In an interview with StarEducation, the new Higher Education Minister talks about the steps he is taking to transform the Malaysian higher education sector.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin was "gifted" with
two important policy documents by his predecessor, Datuk Mustapa
Mohamed - the National Higher Education Strategic Plan and the National
Higher Education Action Plan (2007-2010).
Both plans chart the
future of higher education, and are aimed at ensuring that Malaysia can
attain world standards in the not-too-distant future.
Khaled now has the responsibility of translating the Strategic Plan
into action. He has indicated that this will be his primary focus and
has no intention to reinvent the wheel.
To a certain degree,
education is not a new field for Khaled. In his previous capacity as
Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Minister, Universiti Kuala
Lumpur and the various MARA colleges were under him.
months into his current portfolio, Khaled has a clear idea of what he
should do. First on the agenda is the reorganisation of the ministry
itself, details of which will be announced on June 13.
"We need to restructure the ministry to support the implementation
of the Strategic Plan. Some departments will be streamlined and even
merged," he told StarEducation in a special interview at his office in Putrajaya last week.
next major announcement is expected to involve the apex university
(that is, one that has great potential to be world-class).
public and two private universities have submitted proposals to come
under the accelerated programme for excellence. Institutions identified
as apex universities will be given additional assistance, Khaled said.
university that has applied has put forward its plan and the budget
required to carry it out. We will make an announcement on this in July."
issue that he has set his sights on is graduate employability.
According to findings under the ministry`s Graduate Tracer Study 2006,
30.7% of graduates remained unemployed six months after their
The study involved 132,900 graduates from 18 public
universities, 18 polytechnics, 34 community colleges and 13 private
institutions of higher learning from all over the country.
improve their marketability, last year the ministry instructed
universities to beef up undergraduates` soft skills by making it
compulsory for them to take courses in entrepreneurship, communication
and English language, among others.
Khaled has taken this one
step further by introducing a more structured and centralised
internship programme for final-year students in public universities.
want to ensure graduates are equipped with skills and experiences
related to their fields of study as employers have raised the issue
that they lack essential skills, such as communication," he said.
Higher Education Ministry will coordinate the programme and inform the
respective universities of vacancies available. For a start, Bank
Negara is offering 500 places under this programme.
plans to work with the Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development
Ministry to further expand the entrepreneurship programme.
"Now the focus is more on creating awareness on entrepreneurship among university students.
"We want to go beyond that to see how they can benefit from some of my previous ministry`s programmes and facilities.
from there will go to the campuses to facilitate students` involvement
as they have funds set aside for university graduates," said Khaled,
who is from Johor and holds a law degree from Universiti Malaya.
landmark event that took place after he took over the helm was the
long-awaited release of the Rating System for Malaysian Higher
Education Institutions (Setara) 2007, last month.
finally brought some measure of transparency and accountability to the
public higher education sector, with universities being given star
ratings based on indicators like their facilities, academic programmes
and research activities.
When asked whether universities that
score highly should be allowed to differentiate themselves and start
charging "five-star" fees, Khaled said that the hotel analogy should
not apply to higher education.
"That`s not the reason why we came up with Setara. We want all universities to get as many stars as possible.
"The main objective is for universities to improve their standing and for us to help them do so."
Both his predecessors, Datuk Seri Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh and Mustapa, stayed about two years each at the ministry.
academics and students hope that Khaled will get more time at the helm,
and the support he needs, to translate the Strategic Plan into action.