In response to the challenges faced by higher education institutions and student populations resulting from school closures, Sunway Education Group (SEG) and employment-focused higher education evaluation firm, AppliedHE co-hosted a webinar on “Higher Education & The New Normal : Economic Employability & Education Sustainability” on August 5.
Sunway Education Group Chief Executive Officer, Professor Elizabeth Lee, who delivered the opening remarks, highlighted the current challenges for higher education including the closures of the institutions brought on by the pandemic, its impact on student progress and sustainable economic growth and job creation.
“With the closure of higher education institutions and the move to online teaching and learning, we need to reassess how to better help or reach out to those without computers, laptops or the internet. The United Nations has highlighted slow progress towards an inclusive and equitable quality education for all; and at least 500 million students around the world have no access to remote learning,” she said.
“Especially in our country private education is a substantial contributor to the nation’s economic growth. For example, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (for Higher Education) estimated that international students would be contributing about RM15.6 billion to the economy if 2020 target numbers were met. It would be important to note that over 60% of all international students in Malaysia are in private education institutions (be it in our schools, colleges or universities).”
She emphasised the need to for “all education stakeholders, from governments to private sector, communities, schools and institutions of higher education must continue to fight the good fight to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) CEO Professor Dato’ Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran, asserted that one of the most important evaluations of the quality by the society for any university is the employability of its graduates.
“Especially in Malaysia, if your higher education institution is able to produce or ensure that every single graduate who are leaving your institution get a job, the public will say that your institution is a good one.”
He also underscored that besides the quality of higher education, a country’s economic stability, demand and supply, and resources are factors that contribute towards graduate employability. He proposes that higher education institutions must think 10 to 20 years ahead, adapt to a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world, act as a problem solver, be a leader and predict future problems in order to be referred. He also highlighted that MQA has shifted its role from engagement instead of enforcement to support the future of education.
In the forum moderated by Sunway University President Professor Sibrandes Poppema, the thought leaders shared their thoughts on the role of university rankings in a post-pandemic era, best practices and ideas towards the future of education.
Underlining that a nation cannot grow without talent development, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (MAPCU) President Professor Parmjit Singh said that there needs to be “continuous investment in education technology especially simulation based software and technology and infrastructure to prepare for any future disruptions.”
Global University Systems and Rector Professor Dr Maurits van Rooijen pointed out that “commitment to innovation is the key thing.” He said, being innovative as a higher education provider has become a requirement, not something which is tolerated or discouraged which within some quality assurance still happens.”
Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) Vice-Chancellor Professor Datuk Wira Dr Raha Abdul Rahim who was previously the Ministry of Education Director at the Institution of Higher Education Excellence Planning Division, suggested that while the advantages of rankings include providing students with an early shortlisting tool, as well as Malaysian universities with visibility in the global market, as well as signals good reputation, she also highlighted that the disadvantages are that the rankings focus too much on research, with some methodologies being flawed and added that it may be a disadvantage to some younger universities while not measuring other crucial factors such as sustainability. She maintains that rankings could be a possible way to attract talent into our education institutions.
Professor Poppema forwarded that some of the rankings put a lot of stock in reputation saying, “If you want to have a criteria for that, it is much better to ask the students about their experience and their employability.”
AppliedHE (Singapore) CEO & Founder Mandy Mok said, “AppliedHE is delighted to have organised the AppliedHE Malaysia Xchange webinar in partnership with the Sunway Education Group, a great innovator in Malaysian higher education. AppliedHE is a fresh, modern and relevant concept in rankings, benchmarking and branding of higher education institutions, offering solutions that are focused on employability and lifelong learning. We look forward to working with innovative Malaysian higher education institutions like SEG to realise our vision. Asia’s higher education sector is maturing, so it is apt that a more Asia-centric ranking and rating framework take centre-stage during the post-pandemic era.”