Call to Rethink The Role of Universities

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 – Universities have been urged to reconsider their roles and identities in the development of society.

UCSI University Vice-Chancellor and President Academician Senior Professor Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff, FASc, commented that universities need to rethink their positions and responsibilities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic at the first UCSI Eminent Speakers Forum. The first UCSI Eminent Speakers Forum comprised five leading experts in higher education, providing their thoughts on the current higher education landscape.

The guest speakers for the panel included Senior Professor Khalid, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dato’ Dr Mohamed Ridza Wahiddin, FASc; Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) CEO and Provost, Professor Dr Mushtak Al Atabi; Higher Education Leadership Academy (AKEPT) Director, Professor Dr Nordin Yahya; and Asia-Europe Institute of University of Malaya, Distinguished Professor Dato’ Dr Rajah Rasiah.

“Covid-19 has provided us with space to reflect and ponder the direction we are heading, especially in higher education. Universities are seeking to align themselves with the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) to produce graduates that meet industrial standards. However, we get confused with the means to align ourselves with IR 4.0 and forget the purpose,” Senior Professor Khalid said.

He stressed that universities should not only focus on preparing the students for the market but also, they should provide the students with a safe space to foster ideas and values, which cannot be taught in modules.

“Universities should be what they are – a place to foster ideas and values through debates, activities, and deliberations. This reminder does not compromise on the standards and excellence in delivering technical skills and knowledge. Instead, this reminder complements our commitment to nurture thoughtful, proficient, and responsible citizens of the future. These things cannot be taught through a conventional subject.” He said

 AKEPT Director Professor Dr Nordin Yahya echoed this sentiment.

“We need to recall the fundamentals of being a university. Universities should not just focus on training individuals and generating new knowledge. Universities should also engage with society by linking their activities with their socio-economic contexts. If we neglect one of these missions, then we are not a university,” Dr Nordin concurred.

Additionally, HWUM CEO and Provost Professor Dr Mushtak Al Atabi commented on an identical need when it comes to course counseling.

“20 years ago, prospective students came to the university with an idea of what they want to study. Now, many prospective students do not know what they want to do even though they are high achievers. So, we need to change the narratives.

Instead of asking them what course they want to do, we should ask them what impact they want on society,” Dr Mushtak said.