If one were to take Singapore’s NUS as an example, one guiding principle would be to recruit the best available administrators and professors, lecturers, tutors and research assistants internationally and pay them according to international standards, while assessing their performance on rigorous and transparent criteria.
Another guiding principle would be to recruit the best students from within Malaysia and from other Asean and Asian countries based on clear and transparent meritocratic criteria.
Yet another guiding principle would be to provide generous funding for scholarships and bursaries so as to ensure that no qualified student, no matter how poor, is denied a chance to study at an apex university.
But given the situation in Malaysia, where the Government tends to regulate higher education and universities with a heavy hand, and where bureaucracy and national agendas call the shots, the drive to set up one or more apex universities could well be an expensive exercise in futility and be doomed to abject failure.
As it is, our best students are being lured overseas year after year, often with full scholarships, to top-ranked universities, with a strong possibility that they may not return to Malaysia after graduation. And this trend will intensify, given the global hunt for talent, both in the region and around the world.
Yet the government does not seem to have the political will to address the relevant issues in higher education head-on.