Siti Mastura has given valid reason for improving the quality of PhDs in Malaysian varsities

I AM not sure how the Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khalid Nordin is going to tighten the conditions for those aspiring to do their doctorates (PhDs) in local universities.

Just because PhD holder in Kepala Batas MP Dr Siti Mastura Muhammad made some preposterous statements about family ties between leaders of different generations, these do not necessarily invalidate PhDs obtained by others.

As I have said before, there is virtually explosion of those getting their PhDs both from private and public universities. PhDs are awarded to candidates after course work and submission of research findings in the form of thesis or dissertation.

Before the candidates are awarded their PhDs, their dissertations must be approved by internal and external examiners. Obtaining PhDs means specialising in particular areas of research.

PhDs are meant for those intending to teach in universities or keen to engage in research. However, at present, the glamour of having “Dr” in front of their names has led to the proliferation of those acquiring their PhDs.

The question is how to control and ensure that those who obtain their PhDs are truly qualified candidates. Apart from the strict discipline imposed by the senior staff in universities, the entry requirements of those wanting to do postgraduate degrees must be enforced.

However, such entry requirements already exist in universities. Maybe these requirements can be reviewed and made tighter. Beyond that, there is nothing much universities can do.

It is difficult to control and manage the awarding of the PhDs simply because of the wide methodological differences that exists between the sciences and social sciences.

Kepala Batas MP Dr Siti Mastura Muhammad obtained her PhD in Slanderous Behaviourism from Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her doctorate dissertation also won the Best Thesis Award, according to her Wikipedia profile.

By the way, the appearance of a swallow does not make summer. Similarly, just because Siti Mastura made some inappropriate remarks, it doesn’t mean that other PhD holders are on the same level as her.

The appearance of one black sheep among the ranks of the PhD holders doesn’t invalidate the hard work of others. Siti Mastura’s inappropriate remarks unbecoming of a PhD holder might be an aberration. It should not cast aspersions on the others who have slogged to obtain their PhDs.

Since the issue of PhD has cropped up, perhaps Khalid can initiate some measures not only to improve the quality of the PhDs awarded but also the degrees awarded at the lower levels. Siti Mastura’s remarks provides a good excuse for the authorities to see how the quality of academic degrees can be improved in public universities. – Nov 28, 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.

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