December 2, 2023


Johor Bahru, 25 January, 2012: The Vice Chancellor of UTM, Prof Dato Ir Zaini Ujang gave his first series of lecture as part of  the ‘Leadership Discourse’ programme to the UTM Management Team. This is part of the continuous effort by the university in creating a fertile knowledge culture and dynamic intellectual ecosystem among the university leaders, staff and students.

For his first discourse, Dato Zaini shared the idea of ‘disruptive innovation’ based on the book ‘Innovative University’ by Christensen, C.M. and Eyring, H.J.

As defined by Christensen and Eyring, “disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology”.

Used in business and technology literature, the term describes innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect by typically designing a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

If the new product or service performance could be improved over time compared with traditional attributes and approaches, eventually the new product or service offering could be expected to result in significant and impactful outcomes.

The main highlight of the talk is the need to reengineer the institutional DNA and not be tied to outdated values and organizational norms. Universities must change and think constructively and creatively in meaningful and impactful ways to ensure relevance, survival and success especially in response to changing dynamics of the current global landscape.

However, it should be noted that we should still preserve what remains viable and only change whatever that does not work. We should look again at the way we operate and function and think of ways to exploit the current market to tailor something new.

Dato Zaini further stressed the need to increase efficiency and effectiveness of universities. As such, we should reflect on the way we educate and work towards transforming learning at various levels.

For example, universities need to respond to the challenges of technological advances and be adept at combining new technology, tools and methods to transform teaching and learning in meaningful ways.

In addition, online learning is creating opportunities for thousands of adult learners to obtain a wide range of degrees at their own convenient time and pace.

It is worth noting that to remain competitive, universities need to promote first class mentality and mindset change with the view to shifting the paradigm of organizational culture and transforming the ability to innovate among the university community.

The principle of disruptive innovation thus calls for universities to think innovatively in less costly ways in performing their traditional functions as knowledge providers and in producing quality education.

UTM has, to a certain extent implemented various strategies that are in tandem with the concept of disruptive innovation, especially in relation to its approach in New Academia and its focus on innovative and entrepreneurial strategies, not to mention its Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) paradigm adopted to make a difference.

This is important in the current climate of limited resource allocation and shrinking financial supplies. UTM is set to adopt differentiated and impactful strategies in innovative and entrepreneurial ways.

For example, with the rising cost of university education, UTM believes in providing access to knowledge for all, and practical application of knowledge to the greater population by eliminating high tuition fees.

Moreover, the approach taken by UTM in engaging with the industry in offering Industrial PhD programmes is a win-win venture that would benefit both the university and the industry in terms of research engagements in resolving practical industrial issues.

At the same time, different modes available in pursuing doctoral programmes in UTM is an attractive and flexible way to encourage the pursuit of PhD education in line with the country’s aspiration for more PhD qualified citizens.

UTM is also set to transform students into wholesome and holistic graduates equipped not just with knowledge and skills but also wisdom. This is part of the educational mission of the university to produce responsible citizens who will be cultured in terms of knowledge capacity and intellectual passion. Graduates of UTM should not just be seeking employment but would create jobs for others and contribute to the nation’s wealth creation and the greater good of civil society.

The university also instigates changes in its existing operational models and ensures no excess manpower allocation for projects and ensuring smart manhour utilisation of staff.

Most importantly, the university creates a conducive culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and drive with a global perspective among staff as well as students.

Dato Zaini highlighted that successful disruptive business models will open wide the doors to quality higher education while enhancing social and economic welfare with more flexibility and engagement in innovative, entrepreneurial and value driven undertakings.

He also posed some questions as food for thought for the university leaders in relation to his lecture. Now that UTM has become an autonomous university, how can we make autonomy as a privilege and competitive edge over others? How do we leverage on autonomy for our own benefit?

Dato Zaini also shared some recommended DNA alternations, most of which have been applied and implemented in UTM.

Recommended DNA alternations

Traditional University Traits Recommended Alterations
Face-to-face instruction Mixed with online learning
Rational/secular orientation Increase attention to values
Comprehensive specialization, departmentalization and faculty self-governance
  • Interdepartmental faculty collaboration
  • Heavyweight innovation teams
Long summer recess Year-round operation
Graduate school atop the college
  • Strong graduate programs only
  • Institutional focus on mentoring students esp. UG
Private fundraising Funds used primarily in support of students, esp. need-based aid
Curricular distribution (GE) and concentration majors
  • Cross-disciplinary, integrated GE
  • Modular, customizable majors, with technical certificates and associate’s degrees nested within bachelor’s degrees
Academic honors Increased emphasis on student competence vis-à-vis learning outcomes
Externally funded research UG student involvement in research
Up-or-out tenure, with faculty rank and salary distinctions
  • Hiring with intend to train and retain
  • Customized scholarship and employment contracts
  • Minimized rank and salary distinctions, consistent with a student-mentoring emphasis
Admission selectivity Expansion of capacity (for example, via online learning and year-round operation) to limit the need for selectivity


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