Academia's leadership challenge

LETTERS: Integrity is a limited commodity, so it seems, and it is the same in the higher education sector. A cursory review of institutional values shows almost all institutions refer to integrity or its derivative as significant for the organisation.

Fairness, equity, transparency and honesty are commonly used words across these institutions to represent the values they uphold. But, how are these manifested? Are institution leaders functioning as beacons of integrity?

Are academics displaying integrity in dealing with their students and leading by example? Are our graduates motivated and challenged by what they see, leaving our higher education institutions as bearers of integrity as their core values?

The answers to the questions above, if we are honest, are in the negative. Leaders are often motivated by survival and bottom lines across the public and private sectors.

This is manifested through the ranking race, pleasing political masters and building their power base in public universities.

In private universities, leaders are concerned about student numbers and building strategic alignment to remain gainfully employed.

Consequently, students leave our higher education institutions with few good examples or models of integrity.

They start their adulthood premised on a misguided notion of integrity and build on this as members of society, parents and people in authority and positions of influence. Thus, the cycle perpetuates.

There is a need to break this cycle of doom. Integrity is a top-down business. Leaders must be selected and trained based on the premise of values-driven governance. There should be no compromise.

Bad leaders must be replaced. Leaders who promote integrity can change the direction and ethos of the organisation. Carrying out their duty without fear or favour is a good place to start.

Leaders with integrity can influence academics to live up to higher standards and correspondingly this will impact students.

Students will have good role models and continue cultivating integrity in their personal and professional lives. There are no shortcuts to achieving integrity in academia and it is not negotiable.

True, integrity does not pay the bill, but what price are we willing to pay for the damage caused by the lack of integrity to our institutions, children and society?


Life member of PenDAPaT,

Associate Professor,

University of Nottingham Malaysia

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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