Symposia: The Future of Higher Education in Malaysia

Event Details

Date: 11th April 2015
Venue: Rumah Gerakbudaya
Time: 1:00pm – 5:00pm

For our opening session of the Symposia series we discussed the future of higher education in Malaysia. Does Malaysia have a world-class higher education system as claimed recently? If not, what are the main issues and how can they be addressed?

It is clear that although funding, especially for public Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), is quite generous, education outcomes against national and international targets are poor and often very poor. In terms of HEI management, recent events within the Malaysian HE sector suggest some underlying concerns about the viability and sustainability of many HEIs, particularly in the private sector. Looking at the financial accounts of some private universities, particularly those with political links, raises serious questions about their financial sustainability which in turn affects the quality of their offering and the contribution to student experience.

Within this context this symposium examined HEIs in Malaysia across three broad dimensions:

  1. Economic resources and financing – What are the financial issues facing private universities? How much is spent and where does it go? Are private universities solvent? Are financial pressures affecting university performance? What are the main sources of finance for universities and are they sustainable?
  2. Industry structure, institutional form and ownership – is the number of HEIs efficient given the size of the market and student preferences and choices? Are consolidation, merger and acquisition in order? Are institutional forms appropriate? Are factors such as whether a university is run primarily as a commercial enterprise important in evaluating performance? Does the nature of ownership, especially those universities with political ownership structures provide insights into performance and outcomes?
  3. Impact and outcomes in quality, teaching and research: This component looks at two aspects. (1) What are the main quality issues in HEIs in Malaysia and what are the causes and consequences of any failures? And (2) What is the potential causality? Are quality issues, such as poor student outcomes evidenced by high graduate unemployment and low graduate wages, amongst others, related to economic and financial resources and industry structure, institutional form and ownership – and if so is there any evidence of causation?

This opening session of the Symposia series looked at these issues and others within a workshop format. Led by education researchers Dr Paul Lim and Dr Geoffrey Williams, the symposium will look at an overview of the landscape, especially in the private HE sector. Participants were then invited to contribute their ideas in a brain-storming workshop to share and debate the issues and hopefully reach some conclusions and consensus on ways forward.

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