The Pursuit of Excellence in Malaysian Higher Education: Consequences for the Academic Workplace

David W. Chapman, Sigrid Hutcheson, Chang Da Wan, Molly Lee, Ann Austin, Ahmad Nurulazam Md. Zain


Over the last twenty years the Malaysian government has put increasing pressure on faculty members at Malaysian universities to increase their research and publication rates, in large part, aimed at increasing the international rankings of Malaysian universities. This study examined the extent to which faculty members believe that this heightened emphasis on research productivity has affected the nature of their work lives and their professional relationships with colleagues and students. The study was grounded in job characteristics theory and on Gappa, Austin, and Trice’s (2007) conceptual framework of the “essential elements” in academic work. Data were collected through interviews with 67 faculty members across six universities. Findings indicate that most faculty felt that they had sufficient academic freedom and autonomy, flexibility in their work setting, and professional growth opportunities. However, there was a widespread view that personal performance is disconnected from the financial reward structure, particularly in public universities. Given the compensation structure of public universities, increased research and publications have only limited relationship to financial payoff. This has fueled a widespread view among faculty that the intensified pressures for research and publication are reshaping the nature of their work lives in ways that are not widely welcomed.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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