LEADERS of universities must uphold academic freedom in higher education to ensure institutions continue to contribute towards the sustainability and development of society.
President of the International Association of Universities (IAU) Professor Pam Fredman said there are many threats to academic freedom with demands put on university leadership, resulting in constraints in the setting of directions for curriculum and research.
“It is important that higher education continues its role in educating and pushing the frontiers of knowledge and producing students who are knowledgeable, analytical and confident to speak up and be competent change-makers.”
Fredman was speaking on the sidelines of the IAU 2018 Inaugural Ceremony held at Universiti Malaya (UM) last week.
IAU, which was created under the auspices of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1950, is a membership-based organisation serving the global higher education community through expertise and trends analysis, publications and portals, advisory services, peer-to-peer learning, events and global advocacy.
“Our mission is to promote higher education as it is important to society and is crucial for the democratic development of societies. IAU comprises 650 universities, more than 30 different organisations in networks on higher education, as well as members and affiliates from around the world.
“We want to be the most important voice to the politicians, Unesco and the United Nations. IAU is working as an organisation in coming up with policies for higher education. We are involved in works with Unesco for a global action programme for higher education, and we are in several initiatives at the global level. I think the world has to stand up for the values of higher education. Malaysia, for example, cannot do it alone. It has to be a common ground for the whole world. That is the purpose of this gathering,” said Fredman.
The IAU 2018 Inaugural Ceremony, which preceded the IAU 2018 International Conference, was themed “Higher Education Partnerships for Societal Impact”.
By focusing on the theme, the association invited its members, global higher education communities and their partners to reflect on and discuss their mandate and social responsibility, while presenting different forms of partnerships adopted around the world and for what societal impact.
“Higher education is a key driver for change and innovation in and for the societies. Higher education institutions engage with society and in a variety of ways. Partnerships with civil society, the private sector, the local authorities and decision-makers, as well as between higher education institutions take on numerous forms and shapes.
“The kind of partnership developed and the way it is managed has an impact on the ways in which universities contribute to the development of their societies, as do the national context, the type of institutions they are and the challenges they face,” said Fredman.
At the inaugural ceremony, UM’s Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Norma Mansor presented a lecture on Globalisation and Single Village of Knowledge.
In her lecture, she said knowledge and information were no longer a monopoly of transnational organisation or solely the property of developed countries, but can be sourced or emerged from developing and least developed countries.
“The full access to knowledge and information propagates favourable conditions to reduce the dependency of knowledge and open the possibility to generate sustainable domestic and applicable knowledge via research and development that benefit a large part of the society,” she said.
She urged governments to look into policies that would allow for a free flow of talent between countries—outbound and inbound — to invigorate research and development and reduce inequalities to access of knowledge.
“There has to be a global sharing of knowledge to multiply developments at different levels. People can only benefit from globalisation and governments must restructure education policy and recognise education achievements and allocate resources accordingly,” she emphasised.
The IAU 2018 International Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur from Nov 13 to 15.
MORE PURSUING STUDIES IN US
THE 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange finds that 8,271 Malaysian students attended college or university in the United States during the 2017/18 academic year.
Within this figure, Malaysia saw an increase of 4.2 per cent in the number of students pursuing their undergraduate studies in the US. This year also saw a 3.9 per cent increase in the number of Malaysian students pursuing optional practical training in the US.
This marks a growth rate three times higher than in the previous year, moving Malaysia up one spot to become the 14th leading country of origin to send international undergraduates to the country.
US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said: “America continues to welcome record numbers of international students to obtain their degrees, pursue research opportunities and enjoy an educational system that is innovative, flexible and encourages independent and critical thinking.”
Overall, the number of Malaysian students in the United States has increased steadily over the past 10 years.
Malaysian students in the US were primarily undergraduates (70.3 percent), with 13.5 per cent studying at the graduate level, 1.4 per cent in non-degree programmes and 14.8 per cent in optional practical training.
This year, the Southeast Asian region saw an increase of 3.4 per cent in the number of students studying in the US.
This year marks the 12th consecutive year that Open Doors has reported an expansion in the total number of international students in US higher education. The number of international students in the US has increased by 1.5 per cent to a record high of 1.09 million students in 2017/18 - almost 16,000 more than in the previous year.
This solid growth confirms that the US remains the world’s leading destination for higher education.
The Open Doors report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.