UCAPAN HARI ANUGERAH BESTARI
                                 UNIVERSITI UCSI
                               (Awards Day Speech)

                       MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION
                              29th September 2009

Peter T.S Ng,

Group President and Vice Chancellor,

Prof. Dr. Lee Chai Buan

Vice President (Academic Affairs)

Prof Dr. Norfadzillah bt Hitam

Vice President (Corporate Affairs)

Moses Ling Wei

Vice President (Business Developments and Students Affairs)

Shanker a/l Sathivellu,

Vice President (Quality Assurance and Enhancement)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. I would like to first of all convey my gratitude to the management of UCSI

      University for inviting me to witness UCSI‟s Hari Anugerah Bistari. Today‟s event

      marks the institution‟s commitment in not only encouraging excellence, but also

      to reward outstanding achievement amongst the students here at UCSI

      University. Allow me to congratulate the award winners here today, and also

   commend UCSI for its commitment in driving academic excellence as the forefront

   of its institutional vision.

2. I also wish to congratulate UCSI University as a model institution of higher

   learning for actively maintaining this search for excellence amongst our nation‟s

   best and brightest minds. By taking pains to search for, and give due honour to

   your own best students, it not only provides a great motivation for them to keep

   striving for higher achievements, but it also contributes towards the government‟s

   overall grand design to produce highly competent graduates who will power

   Malaysia on to meet the challenges of a highly competitive and knowledge-based

   21st century economy.          I cannot over-emphasize that we must, at all time,

   promote and maintain our culture of excellence, which your award-winning

   undergraduates have proven today.          Malaysia certainly needs universities like

   UCSI University to nurture the nation‟s best brains order to realize our national

   objective of making Malaysia a “Regional Centre for Educational Excellence” and

   an educational hub for the region under the „One Malaysia‟ concept propounded

   by our Honourable Prime Minister Dato‟ Sri Mohd. Najib Razak, who says a

   „Culture of Excellence‟, constitutes one of the eight core values.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  3. The   world is changing rapidly. But change is not necessarily the same as

     progress. For the past 5 decades, our universities have been instrumental in

     developing human capital for the growth and progress of our country. We now

     have learnt that many of the economic development that has taken place over the

     past two decades have had disastrous consequences for the global economy.

     Today we face challenges that only a year or two ago were unrecognized. How

     then do we face these challenges?

  4. The National Mission, contained within the 9th Malaysia Plan states that:

     “knowledge, innovation and values – in sum, the quality of the nation‟s human

     capital – will be the key determinants of Malaysia‟s future success as a

     knowledge-based economy.”        In order to achieve this objective and help

     Malaysian attain industrial status by 2020, the Ministry has, through the Blueprint

     for the Future (2001) and the Education Development Plan (2001-2010),

     implemented a world class higher education and knowledge environment

     framework that is aimed at producing this pool of highly competent and

     knowledgeable human capital of world class standard.

  5. Thus, with the implementation of the National Higher Education Strategic Plan

     (2007-2020), several reforms and initiatives to revolutionise the nation‟s higher

     education were introduced, like the liberalisation of higher education, which is

     aimed at providing wider access and equity to higher education for Malaysians

     specifically, and for foreign students generally. Reinforced by the education

     liberalisation initiatives of the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act, 1966,

     which makes provisions for the upgrading of private higher education institutions

     to university status, twinning arrangements, and mutual recognition and credit

     transfer programmes with both local and foreign institutions, private institutions

     of higher learning, like UCSI University, are now better equipped to produce these

     world-class and knowledge-based graduates.

  6. To date, there are now 20 public universities, 40 private universities and

     university colleges, 5 branch campuses of international            universities, 25

     polytechnics, 39 public community colleges and 470 private colleges in Malaysia,

     offering higher education opportunities to produce Malaysia‟s highly-skilled and

     resilient workforce capable of facing the challenges of this new century.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  7. Graduates are expected to have certain skills and competencies that fulfills the

     requirement of the demands of work. This in itself ought to be embedded in any

     good degree program. UCSI University, I understand, runs the Co-Operative

     Education Training Programme, which is an internship programme that formally

   integrates classroom learning with workplace training in co-operative employer

   organisations. In this manner, your graduates are able to apply classroom

   theories to real-life work experiences under the mentorship of these industry

   employers(I think the term “professionals” is more appropriate), which not only

   expose them to high standards of professionalism, but also enable them to forge

   relationships that would be an asset in their future careers. I truly commend UCSI

   University for this outstanding initiative to prepare graduates for the workplace,

   and hope others emulate your model as well.

8. However, I must also remind you in your quest to produce high quality and

   technically-able graduates, “They must be taught to be creative, analytical, well-

   informed, articulate, confident and able to carry out their duties and

   responsibilities with competence and integrity”.. You must also teach them to

   become leaders in their industries and in their communities In other words we

   want the universities to adopt a more comprehensive approach in their

   curriculum. This means they ought to integrate both soft skills and technical

   competence in a more holistic manner. The critical and communicative elements

   must be integrated effectively in the curriculum. A high achieving student with

   perfect 4.0 grade point averages would not be able to contribute effectively in the

   workplace unless he is able to communicate properly with his colleagues. Our

   country needs an intelligent, creative and thinking workforce, not

   mindless followers, to ensure our progressive growth.

9. For your information, Ministry of Higher Education is working to establish

   Generic Student Attributes or GSA to make sure all the students will enrich

   themselves as a complete and comprehensive student who has a numbers of

   added values such as communications skill, the ability to think critically

   and    solve    problem,      leadership      skill   and    team      spirit   and

   entrepreneurship skills. These efforts are designed to encourage both the

   academic and social development of our graduates.

10. Therefore, I want to propose that these GSA also should be embedded

   in your extra-curricular activities through clubs, sports, cultural and other non-

   academic activities during which they will learn how to organize events, lead

   others in accomplishing projects, communicate their creative thoughts and ideas

   to committee members, learn how to manage time, resources and finances, and

   at the same also acquire “people skills” and social skills such as public relations,

   public speaking, protocols etc. These are precious soft skills that are not taught in

   the formal academic curriculum, but rather would have to be acquired informally

   through such practical experiences. Thus, by teaching them to be not only

   academically and technically competent, embedding these graduate attributes in

   their other university activities will make them very employable either as

   employees in established organizations, or as independent entrepreneurs on their

   own. These are the kind of graduates universities must produce.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  11. The aims of a university education is not merely in the production of workers.

     Perhaps more importantly it is about developing and educating individuals who

     are able to contribute effectively to society and to uphold their duties and

     responsibilities as citizens of the country. Therefore universities are places where

     society harnesses and trains their best available talents. Does this then make

     graduates employable? Well, „yes‟ and „no‟. A good university education prepares

     a person in both their career and personal development. To assume otherwise is

     a false dichotomy. Employment is a function of the economy. Universities have

     the duty to produce the best possible graduate by this we mean they are highly

     employable.    However    employment     opportunities   are   determined    by   the

     fluctuations of the market, it is beyond the ability of the universities to create and

     ensure the availability of jobs. What universities must do is to ensure that they

     provide the best training possible

  12. In his instructive book, “Academic Duty”, Donald Kennedy, the President Emeritus

     of Stanford University reminds us that the job market is highly dynamic. It means

     that scientific and technological development will render certain jobs obsolete. If

     we are too concern on equipping graduates a rigid set of skills, it may render

     them unemployable in the long term. What is needed is to ensure our graduates

     are highly flexible and are able to develop the analytical and creative abilities

   which will ensure their ability to adapt to the structural changes of the job

   market. These skills according to Professor Kennedy, who by the way is a

   pharmaceutical scientist, are best derived from the humanities and social

   sciences. Therefore to ignore the importance of these disciplines is to imperil both

   the social and economic development of any nation.

13. Lastly, I would like to thank UCSI University for inviting me to your Hari Anugerah

   Bestari or Awards Day 2009, and I hope that in receiving this award will further

   motivate you to excel in your pursuit of knowledge and to contribute positively

   towards the growth and development of our nation.

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