A welcomed respite

I wish to congratulate University of Malaya (MU in short) for being able to ‘squeeze’ inside the top 200 universities ranking 2009, compiled by  Time Higher Education. MU is ranked 180 this year, up from 230 last year. The full list can be viewed here.

MU has been absent from the top 200 list for many years, and the fact that it is able to come back in should be commended.

While a lot more needs to be done, I view this as a good beginning. This is indeed one of the very rare occasions during the past few years that I have seen an improvement in a  Malaysian ranking.

Never mind that MU was once among the top universities in the region, comparable to University of Hong Kong and University of Singapore .

While National University of Singapore and University of Hong Kong  have consistently been within the top 50, MU has dropped out altogether from the list of the top 200. NUS and HKU are now at 30th and 24th position respectively.

I have a strong feeling for MU, since I was a medical student there for about 2 weeks. I went down to University of Singapore when they offered me an Asean Scholarship. I would have remained in MU had I been given a scholarship then.

I hope politicians should leave the academicians alone and let them run the university along meritocratic principles. There should not be 2 sets of standards and 2 sets of marking systems.

There is nothing like fair competition to bring excellence back to our universities.

Take an example of a hemiplegic patient after a stroke. Initially patient would have difficulty to get up and move on his own. At this stage, we normally would give him a walker to support himself and let him move slowly his own.  After some time, when he is much stronger, he should be weaned off the walker and crutches can be given to him. With the help of crutches , he would slowly regain his walking ability and slowly, with the help of physiotherapy, he can often regain 80% of his mobility and wean off the crutches.

Those stroke patients who refuse to exercise and refused to be weaned off the crutches cannot hope to get the same mobility of the group that exercises and wean off clutches.

Like stroke patients, help can and should be given to weaker students in the form of extra classes, extra tutorials, extra homework .These will help the weaker students to get up to the levels of the better students, but once there, they must be encouraged to compete fairly on an equal footing . Only in this way can they become competent graduates in their chosen fields.

What is the point of giving them good marks when at the end of the day, they cannot even perform up to the minimal standard required in their chosen fields?

I think the ‘crutch’ syndrome is the Achilles heel of the country. If this crutch mentality is not dismantled, through the dismantling of the skewed NEP and all the skewed policies under the program, then it is difficult to bring back excellence in all our fields..


19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. petestop
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 20:48:00

    Our company is always hiring new EE and IT graduates, however, we have not come across any from UM that is worth considering, despite it supposedly being the top U in Malaysia.

    One thing is it is too tradition bound and subject syllabus are ancient and no longer relevant in the industry.

    In our industry, every quarter is a new generation of product based on new technology.

    Can UM ever keep up ?


  2. petestop
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 20:55:10

    On a side note, perhaps of interest to medical research:

    Btw, Doc, I am recently diagnosed with the rare “Ramsay Hunt Syndrome”.

    Since the virus involved are due to the same virus that causes Chicken Pox, and the fact that just weeks ago some of my staff came down with Chicken Pox.

    Do you think that this could be a cause for the reactivation of the dormant virus in me ?

    Coming from an engineering background, I would have jump at the chance to study this.

    I don’t think engineering and medical approach are not too different. We diagnose machine, you diagnose living bodies. We look for symptoms, much like you do. Finally we try to fix things, although some invariably are beyond repair.


  3. Dr Hsu
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 21:31:03

    Ramsay HUnt type 2 is a form of herpes zoster, which is the result of reactivation of the dormant chicken pox virus in the body. When it attacks the facial nerve and geniculate ganglion (a ganglion is a nerve station) , the half side of face will be paralysed , with vesicles eruption over the distribution of the nerve area. The weakness of the face muscle is also known as Bell Palsy.

    With early treatment with steriods and acyclovir, recovery can be 80% , but residual weakness of the face muscle may be present. The main thing is to start treatment early, and this is one instance where high dose steriods started early will be of help…


  4. petestop
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 23:55:04

    I’m currently on Acyclovir and Prednisone, also Neurobion. Already exhibit facial paralysis since yesterday.

    So, it is really weird not to be able to control half your face. Can’t raise my eyebrow, or shape my lips to whistle, etc.

    It started with a “sensitive” spot on my neck just below the ear, which progressed to swelling a week ago. Was on antibiotic (Amoxycilin) back then and some painkillers. But I notice swelling did’nt reduce fast as with normal bacterial infection or wound. The swelling have since much reduced. After which there is some watery rash on the inner part of my outer ear, which since have dried up.

    My doc who is rather old 60+ said this is first time he encounter this syndrome.

    Sorry for going off topic here. Cheers.


  5. Dr Hsu
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 09:48:48


    Herpes zoster (also known as shingles) is quite a common condition, usually affecting other nerves

    Bell’s palsy due to other viral infection is also quite comon and we do see on and off. But for chicken pox virus to cause Bell palsy , it is not common but we do see it once in a while.

    When a pperson is down with chicken pox, even when we recover, the virus will remain dormant in our nerves. Once our resistance goes down, (like not enough sleep, or facing stress), the virus can flare up along the nerve and you get what the chinese called “snake lesions’ which are small vesicles along the nerve.

    So although you do not get chicken pox a second time, you can get shingles for more than once, after your primary chicken pox infection ..

    That is why we now advocate chicken pox vaccinations.

    Now that you are having paralysis of half the face, you have to be careful with your eye on that side, because the eyelid may be weak and may not close well, causing the eye to be dry. So you may have to close the eye lid wmanaully when you sleep and use some artificial tears to keep it moist.

    Most people will recover the strength of the facial muclse to certain extent (50-80%), so do not worry too much. Just follow your good doc ‘s advice. After the acute phase, you may have to do facial exercise to help regain the strength of the muscle.


  6. petestop
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 10:26:55

    Thanks, doc, for the reassurance.

    Sending my children and wife for chicken pox vaccination. Apparently in US, this vaccination already compulsory since 1995.

    Also glad that you came back to Malaysia, most my friends who took Asian Scholarship never came back. It is part of Singapore strategy to grab the brightest from this region, in order to sustain their booming economy.

    That said, Singapore is just too small, even Singaporeans are migrating.


  7. clearwater
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 10:33:46

    You are a caring person, Dr Hsu, and it shows. Perhaps that is why your blog gets that many hits. One can always distinguish the genuine article from the pretenders over the passage of time.

    As for MU climbing back into the top 200 universities in 2009, it is a small piece of good news but only a start to regaining lost pride. Will MU now try to break into the top 150, top 100, top 50, top 10……..or will complacency set in again? Will it try and try to improve, or just accept academic mediocrity, not too bad but really not good enough to be world class.


  8. A true Malaysian
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 10:51:09

    Get well soon, petestop.


  9. Dr Hsu
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 10:57:34


    thanks for your comment.

    Once inside the top 200, it will be more and more difficult to move up, as the competition will be stiffer.

    Singapore U scored very high on peer review (100%) but poorly on staff student ratio other wise its rankings would be higher and most probably in the top 20.

    To think that once our Univeristy Malaya was actually based in Singapore first before they started their univeristy, you can see how much rot we have undergone.

    I hope in our lifetime, we can see MU in the top 50. It may be possible, if they revamp the whole education policy, drop the 2 tier matriculation/Form6, advocate true meritocracy. I think Malaysians are resilient enough to bounce back once the conditions are made favourable.

    It is the politcians, mainly BN politicians, that have to be blamed for the sad state of everything in this country….. The 22 yrs under the Old Horse makes us lose excellence in every field.


  10. klm
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 11:02:20

    Professor Ghouse did a good start. He had done a good job in MMU. The few things he did as a new VC in MU showed result.

    But pardon me if I seemed cynical. I have been here long enough to earn the right to be cynical. I have seen it over and over again.

    1. There is a limit to what Professor Ghouse can do, For examples

    (a) getting rid of the practice of giving sympathy points and going on merit

    (b) getting rid of deadwood professors and lecturers

    Without moving away from entrenched bad practices, MU will never ever reach the top ranks.

    2. I wonder how long Professor Ghouse will last in MU. The dead wood professors and lecturers survived in their position simply of political patronage and by being member of UMNO. I wonder how many telephone calls will Professor Ghouse received from UMNO divisions if their privileges are attacked.

    3. Professor Ghouse may have support for what he is doing now. But political winds change.

    If matters in MU and in education in general cannot be disassociated from politics, MU will never ever be in the top ranks.


  11. A true Malaysian
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 11:24:26

    I am not at all impressed with the elevation in ranking of MU. Those Acts restricting freedom of students should be repealed and the culture of Malaysian universities need to revamp totally for them to be in genuine position among the world best university.

    What is there to shout about the elevation where we still see witch hunt of university authorities against its students.

    “It is the politcians, mainly BN politicians, that have to be blamed for the sad state of everything in this country….. The 22 yrs under the Old Horse makes us lose excellence in every field.” I agree fully with this statement.


  12. Yong
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 12:04:05

    The VC is asking for more budget allocation in order to be further squeezed into top 100. Is this the kind of quality and mentality we get from a VC ? How do u expect more from its students then ?


  13. Yong
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 16:04:35

    What is the point of sq


  14. Yong
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 16:07:01

    What is the point of squeezing into 180 when you on the other hand take disciplinary action against the 6 chinese students who took part in the debate on “908 Tsunami dabate”


  15. ketuanan cina
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 22:15:59

    MU is a JOKE…….. So is the rest of the university in Mal!!!


    The only good educational centre in Malaysia is UTAR…….


  16. ketuanan cina
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 22:18:17

    Hey Petestop…. Take care of yourself mate!!! Get better soon….


  17. Dr Hsu
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 11:09:35

    There is a Chinese saying that ‘The sea of study is without edge, studying is like rowing a boat upstream against a strong current, if you don’t advance, you will retreat”.

    This Time Hgher education ranking list is well regarded all over the world. To move from 230 to 180 is an improvement.

    We rakyat need to be more objective. Give credit where it is due, and give criticism when it is needed. We should not be blinded by partisanship.

    I have been most critical of BN policies and the loss of excellence in every field, so much so, I am really hated by certain groups that wish to see me ‘dead’ , so to speak.

    But where credit is due, I still give some encouragement to them.

    Prof Ghouse has brought some improvement which should be lauded so that he can be encouraged to go agisnt the dead woods in the university.

    It is wrong to take disciplinary action against the chinese students, but that is because we have repressive acts such as the UUCA (University and University College Act).. The disciplinary action is wrong but Prof Ghouse is only the deputy to the VC, if I am not wrong.

    It is up to us to voice out against the disciplinary action as well as against UUCA. I have spoken agianst this act before… N I will continue to push for ‘political freedom’ for the students..


  18. klm
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 14:30:23

    On MCA EGM. This is an example of open bribery and money politics. Have you considered the cost of the dinners held last night, fatt tiew chong and all? Each table would cost RM, 2,000 – 2,500 at least, without the drinks. I wonder if they serve alcoholic drinks in MCA dinners. But then, what is a Chinese dinner without brandy.

    The cost of the dinners would cost at least more than half million RM. I wonder who are footing the bills.


  19. A true Malaysian
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 15:10:07

    This is the kind of price that BN government under Umno needs to pay for their own action to politicize practically every single institution in Malaysia. I can’t see any institution that is free from politics. Please name me one if any of you can identify.

    So, under such circumstance, consciously or unconsciously, our comments here can be partisan as pointed out by Dr. Hsu. It’s only natural.

    The sooner Umno / BN ‘de-politicized’ these institutions before the next GE, the better for them and also the overall political climate of Malaysia. If not, any genuine efforts to amend whatever shortcomings, will still be seen as ‘not genuine’ in the eyes of the people. What is the use of Umno accusing rakyat for being ungrateful then? Who to be blamed?


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