1. Last week for the first time in Malaysian educational history the Ministry of Higher Education launched and awarded the Distinguished Professors to three eminent scholars in the field of Humanities, Social Science and Medicine. In today's NST these three personalities were highlighted. Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Mohd. Kamal Hassan (UIA) is no stranger to all of us as he is ex-UKM and a Muslim scholar and philosopher as well as ex-UIA Rector. Prof. Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is an icon at UKM, an eminent socio-anthropologist, Deputy Chairman of National Professors Council and Director of Institute of Ethnic Studies at UKM; and Prof. Dr. Looi Lai-Meng is a medical pathologist from UM and a Senior Fellow of Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
2. It is in fact a promotion for these VK5 professors as they are now on Staff 3 and with a $300K research grant, this award augurs very well for the under-rated intellectuals. After all there are just over 1500 professors in Malaysia and only 3 are promoted to staff 3. If one think of the other civil servants in the government sectors there are dozens of staff 3 to staff 1 officers.
3. These professors are entrusted to teach students so that they become civil servants; supervise post-graduate students so that they possess MS and PhD key criteria for their promotions; carry out research in their fields of choice though the civil servants again decide on their research grants; publish articles in peer-reviewed journals locally and internationally; and they also served the communities at large in their own ways. These are intellectual ironies and great illusions!
4. However, when I read the NST today I sensed something different. The Minister and Ministry of Higher Education are looking for professors who don't do the basic teaching, supervising, researching and publishing anymore but they are looking for professors who are able to translate their past glories into government policies and direct and indirect community intellectual benefits (e.g. Sarong Index). And very few could fit into that. That reminds me of the awarding of research grants that promises products that benefits the foreign exchange in the shortest possible time.
5. I wish the Distinguished Professors many congratulations and the aspiring ones good luch for 2011.
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