Main pic caption: Dr Soo Wincci, the first Malaysian beauty queen, singer, actress to earn her PhD (Pic credit: Dr Soo Wincci’s Facebook page)
THE quality of PhD qualification came to the fore when a sitting MP made preposterous allegations of family ties of between politicians of different political eras.
The present generation politicians were accused of having family ties with some earlier controversial political figures.
The matter might be extended to the court for the final resolution. My interest on the subject matter of PhDs is just a rejoinder to my former UKM retired colleague Sharifah Munira Alatas.
As a formal academic qualification, PhDs are important especially for careers in the academia and research institutions.
Today, there is a proliferation of those with PhDs who might not be in the academia or research institutions. Many have found that having PhDs confers upon them the right “Doctor or Dr” in front of their names.
Given the proliferation of academic qualifications such as PhDs, there is lot more public scrutiny when PhDs are invoked. Invariably, it not so much about the qualification but where the qualification was obtained, the related university and the subject matter of research or dissertation.
PhDs obtained from unrecognised universities are not regarded as of the same standard from those universities that globally recognised.
In Malaysia, the Public Service Department has a list of universities that are recognised. I am not sure whether the question of recognition by the government is as important 30 to 40 years ago.
However, recognition is applied in terms of giving out scholarships and financial grants to students. I remember that some of the good universities were not on the recognition list of the government.
PhD has no bearing on intelligence
I found that not that the government had not recognised the good universities but the process of updating the list was slow and cumbersome.
If the MP in question could raise some preposterous and mind-boggling family links between politicians of different political era, the question is how a person with PhD qualification can do this.
Invariably, the public draws the connection between the PhDs and intelligence or rational thinking. Needless to say, that there is no such thing as a person with a PhD is lot more intelligent to the person without a PhD.
However, those who have obtained their PhD are respected for their methodological, rational and scientific approach to research and analysis. PhD dissertations are all about conducting scientific inquiry into a particular problem whether in science or in the field of social sciences.
Science in this context is not differentiate between hard and soft sciences but a methodological and rational inquiry. Persons who have obtained their PhDs are supposed to have subjected themselves to a rigorous scientific inquiry accepted by their peers.
It is not that those with PhDs are more intelligent than those without. I have heard of cases of brilliant scholars who refused to do their PhDs on certain subject matters because there were no qualified persons to supervise them.
By the way, Karl Marx who is regarded as the father of communism completed his PhD on the subject matter of the movement of atoms in comparing two schools of Greek philosophy. His dissertation was only 66 pages.
It is odd to say that persons without PhDs are less intelligent than with these qualifications. Having a PhD has nothing to do with intelligence.
Abusing PhD for personal gains
Bill Gates the famous entrepreneur left Harvard University without completing his degree to immerse himself in the software industry.
It would be a truism to say that the top notch global entrepreneurial players are those without their PhDs. There is simple advice: if you want to engage in business then forget about getting a PhD.
There is perhaps an unwritten requirement that lecturers without their PhDs cannot aspire to be promoted as associate and full professors.
Moreover, these aspiring lecturers have to establish their niche in a particular area matched by quality and peered reviewed publications.
However, how public universities have kept up with their rigorous academic standard is a question mark. To be a professor in public universities in Malaysia today, the candidates must have PhD complemented by academic publications.
Even for those who have obtained their PhDs, the real test to prove their academic and intellectual worth is to prove subsequently that their academic qualifications can stand the test of time.
The divergence between the performance and academic qualification (those with PhDs) has provided an effective means to check and control the unregulated awarding of the PhDs.
Persons with PhDs are those who have gained an educational qualification through hard work, diligence and adopting rigorous scientific methods.
Of course, the granting of PhDs has been abused for ulterior motives for attaining quick fame and financial gains.
Most of the time, politicians do not need a PhD qualification from differentiating the right from wrong, the logical from the illogical and the pertinent from the impertinent.
All is required is some basic common sense. – Nov 16, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy was the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He was also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: mStar