Saturday, September 6, 2008

Apex University and the demise of UM

When I was in Maxis, I was told to have S-M-A-R-T goals, where 'R' is realistic. To aim to have our Apex university within the top 50 University in the world in a little more than 10 years is a bold aim, but unrealistic.

Despite that, it's a good move by the govt. And it's a good news for USM, but a calamity for UM, my alma-mater.

I have long said that UM has very little left of its 'branding' and over the past decade or so UM has been surviving based on this empty shell of 'branding' that says UM is the oldest, well-known and well-respected university in this country. Many well-known professors join UM because of this branding, not because of the pay. Many students choose UM over other local universities because the best students go to UM - you'll need maximum distinction to study Law, Electrical Engineering, or to study medicine. But all these will not be true anymore in the next few years after the recent announcement that USM got the Apex status.

A good university doesn't take these kind of branding or its people for granted. A good university provides the environment, the means, the system and the support for the intellects within its campus to grow, mature and contribute. But for long, UM has taken its students and good professors for granted. For long, everything that is nice and good that has come out of UM is because of the sheer hardwork of the students and professors alone, and the university played very little role in promoting them.

A good university is about creating a good synergy between the school, the academics and the students. And UM has relied only on its branding to fuel the two latter factors. With the Apex status awarded to USM, UM has no such advantage anymore and its demise as the best University in Malaysia will be slow, but imminent.

Long has UM sustain its status via its empty shell of branding, and this latest announcement is definitely the final nail in the coffin and the tipping point of no return for UM.

UM is my alma-mater. While I have my fair share of critics for UM and the way it's governed when I was a student there, I am still proud to tell people that I am a UM graduate. But knowing that this demise may be forthcoming, I cannot help but feel sad. I sincerely hope that the title of this blog post will not become a reality.

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