The National Higher Education Research Institute (IPPTN) was set up by the National Council for Higher Education in August 1997 as a platform for research and policy making to convert Malaysian public and private universities as centres of excellence.
Keeping this thrust in mind, IPPTN set about identifying issues and critical challenges related to higher education to help develop institutions of higher learning in Malaysia. It has also conducted various research to help formulate issues and strategies to develop institutions of higher learning. It plays a proactive role in identifying issues in the implementation of the National Higher Education Policy, and acts as a research coordinating body as well as resource centre on higher education issues.
Apart from these objectives, an Action Plan 2006-2010 was formulated to conduct research on higher education in the context of current changes and challenges; establish networks with overseas research organisations and organise and participate in international conferences and workshops; lead training activities in higher education policy research, particularly involving CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam); and act as a centre for information dissemination and research output on higher education through publications.
Few of the research undertaken by IPPTN include: Study on the Academic Promotion Process in Malaysian Public Universities, Study on the Changing State-Higher Education Institutions Relationship, Towards Ideopolis Kuala Lumpur: Capitalising on Higher Education for the Development of Globalising City-Region, Project on Quality Assurance and International University Rankings in the Asia Pacific, and Strategic Roadmap for the Private Higher Education in Malaysia (Proposal)
Since 2007, IPPTN has also been acting as the Secretariat for Ministry of Higher Education’s think tank group while its Director Prof Morshidi Sirat chairs the think tank group.
Prof Sirat took over as the Director in April 2002 and chairs various regional and national committees on higher education policy directions. His research interests include comparative international higher education, construction of national and regional knowledge spaces, and governance in higher education institutions.
Prof Sirat has co-ordinated numerous research on Malaysia’s higher education institutions and system such as Changing Academic Profession in Malaysia; Futures of Higher Education in Malaysia; Models for Universities in Malaysia; etc. He also undertakes consultancy for international agencies like UNESCO, World Bank, specifically in the area of international higher education. He is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of Higher Education Policy Journal of the IAU.
In a interview with Digital Learning, Prof Sirat sheds light on the activities of IPPTN, higher education landscape in Malaysia and issues
What factors led to the setting up of the IPPTN?
In pursuance of its objectives of creating excellence in higher education and making Malaysia a regional higher education hub, the National Council for Higher Education under the Ministry of Higher Education felt there was a need for setting up a higher education research institute. As such the National Higher Education Research Institute (IPPTN) was set up at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, in August 1997under the aegis of the Ministry .
What have been the contributions of IPPTN to development of Malaysia’s higher education?
Between 1997 and 2004 IPPTN has conducted several major studies, investigated and subsequently recommended policy solutions to problems such as cost of living for students in higher education institutions, graduate unemployment, ethnic polarisation, and quality of faculty in private higher education institutions. Other studies conducted by the body revolve around issues of industrial training, competitiveness of Malaysia’s higher education institutions, internationalisation and international education issues, and curriculum development. Besides organising regional workshops, and carrying out strategic policy studies and preparing policy papers, IPPTN organised the Global Higher Education Forum 2007. More than 350 education leaders, scholars, and policy makers from 43 countries came together to reflect and analyse challenges in higher education and also ways to improve its quality.
From 2006 onwards, IPPTN has also begun to look closely at Malaysia’s higher education system and pursuing a global and regional comparative perspective. Two most important studies completed by the body includes ‘Future of Higher Education in Malaysia’, and ‘Model for Universities in Malaysia’.
What steps have been taken by IPPTN to the development of curriculum?
At IPPTN, we are primarily concerned with education curricula and workplace literacy. A study was undertaken on this issue and another study on social skills and work values in the medical education is now nearing completion.
Tell us about the higher education policy research under the IPPTN.
As far as higher education policy research is concerned, there are six main thrust areas of IPPTN:
- Curriculum development and preparation of an entry-level workforce;
- Governance of public universities;
- Changing condition for academic work career;
- Growth and development and transnational higher education services;
- Higher education and regional engagement; and
- Higher education system.
Please comment on the changing landscape of higher education, regionally and globally.
Matured and developing higher education systems have reacted differently to the processes and societal transformations noted globally. In both the systems, we observed the following major developments in higher education:
Expansion in higher education (with massification in the developing higher education system); Differentiation or segmentation of higher education as a response to the differentiating demand for higher education by offering course programmes beyond the mainstream;
Greater flexibility, i.e. a multiplication of study options; Quality orientation; and Standardisation.
As a result of the above, the landscape of global, regional and national higher education is in constant change, and the following challenges are likely to become characteristic trends in higher education in many countries:
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