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UM wants to increase post grads

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 Dec 2008: Universiti Malaya (UM) has now shifted its focus on post-graduate studies by increasing the number of places for such courses and reducing the intake of undergraduates.

Newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ghauth Jasmon said the move was in line with the university’s efforts to boost its rankings in the Times Higher Education Supplement within the next two years.

“We want more and better post-graduates and reduce the number of undergraduates, so that we can improve the quality of research output.

“The focus now is to bring up UM quickly so that we can get back in the league of the top 200 universities in the world over the next two years,”  he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama at his office here.

UM has slipped down the ladder since 2006, when it went from number 169 in 2005 to 192 in 2006. It was at the 245th spot last year but rose slightly to 230 this year.

And, just a month after his appointment on 10 Nov, Prof Ghauth has already set his plans for the university into motion to rectify the problem.

He said, the top of the agenda was placing more focus into research and development productivity.

“I’m working to attract first-class honours graduates into the system, to come and do research and improve the quality of research output.

“We also want more people to be involved in research, and this will be the key performance index for measuring their academic performance,” added Prof Ghauth.

He said first-class graduates would also be offered post-graduate scholarships immediately.

Next on the list was filling up 300 academic posts with qualified academicians from around the world, he said.

“We need them to strengthen our academic body,” he noted.

Prof Ghauth said he was also bringing in experts into niche areas which he wanted UM to develop, such as in the fields of medicine, engineering, business and economics.

On the decline in the quality of graduates the university produced as compared to its heydays, Prof Ghauth said the problem was not just confined to UM.

“Generally, they appear to be such a problem at the moment, but it is not just UM, but nationwide.

“People mainly attribute it to poor communication skills, but one method employed by UM to alleviate the problem is to teach more subjects in English, as well as conduct coursework and assignments in English,” he added.

He said the poor ability to interact and convince people also affected the marketability of graduates.

Prof Ghauth said this could be remedied with community work, which provided good training in building leadership and social skills.

“For example, if they do community work, we must give them marks for these. If they do work for their kampung, that must be recognised,” he said.

He said this could be done by widening the choices of co-curricular activities to include such activities and called for the student affairs division to be more proactive in coming up with new ideas for student participation outside the classroom.

Besides that, Prof Ghauth said graduates also needed to be more entrepreneurial instead of expecting to land a job after completing their studies.

He said, one way for UM to encourage its graduates to do that was to come up with entrepreneurship programmes such as the ones in Multimedia University, where he served as president and chief executive officer for 11 years.

“They can come up with good business ideas and under the programme, the universities will fund the setting up of their companies,” he said.

However, he said, the country still recognised the quality of UM graduates.

“Our employability figure is 97%, but there is a need to improve this, especially by shifting focus onto post-graduate studies.

“…but I think generally, our graduates are seen to be much better than many other IPTAs (public universities),” he said. — Bernama


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