LETTER

Foreign universities giving it to us real good

Disgruntled Former Staff

Published
Modified 14 Apr 2008, 8:35 am

The general public is not aware that a certain Australian university which has a campus here has little interest in developing the nation's intellectual capital. Over the last year, it's hidden agenda is to steal Malaysia's wealth and brain power, contributing very little to the nation while delegating distinguished locals to insignificant supporting roles while harvesting their intellectual work for the benefit of Australia.

The current Malaysian government unwittingly abets in this activity by opening opportunities to these foreigners that are denied in any self-respecting nation, including South Africa. Malaysia has thus become the laughing stock among academics in the know, from Melbourne to Johannesburg.

Consider the following: An Australian with limited experience and a spotty academic record has been appointed vice-chancellor and president of this university, bypassing many distinguished local academics with far better academic calibre and experience within this university's Malaysian campus. He is given a five-year contract, rather than the customary three years. Why?

Because he has promised the Australians that he will harvest Malaysian money, in the millions, in addition to the hefty 16% tuition fees that Australians already take (steal?) in the form of royalties. This additional money (billions) comes from Malaysia's vast research funds. Malaysia is dumb enough to give these so-called foreign professors access to these funds - just look at Mosti's website of experts - it is infested with the names of foreigners who are supposed to tap international research funds for the benefit of Malaysia. Instead, they sit there and ‘collaborate’ with locals - meaning that they insist on locals doing all the work while they publish jointly, and get a harvest of these funds meant to develop local academicians and researchers. Why are foreigners allowed to access these funds meant for Malaysians, paid for with Malaysian tax money? (Example 1 of ‘Malaysia Bodoh’).

In his maiden lecture, the VC mentioned above called for his university’s academics to work ‘collaboratively’ with Australian academics and also pushes for ‘linkages with local universities’. Why? Because he sees this as a means to access local government research funds, funds from private companies and international funds that may be available to distinguished local universities and then share the loot with Australia and get due credit. Of course, the Australian university couldn't care less as long as a fat stream of money flows into its cash-strapped coffers. To a question of when Australia is going to send money due to international publications by local academics (in Australian universities, a set amount of money is provided when the staff publishes in approved international journals), this man refused to pursue the matter. He must be asked to issue a public statement on this money owed to the Malaysian campus and a deadline of when the money will be forthcoming.

To stop this rot, the Malaysian government should immediately revamp its policy on foreign professors at branch campuses - these professors should be required to bring in research money from international research funds (as should befit a ‘professor’) and only play mentoring roles to locals. Mosti should never allow these foreigners of foreign branch campuses to register in their database; they must only be able to collaborate with special permission. In such collaborations, top-level journal publications must be mandatory - otherwise, they get away with dismal work that can easily be accomplished by anyone. In short, not addressing this situation leads to theft of local research funds to foreign shores in the name of ‘education’.

The foreign VC in question has pressured long-serving locals to resign as a result of them bringing attention to his dubious policies. He insists on rewriting original Australian policies that promote openness and transparency to obscure the facts and hide these dastardly deeds. Malaysia has no laws to address this (Eg. 2 of Malaysia Bodoh). Again, the Australian university doesn't care as long as money keeps flowing. As long as its financial interests are protected, to hell with its ‘equal employment opportunities’ policy - which is only for Australia.

All Western nations (US, UK, Australia) have strong policies on employment, insisting that foreigners are hired only when qualified locals are not available. Foreign universities in Malaysia freely hire foreigners who barely meet the grade (from the perspective of academic credentials and work experience) while better qualified locals are neglected, or made to play relatively minor leadership roles (Malaysia obediently issues work permits, Example 3 of ‘Malaysia Bodoh’).

Again, these foreigners care little about quality of teaching; textbooks are late in many cases across all the schools and often teaching material from Australia is not well-planned. As such, there is no benefit of giving these foreign, professional beggars these top posts. Thanks to our stupidity, rather than their cleverness.

First of all, this creates a healthy outflow of funds to foreign lands. Secondly, it helps them enact more of their own rules and regulations to increase this flow of money to Australia and wherever else. Thirdly, it forces locals to keep their mouth shut or get lost - in their own country. Since this VC took over, a growing stream of resignations from locals has taken place. The salaries and fringe benefits paid to these foreigners goes into millions! This is the kind of money US, UK and Australia save by only giving visas to foreigners who can deliver value. We should do the same by insisting these holders of top leadership posts and senior professorial positions bring in research money from sources abroad.

All of this is the result of the polices of the former PM. The result is an abortion of human capital development, not to mention the outflow of government and taxpayers’ funds.

We hope that the new Selangor government can initiate full investigations into these activities and track where all this research money goes to. Given that this university enjoys access to government-funded scholars, government-based research funds (formerly Irpa, now eScience, etc) as well as money from privately-funded students (whose parents are taxpayers), this foreign university must report in a true and transparent manner all its sources of funds and the subsequent use of these funds (including who gets both internal and external research funds and how these funds are allocated).