Malaysia’s oldest public university, Universiti Malaya (UM), is trying to become independent from the government by 2025, and has undertaken various approaches for its objective. Moreover, it is developing new approaches towards teaching methods and education. This is coexistence with the government’s budget cutting by around US$40.8 million_ a much sharper amount than anticipated.
So, what are the new priorities of UM?
Presumably the most critical UM’s goal is to become financially self-sustainable. The new priorities are summarized into several categories: boosting online teaching, amplifying use of new and robust data in enhancing services, beefing up its curriculum, collaborating with businesses on research, and exploring feasiblity of opening its medical degree programme to foreigners, due to huge demand for the course.
According to UM’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Dr Awang Bulgiba, the new online improvements will involve more self-learning, rather than uploading PowerPoints with exam intervals.
“It is compulsory now for every course to have a certain proportion of coursework to be delivered online. Typically, this involves just putting up lectures online and stopping at that. But we think that this is not going to be enough.”_ Prof. Awang Bulgiba
UM wants to move towards a learning approach which involves a combination of class-based and especially online teaching. Online tools might be significantly advantageous compared to conventional teaching methods in fostering students for better learning outcomes. This is crucially important for academics too since they will be having more time in spending for research. However, according to Deputy Vice Chancellor, face to face social interaction would not be eliminated. In fact, more time in class will be spent on group learning, discussions and critical thinking, rather than just on traditional style listening-taking-notes method.
DATA TO IMPROVE SERVICES
UM also wants to use data from across departments to improve its services by having more information from the student’s status quo academic performance. This year," new system will bring data together under one roof so it is easier for us to see what’s going on”, Prof. Awang says.
Assessing and discovering students’ weaknesses would be much more straightforward. For instance, it will help track when students are falling behind in courses and not reaching their full academic potential. Scheduling classes would be easier as well so that students are allowed to take courses from other departments which they may not have been able to take otherwise.
RESEARCH COLLABRATION WITH BUSINESSES
UM is already the highest ranked institution as far as research goes in the country, but it wants to ensure that its research is reliable for businesses usage. It will host multinational companies which can partner with researchers from the university according to Deputy Vice Chancellor. “The kind of research we do is now less fundamental and more translational.”_ Prof. Awang
This year UM will create a new research collaborative system of various fields from telecommunications and engineering to medical care and nanotechnology.
A MORE COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULUM
UM already has a good track record of employment rate. Around 80% of the university’s graduates find jobs within three months. However, it wants to keep up with changing businesses and new unique skills required by employers.
“We invite stakeholders from the industry to offer opinions, have discussion with us, to say what the industry needs now and what the industry might need in the future. This gives us an indication of where we stand in the higher education marketplace and whether our programs can remain competitive,” Prof. Awang says.
Are you a UM student? What do you make of these new objectives ahead?