17 November 2007

Deadwood dons in UTM

The Star

THE problem of “deadwood professors”, that is academics who were promoted to the post of full professor with insufficient citations, in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) is worse than earlier reported (The Star, Nov 14).

The citation list posted on their website only shows academics who have obtained at least one citation since 1996.

Of the 44 full professors listed, 27 had accumulated 10 citations or fewer, while some only managed to get their meagre citations after they had been promoted.

This revelation looks bad for a university that aims to attain world-class status by 2010.

A look at the faculty based publication and citation listings show that there are 20 more full professors than the 44 listed earlier. However, their names were excluded from the earlier listing because they had not obtained a single citation in that period (or perhaps none at all).

This means that 47, or 73%, of the full professors at UTM should never have been promoted to that post at all for their very low or total lack of citations.

If the number of associate professors is included, the figure is mind-boggling. This gives the impression that the UTM students are taught by a bunch of “deadwood” professors and associate professors.

Ironically, many of these “deadwood professors” became the “star” of their respective universities when they won gold medals for their inventions in local and foreign exhibitions.

As most people are aware, many of these medal-winning inventions never made it to the commercial world, while some are duds.

The Higher Education Ministry should investigate this matter seriously as it has a serious impact on our education system.

If they are serious about university rankings and producing quality graduates, they should ensure that only quality academics are allowed to teach in our education system.

To be fair to UTM, the ministry should instruct all public and private universities to immediately post their academic publications and citations on their respective websites.

In doing so, the public, especially those wanting to pursue post-graduate courses, can evaluate the status of our universities beyond the glossy brochures they obtain at education fairs.

It would be distressing if postgraduate students undergoing masters or doctorate degree programmes find out that the professors are academically unknown outside the university.

The university can be charged with misleading these students by souping up their post-graduate courses with “deadwood professors”.

ZAHAR, Kuala Lumpur.

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