Johor Bahru, November 25, 2012 – Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has gone through leaps and bounds over the past three years but more has to be done in realising the university’s vision of becoming one of the top universities globally in engineering and technology, especially its IT infrastructure, stakeholder engagement especially with the alumni and the community, and its non-academic staff population, which stood at more than 2000 staff in October 2012.
The general observation was made by members of the UTM Board of Directors, who joined more than 50 Deans and top management officials of the university from 23 to 25 November in a Management Retreat for updates of the university’s progress and brainstorming session on four focus areas of university strategic planning for 2013, namely income generation, quality management, global reputation and community engagement.
The Chairman of the UTM Board of Directors, Tan Sri Halim Ali commented that the Board members are happy with the progress made and congratulated the university community, under the leadership of its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Datuk Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang for the achievements made thus far, in particular its current standing as a leading university in engineering and technology in Malaysia.
While there are hard times ahead in terms of diversifying financial sources of the university and the intense competition in positioning the university globally, the Board has pledged to support the university in any way possible, provided that the university community concentrated its efforts as a collective entity by exercising prudent resource management and having a shared understanding on the vision, mission and future direction of the university.
The Board members highlighted three major challenges to enhance the university’s role, responsibility and credibility as an outstanding higher learning institution.
The quality of education provided is of utmost importance as the university is responsible in producing graduates who not only excel in their academic and research pursuits, but also upholds ethical standards and being conscientious of the need to strive for excellence continuously, even when they have achieved success at the international level.
Another critical success factor of the university is its talent development processes, including recruitment, promotion of outstanding staff and succession planning. These processes, especially succession planning, has to be managed in a way that is satisfactory to the university community. Finally, care and attention should be placed in terms of managing public relations of the university and communicating the university’s expertise to the external community.
The Board members also highlighted five sectors for the university management to work on in the coming year ahead, based on the input provided by delegates throughout the weekend retreat. The university should refocus its efforts and resources in establishing a first class IT in managing an increasingly virtual academic, human resource and research workspace demand of its community.
There is a gap between the perception of academic and non-academic staff for career development opportunities, especially on the part of non-academic staff. The gap needs to be narrowed as the non-academic staff is supporting the work of the academic staff, and they have to have a clear understanding on the available career path and opportunities for professional development within the university.
The Board has acknowledged the three areas to work on in enhancing the university’s global reputation i.e. academic review, employer review and international staff recruitment. While the plans rolled out in addressing issues related to the three areas concerned may not show immediate and tangible results, the plans have to be rolled out gradually in anticipation of a more competitive higher education environment.
Gradual implementation and prioritisation of community engagement programmes should also be in place, approaching community engagement practices innovatively with coordination and commitment from different governance structures and university community without expending additional costs to the university.
In terms of income generation, there are many ways for the university community to generate revenue, but a case has to be made in terms of the means of achieving financial security. The university has to work closely with the Board members in gaining financial support from various stakeholders, particularly from the private sector.
In addition, Datuk Ir. Dr. Zaini also presented a preview of the university’s focus in the upcoming year. Geared towards the intangible and imperative element of UTM culture and institutional DNA, it is hoped that the focus addresses concerns on quality, adding value to higher education and the emphasis on quantitative over qualitative elements of higher education development, putting a utilitarian focus on the various responsibilities and operations of the university.
All implementation plans being put forward has to be implementable so as to achieve organisational excellence through its effective strategies, lean and optimal structure and culture. Having being consulted on university transformation strategies from its regional partners near and far, it has become clear that UTM has gradually gained prominence globally, a success story worth noting by all levels of the university community.