1 UCAPAN HARI ANUGERAH BESTARI UNIVERSITI UCSI (Awards Day Speech) Y.B. DATO’ SERI MOHAMED KHALED NORDIN 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 2 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. 3 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 4 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 5 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. 6 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. 7 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 8 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.