WEBINAR: Do Our Universities Need Revamp?
October 18, 2021

Date: Saturday, 30th October 2021

Time: 11 AM MYT || 8 PM PST (29th October) || 12 PM JST



Dr M Bakri Musa, Surgeon at St. Louse Regional Hospital, California & Author of “Liberating The Malay Mind”

Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas, Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, National University of Malaysia (UKM)

Prof Zaharom Nain, Chairman of the Malaysian Academic Movement (GERAK) & Professor of Media and Communication Studies, University of Nottingham, Malaysia



Nageeb Gounjaria, Senior Research Fellow, Islamic Renaissance Front


Jointly organised by:

Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) & Academic Staff Association (ASA), International Islamic University Malaysia


Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/webinar-do-our-universities-need-revamp-tickets-193346894767/


The Zoom link will be sent upon registration before 30th October 2021.


You are welcome to join the chat during the webinar. You can also send your questions in advance to [email protected]


Intellectuals from both the humanities and the sciences have been lamenting the slow death of our universities. They conjure up the image of an institution convulsing in the throes of death, gasping desperately for much-needed oxygen. These enlightened scholars claim that instead of rigorously pursuing truth and excellence, many academics nowadays conveniently settle for half-truths and mediocrity – an affront to the purpose of a university education.

Academia today, the scholars concede, have bowed down enthusiastically to the god of unfettered capitalism; sadly, they have been reduced to a production line that continuously churn out uncritical yet obedient workers to meet the needs of our ever-growing economy. Gone are the days when the main aim of a university was to benefit society at large. In the Malaysian context, for decades, senior academics have expressed alarm at the declining standards of our institutions of higher learning. Ironically, this has been accompanied by an aggressive campaign to promote Malaysia as an international education hub served by home-grown public and private universities, besides world-class foreign campuses.

Some of these academics argue that our higher education system is engulfed in a deepening crisis thanks to the wholesale adoption of corporate values that put a premium on output measured via a system of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – a benchmark that captures an individual’s contribution to the bottom line. This results in a destructive culture characterized by selfishness, cut-throat competition and backstabbing instead of a constructive culture of sharing, collaboration and mentoring – essential elements to revitalise and pass on the legacy of ageing academics. Other scholars decry the politicization of the academia whereby faculty appointments and succession are based on unconditional obedience and unwavering loyalty rather than academic merit and intellectual scholarship. The consequence is tragic; it perpetuates a culture of mediocrity and injustice where incompetent academics ultimately become future leaders.

Last, but certainly not least, others find the prioritizing of quantity over quality deplorable, with universities often producing unemployable graduates who lack basic critical thinking and communication skills. Not surprisingly, the latter will often join a growing army of unemployed graduates. By creating a fake demand for a university degree that many do not actually need, these scholars contend that the government is in effect creating a generation saddled with a mountain of student debt that they might never be able to repay.

Burdened with so many problems, are our universities still redeemable?


About the Speakers

Dr. M. Bakri Musa is a Malaysian-born and Canadian-trained surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He has given presentations on Malaysian affairs at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, The University of Buffalo, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Apart from scientific articles in scholarly journals, his commentaries have appeared in mainstream Malaysian papers The New Straits Times and The Sun Daily. He was a long-time columnist for the on-line portal Malaysiakini (Malaysia Now) and a regular contributor to The Malaysian Insider. Beyond Malaysia, his Op-Ed pieces had appeared in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and The Far Eastern Economic Review. His commentary was also aired on National Public Radio’s “Marketplace.” Among his publications are The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia (1999), Malaysia in the Era of Globalization (2002), An Education System Worthy of Malaysia (2003), “Seeing Malaysia My Way (2003),  With Love, From Malaysia (2004), Moving Malaysia Forward (2008) Liberating The Malay Mind (2013) and hist latest book, The Plundering Of Malaysia: Najib Razak And The 1MDB Debacle (2020). He maintains a blog that also serves as a repository of my essays and commentaries at www.bakrimusa.com and is on Facebook.

Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas has a PhD in History from Columbia University. She specialises in geopolitics, strategic thought, foreign policy and international relations. As an educator and writer, her interests lie in decolonising knowledge and responses to Eurocentrism in knowledge production. She also writes and speaks regularly on the politics of identity, education reform and social change in Malaysia. Currently an academic at the National University of Malaysia (UKM), her previous appointments include Director of Research and Publications, Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR, Malaysia), and Political Analyst, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS, Malaysia). Dr Alatas is a regular columnist with Free Malaysia Today. She is also a feature columnist for Astro Awani’s International Relations and World Politics section, and The Karyawan, a quarterly publication of Singapore’s Malay/Muslim community. Dr Alatas is an active member of G25 Group of Eminent Malaysians and the Academic Movement of Malaysia (GERAK). She is currently completing her book, Reflections on Socio-Political Transformation in Post-GE14 Malaysia.

Zaharom Nain is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia Campus (UNM). His research interests are in the sociology of communications and the political economy of the media. Internationally, he is the recipient of two Fulbright professorships – as a Visiting Professor at the University of California, San Diego in 1998-99, and as a Senior Scholar-in-Residence at Johnson State College, Vermont, in 2009. In 1995, he was granted a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Visiting Scholar award and was based in Sophia University, Tokyo. Nationally, he is the current Chair of the Malaysian Academic Movement (GERAK) and was Vice President of the Malaysian Social Science Association (PSSM). He has published more than 150 articles in books, journals, and magazines, authored Rhetoric and Realities: Critical Reflections on Malaysian Politics, Culture and Education (2013: Gerakbudaya), and co-edited Who Owns The Media? Global Trends and Local Resistance (2004: (WACC/Zed) and Communication and Development: The Freirean Connection (2001: Hampton). He is the country author and researcher for two ongoing major international projects, the Reuter’s Institute-Oxford University annual Digital News Report and the University of Gothenburg Varieties of Democracy (VDem) Project.




11.00-11.10AM:     Introduction by the Moderator, Nageeb Gounjaria, Senior Research Fellow, Islamic Renaissance Front

11.10-11.30AM:     Presentation by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Surgeon at St. Louse Regional Hospital, California & Author of “Liberating The Malay Mind”

11.30-11.50AM:     Presentation by Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas, Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, National University of Malaysia

11.50-12.10PM:     Presentation by Prof Zaharom Nain, Chairman of the Malaysian Academic Movement (GERAK) & Professor of Media and Communication Studies, University of Nottingham, Malaysia

12.10-12.50PM:     Discussion

12.50-1.00PM:       Concluding remarks by Dr. Muhammad Irwan Ariffin, President, Academic Staff Association, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

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Updated version: 2.39-20231022