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This qualitative inquiry aims at identifying the main issues in Malaysian higher education (HE) system and its sectors from the perspectives of Malaysian academic leaders. For this purpose, four open-ended questions were distributed among 2,786 academic leaders in 25 universities. More than 235 completed questionnaires were collected, containing nearly 4,500 records of priorities, values, challenges, and solutions. Through a quantitative content analysis approach, the records were categorized using the software package ATLAS.ti 7. This resulted to the emergence of 112 categories. Using SPSS 23, the top five categories with maximum frequencies of records were focused for further evaluation. The comparison of the issues in Malaysian HE and its sectors revealed that some of issues were common in all the sectors. In addition, the examination of these categories of data did result to the classification of them into five major categories namely Academic Core Activities, Change and Leadership, Management, Relationships, and Work Values. Keywords academic leadership, priorities and values, challenges and solutions, public and private higher education institutions, Malaysia The challenges of HE, to a considerable degree, do have Introduction an undue influence over the university inputs, operations, In the 21st century, universities in all around the world are functions, processes, and outcomes. For this reason, identify- facing new challenges. The shift from the elite higher educa- ing the main issues and challenges in HE has attracted the tion (HE) paradigm to mass HE (Daniel, 1993; Ramsden, attention of the scholars and practitioners of social science 1998), internationalization and globalization (De Wit, 2011; and education. In other words, numerous studies have Enders, 2004; Karim & Maarof, 2012; Rostan & Ceravolo, focused on probing HE challenges as well as proposing rec- 2015; Shin & Harman, 2009; Van Damme, 2001), wide utili- ommendations to shatter these impeding factors in the 21st zation of information technology (Scott, Tilbury, Sharp, & century. For example, the changes in university organiza- Deane, 2012; Stensaker, Maassen, Borgan, Oftebro, & tions and the changing nature of academic work (Ramsden, Karseth, 2007), and the new fundraising approaches in HE 1998), the intensification of institutional accountability to (Keener, Carrier, & Meaders, 2002; Shin & Harman, 2009; legislative and governing authorities (Harbour, 2003), the Teixeira & Koryakina, 2013) deem to be a few of the main environmental challenges for universities (Malm, 2008), the sources of the change forces for the newly emerged chal- managerial reforms due to neoliberalism (Shin, 2015), the lenges. Not only the universities are facing challenges, but also they cause many changes in societies. In fact, paradigms, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia theories, hypotheses, stereotypes, models, frameworks, preju- University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia dices as well as myths, and even sometimes status quo are Corresponding Author: challenged through university temperament which culminate Majid Ghasemy, National Higher Education Research Institute (IPPTN), in emergence of new paradigms, theories, ideologies, tech- Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Bayan Lepas, Penang 11900, Malaysia. nologies, and civil order (Soaib & Hussin, 2012). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open expansion of networks and external relations (Shin & •• Cultures which are change averse. Harman, 2009; Van Damme, 2001), and the issue of consum- •• The existence of unresponsive, unnecessary, bureau- erist turn in HE (Naidoo, Shankar, & Veer, 2011) have been cratic, and unfocused processes such as structural, scrutinized. Other main identified challenges include aca- planning, review, and administrative processes which demic leadership challenges (Black, 2015; Drew, 2010; do not add value to the system. Fullan & Scott, 2009), sustainability challenges in HE •• The existence of inefficient or unaligned decision (Mader, 2012; Mader, Scott, & Razak, 2013; Scott et al., making, accountability, funding, and reward systems. 2012), university mergers and transnational virtual delivery •• Fragmentation and inconsistent quality in the delivery of HE (Van Damme, 2001; Yung-Chi Hou, Morse, & Wang, of main activities in terms of learning, research, and 2015), challenges pertinent to embedding a quality culture in engagement as well as the related services which sup- universities (Lomas, 2004), gender issues in HE (Baker, port them. 2016; Cotterill & Letherby, 2005), and the challenges of •• Nonproductive or even nonexistent change imple- merging divergent campus cultures to form coherent educa- mentation strategies. tional communities (Harman, 2002). •• The existence of incorrect approaches to leadership Also, among the region-specific studies, the ones focus- selection as well as development and leadership per- ing on the main policy issues pertinent to the attractiveness formance management. of European HE (Kwiek, 2009), internationalization issues of HE in Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and The other pertinent study to leadership challenges in HE, Development (OECD) countries (Van Der Wende, 2007), as mentioned earlier, is the one conducted by Black (2015) in market challenges in European universities (Morris, 2012), which, the following challenges for effective academic lead- and the challenges of African HE in the 21st century (Teferra ership had been proposed: & Altbach, 2004) have been viewed as a few major studies in this area. •• Collaboration, partnership, and interdisciplinary With respect to country-specific studies, the research •• Student experience enhancement works centering on the social, political, and economic •• Learning communities and learner-centered challenges in American HE (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, approaches 2011); key challenges of governance, quality assurance, •• Bureaucracy which leads to inefficiency and and finance in Vietnamese HE (Dao, 2015); challenges of ineffectiveness change implementations in French HE (Evans & Cosnefroy, •• Using resources efficiently 2013); policy and research challenges in Australian ter- •• Multirole academic leaders (lecturer, researcher, citi- tiary system (Goedegebuure & Schoen, 2014); dilemmas zen, manager) and challenges in China’s move to mass HE (Bai, 2006); •• Collegial preference tending toward a self-serving policy challenges in Irish HE (Hazelkorn, 2014); research culture challenges in Japanese HE (Huang, 2014); privatization •• Transitional roles for academic leaders and marketization of HE in Indonesia (Susanti, 2011); •• The existence of conflict between management and challenges of international students attraction and hosting research aspects of academic leader roles in Lithuanian HE (Urbanovič, Wilkins, & Huisman, 2016); •• Differences between the demands encountered in pro- and some general HE challenges in Ghana (Atuahene, fessional, academic, and senior leadership 2008) and South Africa (Wangenge-Ouma, 2012) may be •• The need to adapt to new circumstances and promote stated. or grow the organization It is worth noting that the challenges of HE have been •• Individualism and external loyalties probed from the perspective of students as well. In fact, as •• The issue of leading diversity and inclusion elaborated by Ramsden (1998), some HE challenges such as •• Globalization and internationalization poor and inferior quality of assessment processes, ineffective •• University governance presentations through lecturing, lack of active independent learning encouragement, vogue and unclear aims, unclear Focusing on multicultural, multilingual, and multiracial objectives and standards, and not being considered as a part- Malaysia, as one of the leading countries in providing HE in ner in the process of learning have been addressed as the Asia-Pacific region as well as one of the main educational main concerns of the students. hubs (Knight & Sirat, 2011; J. T. Lee, 2014) with the aca- Among the aforementioned studies, the research work demic staff population of 33,000 in public universities and undertaken by Fullan and Scott (2009) was more pertinent to 2,500 in private institutions (Wan et al., 2015), some research academic leadership, justifying the launch of essential trans- studies related to HE issues have been conducted. A few of formation programs in HE. Through this study, a few of the these studies include the investigation of the relationship main internal change challenges throughout higher education between the quality culture and workforce leadership perfor- institutions (HEIs) were introduced as the followings: mance in Malaysian HE (Ali & Musah, 2012); the issue of Ghasemy et al. 3 knowledge management, knowledge sharing, and research descriptive statistics approach (Field, 2013) were adopted to collaboration in Malaysian public universities (Tan & Md. exhibit a quantitative representation of what respondents Noor, 2013); strategic planning in Malaysian HEIs; university wanted to communicate in terms of the main issues in autonomy and political uncertainties (Sirat, 2010); global Malaysian HE. It is notable that quantitative content analysis trends; national policies and institutional responses toward has been described as a tool to explore communication with restructuring of Malaysian HE (M. N. N. Lee, 2004); interna- the implication being that the greater the frequency of occur- tionalization challenges in Malaysia (Karim & Maarof, 2012); rence of a word or phrase, the more important that element is leadership crisis in Malaysian public universities (Sirat, from the viewpoint of the communicator (Newby, 2014). Ahmad, & Azman, 2012); and the main issues of Malaysian Also, the target population was all the academic leaders, public and private HEIs (M. N. N. Lee, 2015). It is notewor- namely, vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors, deans, thy that as elaborated by M. N. N. Lee (2015), the privatiza- deputy deans, directors, deputy directors, department heads, tion of HE, the corporatization of public Malaysian HEIs, the and the university professors without formal positions work- embedment of quality assurance in HE, the diversification in ing in public research and comprehensive universities, public sources of funding, and the internationalization of HE were focused universities, and private focused universities. addressed as the main critical issues of Malaysian HEIs. Notably in this study, public research and comprehensive Given the fact that the conducted studies in Malaysian universities refer to public universities with a significant degree of research activities and a wide range of programs context did extend the literature noticeably and are consid- run by different faculties. In addition, public focused and pri- ered as a great contribution to the knowledge generation, still vate focused universities refer to institutions in public and there is lack of research about Malaysian HE issues and chal- private sectors with a focus on limited number of programs. lenges. In other words, work priorities which demonstrate To collect the data, the list of public and private universi- the routine activities and practices in universities as well as ties in the website of Malaysian Ministry of HE was consid- the values with their great impact on the daily practices ered and 25 universities were selected randomly. Afterward, (Lazaridou, 2007) need to be focused and explored. Also, not a database of 2,786 email addresses of the potential respon- only the challenges, as the main barriers being faced by aca- dents was created. Then, using an online data collection plat- demic leaders, but also the solutions to these impeding fac- form, the following four open-ended questions were tors in the context of HEIs need to be scrutinized. For this distributed among the potential respondents. reason, the current study, in alignment with the proposed practices on the grounds of Malaysian National Higher 1. What are the priorities for doing the job in your cur- Education Strategic Plan as well as the practices encouraged rent role? (you can mention up to 10 priorities) by Malaysian Higher Education Leadership Academy 2. What are the values that you consider important in (AKEPT in Malay language), was undertaken with the main doing your job effectively? (you can mention up to purpose to identify these issues descriptively from the per- 10 values) spective of a large number of academic leaders in Malaysian 3. What are the main challenges that you face in doing HE System, Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs, Public the job in your current role? (you can mention up to Focused HEIs, and Private Focused HEIs. More specifically, 10 challenges) it aimed at identifying the major areas of focus through rank- 4. Given the challenges that you face in doing the job in ing the issues in Malaysian HE and its sectors to provide a your current role, what are the suggestions to resolve more precise picture of the current situation in HE industry these challenges? in Malaysia for the new policy making purposes. Remarkably, through this study, a descriptive comparison will be made to In total, a number of 248, 247, 244, and 236 respondents compare the viewpoints of academic leaders in Malaysian answered question 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Table 1 sum- HE and its sectors in terms of priorities, values, and chal- marizes the demographic information of the respondents who lenges to provide a more meaningful picture of the current had answered the work priority question (Question 1). It is situation in Malaysian HE. This comparison will be benefi- notable that due to the considerable similarity between the cial in making informed decisions and policies toward pro- demographic information of the respondents of Question 1 moting Malaysian HE. and other questions, the demographic information of the respondents to Questions 2,3, and 4 have not been exhibited. Method Also, it is noteworthy that in this study, more than 80% of the professors without current leadership role have held lead- Design, Sampling, and Data Collection ership roles as their previous immediate role in their respective This study deals with descriptive data collected through the institutions, indicating the relevancy and importance of their distribution of a survey containing four open-ended ques- opinions in terms of Malaysian HE context. Moreover, the rel- tions through a qualitative inquiry. For this purpose, a quan- evant proposed ethical principles in conducting qualitative titative content analysis (Newby, 2014; Schreier, 2014) and a inquiries (Newby, 2014) such as honesty in relation to the data 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Demographic Information of Work Priorities Question. Public research & Public focused Private focused HE system comprehensive HEIs HEIs HEIs Demographic info Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Gender Male 154 62.1 86 61.9 40 62.5 28 62.2 Female 94 37.9 53 38.1 24 37.5 17 37.8 Total 248 100.0 139 100.0 64 100.0 45 100.0 Age group Below 36 11 4.4 3 2.2 3 4.7 5 11.1 36-45 61 24.6 26 18.7 25 39.1 10 22.2 46-55 92 37.1 46 33.1 23 35.9 23 51.1 56-65 64 25.8 48 34.5 11 17.2 5 11.1 Above 65 20 8.1 16 11.5 2 3.1 2 4.4 Total 248 100.0 139 100.0 64 100.0 45 100.0 Academic qualification Professor 119 48.0 86 61.9 18 28.1 15 33.3 Associate professor 50 20.2 24 17.3 16 25.0 10 22.2 Assistant professor/ 62 25.0 25 18.0 27 42.2 10 22.2 senior lecturer Other 17 6.9 4 2.9 3 4.7 10 22.2 Total 248 100.0 139 100.0 64 100.0 45 100.0 Current role Vice-chancellor 2 0.8 1 0.7 1 1.6 0 0 Deputy vice-chancellor 6 2.4 2 1.4 1 1.6 3 6.7 Dean 33 13.3 14 10.1 7 10.9 12 26.7 Director 27 10.9 12 8.6 13 20.3 2 4.4 Deputy dean 50 20.2 25 18.0 14 21.9 11 24.4 Deputy director 11 4.4 4 2.9 6 9.4 1 2.2 Head of department 66 26.6 37 26.6 17 26.6 12 26.7 Professor 53 21.4 44 31.7 5 7.8 4 8.9 Total 248 100.0 139 100.0 64 100.0 45 100.0 Note. HE = higher education; HEIs = higher education institutions. and considerations about the standards to represent and dis- Table 2. Selected Errors and Corrections in the Databases of Malaysian HE Issues. seminate the results were followed throughout the entire steps of the study to minimize the level of inaccuracy and increase Error Correction the level of dependability or reliability of the findings. Accreditated Accredited Amanah Trust Initial Data Screening Procedure Appt Appointment The collected data were exported to Microsoft Excel for data Commadarie Camaraderie cleaning and purification. For this aim, spelling errors were criticm Criticism identified and corrected and the exactly phrased statements Dept Department were evaluated. Through this procedure, abbreviations were etau Or also corrected and necessary words were capitalized. In addi- Govt Government tion, because a few of the respondents had answered the Ibadah Worship questions in Malay language, one professional translator incooperative Uncooperative cooperated with the research team to translate these words Note. HE = higher education. and phrases into English. Some examples of data cleaning and purifying have been presented in Table 2. Thereafter, the answers were evaluated for their manage- Table 3 summarizes the number of respondents and valid rial and semantical relevancy. This procedure yielded to records for priorities, values, challenges, and solutions, cat- identify and eliminate irrelevant records from the database. egorized based on Malaysian HE System and its sectors. Ghasemy et al. 5 Table 3. The Number and Percentage of Respondents and Findings Records for Priorities, Values, Challenges, and Solutions. Priorities No. of % of No. of % of HE sector respondents respondents records records Regarding the entire HE System, the results showed that the top five priorities in Malaysian HE System were exactly Work priorities analogous to the top priorities identified within the context of Public research & 139 56 799 57 Malaysian Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs sector. comprehensive These priorities included all the activities related to Achieving Public focused 64 26 342 24 Goals, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), & Standards; Private focused 45 18 263 19 Teaching & Delivering Programs; Undertaking Research; Total 248 100 1404 100 Producing Publications; and Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Work values Fundraising. Public research & 139 56 737 60 comprehensive Focusing on the public sector, the results revealed that Public focused 62 25 303 25 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards; Teaching & Delivering Private focused 46 19 194 16 Programs; Undertaking Research; and Producing Publications Total 247 100 1234 100 were the top common priorities identified within the context Work challenges of Malaysian Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs and Public research & 139 57 596 61 Public Focused HEIs. Regarding Malaysian Private Focused comprehensive HEIs, it was yielded that Monitoring; Teaching & Delivering Public focused 59 24 236 24 Programs; Undertaking Research; Staff Development, Private focused 46 19 146 15 Empowerment, & Expertise; Performing Department & Total 244 100 978 100 Faculty Routines; Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards; and Work solutions finally Staff Affairs Management were the top priorities of Public research & 135 57 567 62 academic leaders in this context. It is noticeable that Achieving comprehensive Goals, KPIs, & Standards; Teaching & Delivering Programs; Public focused 57 24 208 23 and Undertaking Research were the three common top priori- Private focused 44 19 142 15 ties from the viewpoints of the academic leaders in all the Total 236 100 917 100 three sectors of Malaysian HE system, as shown in Table 4. Note. HE = higher education. Values Data Analysis Procedure The results of this descriptive analysis were very amazing The collected data, containing almost 4,500 records of pri- about work values. The main finding was that the category of orities, values, challenges, and solutions, were the immedi- Honesty & Integrity had the maximum frequency in ate responses of many decision makers and leaders in Malaysian HE System and its sectors. This finding was also Malaysian HE that had been captured. The software pack- in alignment with the findings of the study conducted by age ATLAS.ti 7 was employed for categorizing similar Ghasemy, Hussin, and Megat Daud (2016) in which the item records into meaningful categories. To that end, a quantita- “Being transparent and honest in dealing with others” had tive content analysis method (Newby, 2014; Schreier, 2014) been identified as the topmost important behavior rated by was adopted, the records were read and evaluated thor- the academics in Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia. In oughly, and then were assigned to proper categories. It is addition, four categories including Honesty & Integrity; noticeable that a few of the records, due to their meanings Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity; Commitment, and relevancy, were assigned to more than one category. Passion, & Loyalty; and Hard-Working, Diligence, & Next, the categories were given proper labels and through a Persistence were common in all the contexts. Notably, Team- descriptive analysis technique using SPSS 23, the fre- Working was the only common value in Malaysian HE quency of the records under each category were examined. System and Malaysian Public Research & Comprehensive In total, the data were categorized into 112 classes of issues. HEIs. Moreover, Kindness, Empathy, & Sympathy was the In the following section, the results related to the top five only common category between Malaysian HE System and categories under each of the issues, namely, work priorities, Malaysian Private Focused HEIs. work values, work challenges, and work solutions have Also, as displayed in Table 5, two categories namely been provided and explained. Responsibility and Patience & Tolerance were only among It is remarkable that the examples of assigning records to the top values identified within the context of Malaysian different categories have been provided in the appendices Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs. Additionally, the section. category of Professional Development Training & Continuous 6 SAGE Open Table 4. Top Five Work Priorities in Malaysian HE and Its Table 5. Top Five Work Values in Malaysian HE and Its Sectors. Sectors. Rank Malaysian HE system (N = 247) Frequency Rank Malaysian HE system (N = 248) Frequency 1 Honesty & Integrity 127 1 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 89 2 Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity 72 2 Teaching & Delivering Programs 70 3 Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 65 3 Undertaking Research 67 4 Hard-Working, Diligence, & Persistence 56 4 Producing Publications 55 5A Team-Working 36 5 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 41 5B Kindness, Empathy, & Sympathy 36 Malaysian public research & comprehensive Malaysian public research & Rank HEIs (N = 139) Frequency Rank comprehensive HEIs (N = 139) Frequency 1 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 51 1 Honesty & Integrity 76 2 Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity 42 2 Teaching & Delivering Programs 42 3 Undertaking Research 38 3 Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 41 4 Hard-working, Diligence, & Persistence 36 4 Producing Publications 36 5A Team-Working 22 5 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 28 5B Responsibility 22 Rank Malaysian public focused HEIs (N = 64) Frequency 5C Patience & Tolerance 22 1 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 30 Rank Malaysian public focused HEIs (N = 62) Frequency 2 Undertaking Research 14 1 Honesty & Integrity 31 3 Teaching & Delivering Programs 13 2 Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity 25 4 Producing Publications 12 3 Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 17 5 Students Learning 11 4 Hard-Working, Diligence, & Persistence 14 Rank Malaysian private focused HEIs (N = 45) Frequency 5 Professional Development Training & 13 Continuous Improvement 1 Monitoring 18 2A Teaching & Delivering Programs 15 Rank Malaysian private focused HEIs (N = 46) Frequency 2B Undertaking Research 15 1 Honesty & Integrity 20 3 Staff Development, Empowerment, & 10 2 Kindness, Empathy, & Sympathy 10 Expertise 3A General Skills & Knowledge 7 4 Performing Department & Faculty Routines 9 3B Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 7 5A Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 8 3C Creativity & Innovation 7 5B Staff Affairs Management 8 3D Fairness, Equity, & Equality 7 Note. HE = higher education; KPIs = Key Performance Indicators; 4A Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 6 HEIs = higher education institutions. 4B Recognition, Image, & Rank 6 4C Hard-Working, Diligence, & Persistence 6 5A Punctuality & Timeliness 5 Improvement was only among the top values in the context of 5B Leading Academic & Nonacademic Staff 5 Malaysian Public Focused HEIs, and a few other values such 5C Communication 5 as Creativity & Innovation, Punctuality & Timeliness, and 5D Respect, Honor, & Dignity 5 Discipline were only among the top values in the context of 5E Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity 5 Malaysian Private Focused HEIs. 5F Accountability 5 5G Discipline 5 Challenges Note. HE = higher education; HEIs = higher education institutions; KPIs = Key Performance Indicators. Focusing on Malaysian HE challenges, inefficiencies and shortages related to four issues including Staff Affairs Management; Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising; Infrastructures & Facilities; Staff Development, Time Management; and Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards Empowerment & Expertise; and Reducing Red Tape & were common challenges in the entire HE System and its Bureaucracy were only among the top challenges that aca- sectors. In addition, the challenge related to Proper Workload demic leaders had encountered in the context of Malaysian & Assignments was common in the entire HE System, Public Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs. Also, challenges Research & Comprehensive HEIs, and Public Focused HEIs. related to the lack of Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty and Considering the statistics provided in Table 6, the chal- Receiving & Providing Support were only among the top lenge associated with three categories, namely, Maintaining challenges in the context of Malaysian Public Focused HEIs. Ghasemy et al. 7 Table 6. Top Five Work Challenges in Malaysian HE and Its Table 7. Top Five Work Solutions in Malaysian HE and Its Sectors. Sectors. Rank Malaysian HE system (N = 244) Frequency Rank Malaysian HE system (N = 236) Frequency 1 Staff Affairs Management 84 1 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 57 2 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 82 2 Professional Development Training & 53 Continuous Improvement 3 Time Management 48 3 Staff Affairs Management 52 4 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 37 4A Communication 30 5 Proper Workload & Assignments 30 4B Discussion & Dialogue 30 Malaysian public research & 5 Time Management 28 Rank comprehensive HEIs (N = 139) Frequency Malaysian public research & 1 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 55 Rank comprehensive HEIs (N = 135) Frequency 2 Staff Affairs Management 47 1 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 38 3A Maintaining Infrastructures & Facilities 24 2 Staff Affairs Management 28 3B Time Management 24 3 Professional Development Training & 27 4 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 20 Continuous Improvement 5A Staff Development, Empowerment, & 17 4 Communication 20 Expertise 5 Discussion & Dialogue 19 5B Proper Workload & Assignments 17 5C Reducing Red Tape & Bureaucracy 17 Rank Malaysian public focused HEIs (N = 57) Frequency Rank Malaysian public focused HEIs (N = 59) Frequency 1 Professional Development Training & 16 Continuous Improvement 1A Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 17 2 Staff Affairs Management 15 1B Staff Affairs Management 17 3 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 10 2 Time Management 12 4A Providing Consultation 6 3A Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 10 4B Time Management 6 3B Proper Workload & Assignments 10 4C Politics 6 4 Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 9 4D Discussion & Dialogue 6 5 Receiving & Providing Support 8 4E Proper Workload & Assignments 6 Rank Malaysian private focused HEIs (N = 46) Frequency 5A Receiving & Providing Support 5 5B Staff Development, Empowerment, & 5 1 Staff Affairs Management 20 Expertise 2 Time Management 12 5C Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration 5 3 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 10 5D Leading Academic & Nonacademic Staff 5 4 Collaboration & Cooperation 8 5E Target Setting 5 5 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 7 5F Policy Issues 5 Note. HE = higher education; KPIs = Key Performance Indicators; Rank Malaysian private focused HEIs (N = 44) Frequency HEIs = higher education institutions. 1 Professional Development Training & 10 Focusing on Malaysian Private Focused HEIs, the ineffec- Continuous Improvement tiveness in Collaboration & Cooperation was among the top 2A Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 9 challenges in this context only. 2B Staff Affairs Management 9 2C Time Management 9 3 Communication 7 Solutions 4 Creating a Conductive & Convenient 6 With respect to solutions, as displayed in Table 7, the results Environment 5 Discussion & Dialogue 5 indicated that improvement, advancement, efficiency, and effectiveness regarding four categories were the common Note. HE = higher education; HEIs = higher education institutions. proposed solutions by the academic leaders in the entire HE System and its sectors. These categories were Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising; Professional Develop- Public Research & Comprehensive HEIs, and Private ment Training & Continuous Improvement; Staff Affairs Focused HEIs. Moreover, efficiency in Time Management Management; and Discussion & Dialogue. had been proposed by the academic leaders in the entire HE In addition, the effectiveness related to Communication System as well as Public and Private Focused HEIs as a category was a common solution in the entire HE System, solution. 8 SAGE Open It is worth noting that improvements pertinent to some the 112 categories could be classified into five mega-catego- categories such as Target Setting, Policy Issues, and ries, namely, Academic Core Activities, Change & Providing Consultation had only been recommended by the Leadership, Management, Relationships, and Work Values. academic leaders in Public Focused HEIs. Moreover, per- Tables 8 to 12 present the mega-categories with their assigned forming enhancement activities associated with Creating a categories and their frequencies for the entire Malaysian HE Conductive & Convenient Environment had only been pro- System. posed as a main solution by the academic leaders in Malaysian Finally, all the 112 categories were evaluated from another Private Focused HEIs. extra perspective. To this end, the four tables of priorities, values, challenges, and solutions in each of the four contexts, namely, entire HE System, Public Research & Comprehensive Discussion and Conclusion HEIs, Public Focused HEIs, and Private Focused HEIs were As specified in the “Findings” section, some similarities and evaluated to detect common issues in each context. differences in terms of HE issues were identified among The results displayed in Table 13 indicated that five Malaysian HE system and its sectors. These issues, to a large issues under HE System, three issues under Public Research degree, emphasized the fact that in university leadership, the & Comprehensive HEIs, three issues under Public Focused context matters and to lead universities effectively, the issues HEIs, and five issues under Private Focused HEIs categories must be addressed precisely. In addition, some similarities were common in the tables of priorities, values, challenges, were also identified between Malaysian HE and the HE sys- and solutions. In fact, focusing on each context, while any tem in other countries. In other words, they did denote that of these issues was a priority and a value, the incompetency, some of the major issues being faced by HEIs were global. inefficacy, or shortage of them was a challenge, and improv- For example, the preferences pertinent to teaching and deliv- ing or promoting any of them had been viewed as a solution ering subjects, conducting research, and inspiring the staff to the challenges faced by Malaysian academic leaders. had been addressed by Moses and Ramsden (1992) and the This, as the unique contribution of this research in compari- values such as honesty and fairness had been considered by son with similar studies, suggested the consideration of Lazaridou (2007). It is noticeable that most of the identified these issues by the Malaysian HE policy makers in develop- academic priorities, values, and challenges in this research ing and updating professional development programs as had also been addressed in the two recent research studies well as making new policies to ensure a quality provision of focusing on leadership capabilities and managerial compe- HE in Malaysian universities. It is noteworthy that “Time tencies carried out in Australia (Scott, Coates, & Anderson, Management” and “Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration” 2008) as well as Australia and New Zealand (Scott & were common in three sectors. Also, “General Skills & McKellar, 2012). More specifically and given the impor- Knowledge” and “Leading Academic & Nonacademic tance of the challenges in the literature, it was found that Staff” were common issues in two sectors. Finally, the issues most of the identified challenges had been addressed in pre- including “Appreciation, Awareness, & Consciousness,” vious research works. For example, identified challenges “Recognition, Image, & Rank,” “Professional Development related to funding (Keener et al., 2002; Shin & Harman, Training & Continuous Improvement,” “Finance, Budgeting, 2009; Teixeira & Koryakina, 2013), staff management and Grants, & Fundraising,” “Communication,” “Creating a human resources (Drew, 2010; Fullan & Scott, 2009; Keener Conductive & Convenient Environment,” and “Achieving et al., 2002), as well as red tape and bureaucracy (Black, Goals, KPIs, & Standards” were the major issues in just one 2015; Fullan & Scott, 2009; Teferra & Altbach, 2004) may sector. be specified. In addition, other challenges, which were in alignment with the findings in other research works, included Limitations workloads and the nature of academic work (Black, 2015; Ramsden, 1998), collaborations (Black, 2015; Drew, 2010), Even though all the considerations in terms of preciseness commitment and loyalty (Black, 2015), lack of time and time of the classification of the records were adhered to, there management skills (Drew, 2010), and providing supporting were still possibilities that some user errors have occurred services (Fullan & Scott, 2009). during data screening and analysis. In addition, no similar To provide a better picture of Malaysian HE issues from qualitative inquiry at this scale was identified to make the perspective of the participated academic leaders, the comparisons between the findings of this research with word cloud of 112 categories of priorities, values, challenges, those studies. Finally, due to the huge volume of the and solutions have been illustrated in Figure 1. Notably, the records in the database of responses, quantitative content size of the titles of the categories represent their frequency. analysis was employed to quantitatively represent the most These categories were focused from a different angle as important elements in the messages communicated by the well. In fact, they were evaluated from a thematic perspec- respondents. In other words, more advanced methods need tive (Creswell, 2012) to identify the mega-categories con- to be used to provide more insightful meanings from the taining similar concepts. This examination revealed that all collected data. Ghasemy et al. 9 Figure 1. The word cloud of Malaysian HE issues. Note. HE = higher education. Table 8. The Categories Classified Under Academic Core Activities. No. Academic core activities categories Frequency 1 Staff Affairs Management 168 2 Undertaking Research 97 3 Teaching & Delivering Programs 81 4 Students Development, Expertise, & Employability 72 5 Producing Publications 70 6 Students Development, Expertise, & Employability 66 7 Creating a Conductive & Convenient Environment 50 8 Performing Administrative & Governance Tasks 44 9 Proper Workload & Assignments 43 10 Designing, Accrediting, & Updating Programs & Contents 39 11 Providing Consultation 39 12 Students Learning 38 13 Performing Department & Faculty Routines 37 14 Students Affairs Management 34 15 Students Supervision 31 16 Students Enrollment 18 17 Having Autonomy & Academic Freedom 15 18 Mentoring the Staff 15 19 Attending Conferences, Workshops, & Colloquiums 13 10 SAGE Open Table 9. The Categories Classified Under Change & Leadership. No Change & leadership categories Frequency 1 Professional Development Training & Continuous Improvement 111 2 Receiving & Providing Support 68 3 Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration 63 4 Leading Academic & Nonacademic Staff 61 5 Change & Transformation 53 6 Creativity & Innovation 47 7 Vision Building & Fulfillment 33 8 Discussion & Dialogue 32 9 Target Setting 23 10 Thinking 23 11 Changing Mindsets & Organizational Climate 23 12 Providing Services & Opportunities 22 13 Role Modeling and Providing Examples 22 14 Focus, Concentration, & Emphasis 21 15 Having Cognitive Resources 19 16 Adaptability & Flexibility 16 17 Feedbacks & Critics 16 18 Strategizing 15 19 Mission Building & Accomplishment 13 20 Sustaining Values & Best Practices 11 21 R&D 10 Table 10. The Categories Classified Under Management. No Management categories Frequency 1 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising 183 2 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 145 3 Time Management 104 4 General Skills & Knowledge 80 5 Maintaining Infrastructures & Facilities 68 6 Team-Working 65 7 General Management 53 8 Monitoring 45 9 Politics 45 10 Reducing Red Tape & Bureaucracy 39 11 Efficiency, Effectiveness, & Productivity 38 12 Planning 33 13 Attending Meetings 31 14 Appointment, Promotion, & Meritocracy 29 15 Sharing Information & Data 27 16 Policy Issues 27 17 Prioritizing 23 18 Team Management 22 19 Managing and Improving Quality 19 20 Accessing & Managing Information/Resources 19 21 Decision Making 19 22 Maintaining Balance Between Duties 18 23 Management Systems & Mechanisms 16 24 Problem Solving 16 25 Salary & Incentives 15 26 Following Rules, Principles, & Instructions 14 27 Division of Labor 12 28 Assessment & Benchmarking 12 29 Directing 11 30 Coordinating 11 31 Organizing 10 Note. KPIs = Key Performance Indicators. Ghasemy et al. 11 Table 11. The Categories Classified Under Relationships. Table 13. Main Areas of Focus in Malaysian HE and Its Sectors. No Relationships categories Frequency Sector No. Common issues 1 Communication 87 HE System 1 Time Management 2 Collaboration & Cooperation 67 2 Appreciation, Awareness, & Consciousness 3 Networking 39 4 University/Community/Industry Engagement 37 3 Leading Academic & Nonacademic Staff 4 General Skills & Knowledge 5 Relationships Establishment & Maintenance 35 6 Industry–University Linkage 24 5 Recognition, Image, & Rank 6 Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration 7 Community Service & Outreach programs 21 8 Rapport, Friendliness, & Friendship 20 Public Research & 1 General Skills & Knowledge Comprehensive 2 Time Management HEIs 3 Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration Public Focused 1 Professional Development Training & Table 12. The Categories Classified Under Work Values. HEIs Continuous Improvement No Work values categories Frequency 2 Persuasion, Motivation, & Inspiration 3 Leading Academic & Nonacademic Staff 1 Honesty & Integrity 145 Private Focused 1 Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & 2 Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity 100 HEIs Fundraising 3 Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty 94 2 Time Management 4 Hard-Working, Diligence, & Persistence 76 3 Communication 5 Recognition, Image, & Rank 72 4 Creating a Conductive & Convenient 6 Appreciation, Awareness, & Consciousness 62 Environment 7 Fairness, Equity, & Equality 54 5 Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 8 Openness & Open-Mindedness 52 9 Punctuality & Timeliness 51 Note. HE = higher education; HEIs = higher education institutions; 10 Responsibility 47 KPIs = Key Performance Indicators. 11 Clarity, Transparency, & Straightforwardness 43 12 Kindness, Empathy, & Sympathy 41 policy makers can focus on the key issues in Malaysian HE. 13 Patience & Tolerance 41 Especially, AKEPT is benefited from the results of this 14 Respect, Honor, & Dignity 40 study in a more practical vein for a few reasons. First, the 15 Satisfaction, Happiness, & Enjoyment 37 contents of the current academic leadership training pro- 16 Discipline 28 grams may be updated based on the results of this study 17 Helpfulness 28 18 Attitude 26 which consequently help AKEPT to hit this core objective. 19 Accountability 26 Second, the findings of this research work were in align- 20 Determination, Firmness, & Decisiveness 24 ment with one of the missions of AKEPT regarding trans- 21 Care, Consideration, & Altruism 23 formations in HE at national level. Third, the target 22 Selflessness & Generosity 20 population in this study and the target group of AKEPT was 23 Wisdom, Rationality, & Reflectiveness 17 similar which was another encouraging practical point to be 24 Authenticity, Reliability, & Accuracy 16 noted. In addition, through data collection procedure, the 25 Confidence 16 immediate responses of almost 250 Malaysian academic 26 Ethics & Morality 15 leaders from 25 public and private universities were cap- 27 Faith & Worship 15 tured to identify the main priorities, values, challenges, and 28 Calmness & Peacefulness 13 solutions in Malaysian HE. Hence, unlike similar studies, 29 Vigilance, Carefulness, & Meticulousness 13 not only the challenges but also priorities, values, and solu- 30 Boldness, Courage, & Assertiveness 13 tions were focused in this research. 31 Consensus, Unity, & Harmony 12 Undertaking this research work also did provide some 32 Humility 11 recommendations for future research: 33 Maturity & Perfection 11 i. Replication of this research work in other Malaysian educational sectors and comparing the results of this Implications and Recommendations research with those studies. From a practical perspective, some opportunities for policy ii. Replication of the study in leading countries in terms makers in the Ministry of HE Malaysia and AKEPT have of providing HE in Asia-Pacific region. been provided through this study to have a clearer picture iii. Replication of the study in other educational sectors of the current issues in Malaysian HE. As a matter of fact, in Asia-pacific countries. 12 SAGE Open iv. Replicating the study in other countries with the inten- Appendix C tion of positioning themselves as educational hubs such Examples of Respondents’ Statements for the as Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates in Middle East as well as Singapore and Hong Kong in East Asia. Challenges v. Applying more advanced qualitative data analysis 1. Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising approaches to provide a better understanding about •• Financial restrictions the issues in Malaysian academic context. •• Lack of funds, that is, research grants 2. Staff Affairs Management Appendix A •• Lack of talent pool in the local scene Examples of Respondents’ Statements for the •• Negative behavior of some staff Priorities 3. Maintaining Infrastructures & Facilities 1. Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards •• Very poor maintenance of essential infrastructure •• Aging infrastructure/instruments/equipment •• Achieving department goals •• Achieving set targets for department/section 4. Time Management 2. Teaching & Delivering Programs •• Time limitation •• Limited and last-minute instructions •• Teaching & learning •• Teaching and supervising 5. Achieving Goals, KPIs, & Standards 3. Undertaking Research •• Very high expectations from university but shrink- •• Research and innovation ing budget •• Research and publication •• High expectations not matched with support 4. Producing Publications •• Journal publication Appendix D •• Write practical and useful papers Examples of Respondents’ Statements for the 5. Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising Solutions •• Research grant application 1. Finance, Budgeting, Grants, & Fundraising •• Research grants equally [being] distributed between academics •• Right investment •• Explore research funding overseas 2. Staff Affairs Management Appendix B •• Distribute tasks according to their importance. Examples of Respondents’ Statements for the Staff distribution in faculties should be fair as Values faculties cater more students and staffs. •• Upgrade nonacademic support with profes- 1. Honesty & Integrity sional development and adequate reward for •• Honesty good work •• Integrity in professional and social role 3. Professional Development Training & Continuous 2. Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, & Sincerity Improvement •• Sincerity •• Send staff for professional development and •• Be truthful include Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) 3. Commitment, Passion, & Loyalty as part of the staff KPI •• Commitment and dedication •• Educate staff on quality education and research •• Commitment to serve community in need 4. Communication 4. Hard-Working, Diligence, & Persistence •• Better support from the top, provide recognition •• Perseverance and support, and communicate more •• Never give up •• Listen to students 5. Team-Working 5. Discussion & Dialogue •• Working in team •• Talk to them openly of challenges faced •• To believe in team work spirit •• Be fair and talk to the staff Ghasemy et al. 13 Acknowledgments A case study. Studies in Higher Education, 40, 745-760. doi:1 0.1080/03075079.2013.842223 The authors would like to appreciate the editor-in-chief and the edi- De Wit, H. (2011). Trends, issues and challenges in internation- torial staff of SAGE Open, and the three anonymous reviewers who alisation of higher education. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: greatly improved the quality of this article with their insightful Centre for Applied Research on Economics and Management, comments. Additionally, the authors are grateful to the respondents School of Economics and Management of the Hogeschool van in this study who kindly shared their ideas and thoughts with the Amsterdam. research team. And last but not least, special appreciation goes to Drew, G. (2010). Issues and challenges in higher education leader- Prof. Dr. Morshidi Sirat, Prof. Dr. Turiman Suandi, Ms. Zeynab ship: Engaging for change. Australian Educational Researcher, Khodaei, Ms. Malihe Ghasemi, and Ms. Zarina Waheed for their 37(3), 57-76. doi:10.1007/BF03216930 invaluable contribution and support. Enders, J. (2004). Higher education, internationalisation, and the nation-state: Recent developments and challenges to gover- Declaration of Conflicting Interests nance theory. Higher Education, 47, 361-382. doi:10.1023/ The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect b:high.0000016461.98676.30 to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Evans, L., & Cosnefroy, L. (2013). The dawn of a new profession- alism in the French academy? Academics facing the challenges of change. Studies in Higher Education, 38, 1201-1221. doi:10 Funding .1080/03075079.2013.833024 The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This (4th ed.). London, England: Sage. study was carried out under the LIMEO Program (RP020A-15HNE) Fullan, M. G., & Scott, G. (2009). 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University of Western Sydney and Association for Tertiary Higher Education, 64, 831-844. doi:10.1007/s10734-012- Education Management. 9531-6 Ghasemy et al. 15 Yung-Chi Hou, A., Morse, R., & Wang, W. (2017). Recognition of president of Asia Sport Management Association. Megat has pub- academic qualifications in transnational higher education and lished many articles in sport and education related journals and challenges for recognizing a joint degree in Europe and Asia. books. Studies in Higher Education, 42, 1211-1228. doi:10.1080/030 Mariani Md Nor received her bachelor degree in Science Education 75079.2015.1085010 from UM and obtained her PhD in Psychology from Bristol University, UK. Currently, she is an associate professor involved in Author Biographies teaching, research, and supervision. Formerly, she was the dean of Majid Ghasemy is a senior lecturer at National Higher Education faculty of Education, UM. Her research interests include cognitive Research Institute (IPPTN), USM, and the Global Higher Education psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, Network coordinator appointed by USM Vice-chancellor. His human development, and child and adolescent development. research interests include academic leadership and management, Mariani has received 4 International, 1 National, and 14 University higher education policy, performance effectiveness, sustainable Awards for her contributions at national and international levels. higher education, and higher education issues and challenges. He Simin Ghavifekr is a senior lecturer at faculty of Education, UM. has published papers in prestigious journals such as Asia Pacific She has been teaching and supervising postgraduate students. Prior Education Review. He has presented papers in a few of the largest to this, she used to work as a teacher, principal/headmistress and international education conferences namely EDULEARN, INTED, academic advisor in pre-university colleges. So far, Simin has pub- and iCERI. Majid also collaborates as a reviewer with a few of the lished many books, book chapters, and articles in local and interna- high impact journals. tional journals. She is also the editor of Malaysian Online Journal Sufean Hussin is a senior special grade professor at Faculty of of Educational Management (MOJEM). Her research interests are Education, UM, with expertise in the areas of education policy, educational leadership, policy, management, administration, edu- leadership, management, and higher education. He is renowned as a cational change, e-learning, and the integration of ICT in educa- writer of more than 20 academic books and as a consultant and tional settings. supervisor of more than 100 research works in those areas. Sufean Husaina Banu Kenayathulla is the head of the department at fac- has served the UM for 33 years and was formerly the dean of fac- ulty of Education, UM. She obtained her PhD in Economics of ulty of Education. Education & Education Finance from Indiana University, USA. Her Megat Ahmad Kamaluddin Megat Daud is a senior lecturer at research interests include economics of education, educational faculty of Education, UM. His areas of interest include educational finance, policy analysis & evaluation, as well as comparative & planning, management, as well as policy and sports management. international education. Her publication records include articles in Previously, He used to be the head of department at faculty of local and international journals, book chapters and books. She regu- Education. Also, he has been the chairman of Sport Management larly serves as a reviewer for various national and international peer Curriculum Committee of Ministry of Youth and Sport of Malaysia. reviewed journals. In addition, Husaina has been invited as speaker In terms of international contributions, he has served as the vice for panel sessions in various international conferences.
SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: Jan 27, 2018
Keywords: academic leadership; priorities and values; challenges and solutions; public and private higher education institutions; Malaysia
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