Malaysia’s new “apex universities” and the global ranking phenomenon

For over a decade Malaysia has been framing its higher education system at a regional, if not global scale. The policies, programs and projects that are associated with this development process have been succinctly analysed by people like Molly Lee (now at UNESCO Bangkok), Morshidi Sirat, and several other scholars. The Education in Malaysia blog is also a prime source for news and opinions on this development process.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched the National Higher Education Action Plan 2007-2010 several days ago. The plan includes a policy to support the emergence (via regulatory and material support) “Apex Universities”, as well as greater autonomy, and independent auditing to ensure quality (code words for less political involvement in the governance of universities). One graphic representation of the plan is pasted in below, and also available in the article Reaching for the top“:


As several Malaysian newspaper articles (“Reaching for the top“; “Aiming higher: PM maps out plan for world-class varsities“) note the new plan is highly ambitious, but prospects for implementation also involve overcoming significant institutional, cultural, and political challenges. I am hoping that some of our Southeast Asia-based correspondents will be able to shed more light on the plan and the implementation process once this blog is fully “up and running” (recall that these are early days in a new blog, and that it will not rolling smoothly until October or November).

Partially underlying the Malaysian developments, of course, is the governing power global audit culture. The phenomenon of global university ranking schemes is one that is generating a myriad of concerns, partially due to ranking-related changes in institutional practices. On the issue of rankings, Richard Holmes’ blog (University Ranking Watch) is a useful resource, as is the Institute for Higher Education Policy (which is currently conducting research on this topic, and also helped spur on the creation of the Berlin Principles on Ranking Higher Education Institutions).

2 thoughts on “Malaysia’s new “apex universities” and the global ranking phenomenon

  1. It will be interesting to monitor to what extent the National Strategic Plan and the accompanying Action Plan will be implemented and to this effect IPPTN has considered as its main task in the next few years to monitoring and assess the implementation of the action plan. Ideally, scenarios of higher education in Malaysia should have been generated and adopted prior to the formulation of a strategic plan. The plan is devoid of such an exercise for it was considered as unnecessary.

    IPPTN has recently completed two important studies, “Futures of Higher Education in Malaysia”, and “Models for Universities in Malaysia”, which will be used as the basis of monitoring and assessing the implementation of the strategic plan for higher education, in addition to other offical government documents. One of our main focus in this monitoring and assessment of the plans will be on two important issues of apex universities and university autonomy.

  2. Pingback: Global university rankings 2007: interview with Simon Marginson « GlobalHigherEd

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