Malaysians plan corporate culture

April 5, 1996

The Malaysian government has announced plans to streamline the decision-making structures of the country's universities.

Boards of directors are to replace councils as the highest policy-making bodies: membership of each university's board of directors will be limited to eight including the vice chancellor, to ensure universities are managed more effectively and dynamically, according to education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

The Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 is being amended to enable effective corporatisation of universities.

Universities will be able to set up companies that will bring in financial returns. Mr Najib stressed, however, that corporatised universities which are set up under their own act will continue to be entities owned by the government. They will be like other statutory bodies, but unlike government departments. He made a comparison with the Armed Forces Fund Board, which has its own board of directors but functions as a corporate body, whose administration is oriented towards business.

University senates are also to be trimmed. Taking University Malaya (UM) as an example, the education minister said its senate has about 300 members. This will be cut to about 40, as it is believed that a smaller senate can make faster and more effective decisions. The university court, which has only a ceremonial role, is to be abolished.

The management of university personnel will be guided by the national education council, which will issue guidelines on personnel policy including technical and academic staff.

A new salary structure is being worked out, which, said Mr Najib, would be "market-driven to stem the brain drain". The whole idea of corporatisation, he said, is to "prevent the brain drain and attract the best personnel to the universities".

In response to fears that there would be an influx of foreign academics, he said the government's aim was to nurture home-grown local expertise. But, he said, that in areas where expertise was lacking the government would look abroad for staff.

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