roundtable discussions with relevant stakeholders from the government, public and private universities as well as think tanks on the topic of autonomy and accountability of universities.
Four policy papers were also produced on the different aspects of autonomy: the history and epistemology of universities, the history of autonomy, financial autonomy, and examples of university autonomy from around the world.
The proposed new National Higher Education Act includes:
∙ Institutional autonomy, particularly the transfer of administrative control to independent