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The age of our varsities is no excuse for them to be left behind

I refer to recent reports on Malaysian varsities’ failure to make it on the Times Higher Education (THE) list of the world’s seven fastest-rising young universities in the world.

Our universities’ inability to be ranked among the world’s best once again proves the abject failure on the part of the government to systematically and strategically develop a successful education system, and promote our local varsities to international standards.

Education Minister II, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, was quick to point out previously of the relatively “young” institutions we have on our shores, however as this recent report suggests, the age of a University need not necessarily be a barrier towards swift and sustained development – with the highest ranked University on this list, Singaporeäó»s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), being almost one third younger than University Malaya.

THE spokesman talked about our local varsities needing to improve its international reputation, through academic means, and I believe it is pertinent that the BN government hold discussions with local universities and iron out issues that are holding our universities back – be it funding, direction or even government intervention.

On that note, I would like to point out that academic freedom, which is an important tenet in promoting academic progress, is being severely threatened by the actions of the BN government, from the case of UM’s Azmi Sharom to the recent one involving Dr Khoo Ying Hooi also of University Malaya.

If the BN government fails to recognise the importance of upholding even the basic principle of academic freedom, and promote an environment that is conducive for educational growth, I truly believe that we have a very long way to go to achieve our academic aspirations.

At the moment our educators are not even allowed to discuss openly on matters of academic importance, including in the areas of governance, therefore what chance do they have to convince their international counterparts that they are of reputable standings?

The BN government should realise that this failure does not only affect our country’s academic reputation, but it also affect the future generation of scholars and leaders of this country.

It is time that the BN government buck up and walk the talk, failure of which could result in Malaysia forever chasing shadows, even that of our immediate neighbours.