Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher Education in the Context of the Bologna Process

Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher Education in the Context of the Bologna Process
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    Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher Education in the Context of the Bologna Process Navinderpal Singh  Yuchengco Center 2 Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher Education in the Context of the Bologna Process by Navinderpal Singh 1.0 Introduction The term “ globalization ”  has been adopted in the world today, but its meaning has yet to be clarified. It is associated with and used interchangeably with internationalization. Internationalization and globalization are linked with higher education. Higher education in Malaysia has been geared towards internationalization since the late 1990s through its National Higher Education Strategic Plan. It is provided in public and private schools under the Ministry of Education on a more affordable basis. (Anantha Raj, 2011) The introduction of higher education coincided with the formation of University of Malaya in 1959. To date, twenty public universities have been established to meet the increasing needs of business and industry (MOE, 2010). However, public institutions cannot address the rising demand for higher education in the country. Private colleges emerged in Malaysia in the early 1980's but mushroomed when the Private Higher Educational Institutional Act (PHEIA) was enforced in 1996 allowing the private sector to enter the market. The most recent development among private colleges was the introduction of twinning programmes where a local college enters into an arrangement with a foreign university and provides the first stage of degree program in this country, while the final stage is given by the university overseas. Apart from public and private universities and colleges, polytechnics were also established by the government in 1969 to provide training in engineering and commerce to students specializing in technical and vocational areas (Anantha Raj, loc cit). The Bologna Process aims to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and give opportunity to the signatory countries to transform their education structure into an internationalisation mold. Malaysia adopted the Bologna Process in drafting its Internationalisation Policy for Higher Education. There are some of the Bologna objectives that suit the Malaysian Higher Education System. 1.1.   Research Objectives The objectives of this research are to:  Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher  Education in the Context of the Bologna Process 3 a)   explore the current state of the Malaysian Higher Education System, both public and private; and b)   review the internationalisation policy of Malaysian Higher Education based on the Bologna framework. 1.2.   Research Questions a)   What is the current state of the Malaysian Higher Education System? b)   How can it be internationalised within the context of the Bologna Process? c)   Why should Malaysian Higher Education institutions adopt the Bologna Process? 1.3.   Methodology The approach is basically descriptive. It starts with the analysis of the Bologna Process and its objectives. The mode adopted by Malaysia in internationalising its Higher Education is reviewed and assessed. Content analysis determines the relevance and suitability of the Bologna Process with the HE framework of Malaysia. 2.0. Literature Review 2.1. Bologna Declaration and Process These were launched in 1999 when ministers from 29 European countries met and signed the ‘Bologna Declaration’ establishing an European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by the end of the decade. The 29 European countries covered by the Declaration increased to 47 with the participation of those outside the European Union. Basically, it is a commitment by each signatory country to reform its higher education through convergence with the European level. Decision-making is communal among participating countries. The Declaration reflects the European response to the problems. European higher education systems are facing common internal as well as external challenges related to growth and diversification of higher education, shortage of skilled workers in key areas, employability of graduates, and expansion of private as well as transnational education. The declaration recognizes the value of compatible systems, common action as well as coordinated reforms.  In its drive to improve the quality of higher education and, in turn, human resources across Europe, the Bologna Process will play a key role  Yuchengco Center 4 in contributing to the EU’s Lisbon Strategy  goals to deliver stronger, lasting growth and to create more and better jobs.  (Europe Unit, 2012) The Bologna Declaration contained the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement for achieving the goals of the Bologna Declaration (Bergen, 2003). 2.1.1. Objectives of the Bologna Process There were 10 objectives agreed upon under the Bologna Process through three different communiqués later changed into action lines. The communiqués included the 1999 Bologna Declaration, 2001 Prague Communiqué and the 2003 Berlin Communiqué. Under the 1999 Bologna Declaration, six objectives were given: a). Quality assurance This refers to all policies, ongoing review process and actions designed to ensure that institutions, programs and qualifications meet and maintain specified standards of education, scholarship and infrastructure. Quality assurance enhances and improves higher education system, institution or programs. One of the purposes of the Bologna Declaration was to encourage cooperation in quality assurance of higher education with a view of developing comparable methodologies and criteria. b). University studies organized in three cycles (Bachelor, Master, Doctoral)  The first cycle is geared to the employment market for a duration of three years while the second cycle (Master) is conditional upon the completion of the first cycle for two years and PhD for 3 years. c). Promoting the mobility of students and staff   Mobility of staff, students and graduates is one of the core elements of the Process, in which opportunities for personal growth, international cooperation between institutions and individuals, and enhancing higher education and research quality as well as substance to the European dimension are created. d). Implementation of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) Academic credits are based on the ECTS in the Socrates- Erasmus exchange scheme. The ECTS promotes mobility of students, teachers as well as researchers at the same time eliminating obstacles to movement. e). Recognition of degrees and periods of study (recognition of qualifications obtained in higher education)  Issues in Internationalising Malaysian Higher  Education in the Context of the Bologna Process 5 This makes it possible for learners to apply their qualifications from one education system to another. f). Contribution to the European dimension in higher education Expanding all levels of modules, teaching as well as study areas in which the content, guidance or organization adopt the European dimension. Three other objectives were agreed in the 2001 Prague Communiqué: g). Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) With the purpose of promoting EHEA attractiveness, it would be easy to move from one country to another (within the European Higher Education Area) for employment and further study. The attractiveness of the EHEA is seen to be increasing, enabling many people from non  –  European countries to come, work and study in Europe. h). Social dimension of the Bologna Process It aims at equality of opportunities in higher education in terms of access, participation and successful completion of studies; guidance and counseling as well as financial support. i). Developing lifelong learning Lifelong learning is an essential element of the EHEA to address economic competitiveness. The last objective was agreed in the 2003 Berlin Communiqué.    j). EHEA and European Research Area (ERA) are two pillars of the knowledge society The ministers underlined the importance of involvement of higher education establishments in creating a constructive European Higher Education Area ( Alawi, N., 2009). 2.2. Development of Public Higher Educational Institutions in Malaysia From the 1960s to 1970s, five public universities were established in Malaysia, followed by four in the 1980s to the early 1990s and ten in the late 20 th  and early 21 st  century. These were established under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1969. Higher education in Malaysia has been divided into public and private as a result of shift to the knowledge-based economy which took place in the mid 1990s as well as the failure of most public institutions to address the rising demand for higher education. Up to 2010, there were around 600 private HEIs and 20 public universities in Malaysia.
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