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A tale of two universities: UiTM and UTAR – Robert Chaen

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

I have talked with many UTAR undergraduates and lecturers, and most of them tell me in no uncertain terms that the Bumiputeras and Muslim Malays are not interested in applying at all, even though applications are open to them.

Bumiputeras would rather attend UiTM or other universities which have a big majority percentage of Malays.

Therefore, it is the discrimination of the Malay undergraduates against UTAR, and not the discrimination of UTAR for not accepting Malay intakes. 

As the CEO of BorneoHunter, an executive search firm, the feedback from our multi-national corporation (MNCs) clients who are graduates from UiTM are in general very one-dimensional, too quiet, and unpassionate. They have difficulty thinking out of the box, are cliquish and don't mix with well with other races and foreigners. They are awkward, quite judgemental and are not accommodating and accepting of other races’ opinions.

The other important aspect in seeking employment in big international companies is the command of English which is universally accepted as the language of global business, finance, law, IT, internet, marketing, engineering, science and arts.

A large percentage of resumes we receive from UiTM graduates display poor English. They are not even competent enough to construct a proper English sentence. When a graduate climbs up the corporate ladder based on meritocracy, many business and strategic plans must be written in good English and must be expressed and presented well in English. If not, one will be left behind in promotions as the competition for higher levels of management is fierce.

Understandably, UiTM-type graduates either prefer to work with government departments, GLCs and uniform forces, or because they have fewer options, they may be be forced to work with these uncompetitive organisations.

By isolating its students from other races and foreigners, UiTM has done real damage to the development of its undergraduates. The role of a university is to expose its students to the latest international thinking in corporate, business, finance, marketing, science or whatever field of studies.

UiTM only admits 100% Bumiputeras exclusively except for preparatory programmes where non-Bumiputeras are admitted at International Education College (INTEC), Malaysia, a campus of the university. This policy is unfortunately protected by virtue of Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia.

That in itself is blatantly racist and smacks of religious bigotry. It’s time that UiTM looked into being relevant, global, and progressive in today’s modern, open, free society.

In contrast, I’m personally quite impressed with the high calibre of UTAR undergraduates from the fields of marketing, public relations and finance. It is a known fact that most human resource managers will find it obvious that there is a significant contrast between UiTM and UTAR graduates that they interview.

As the Founder of ChangeU Group, we have hired many good quality interns and management trainees from UTAR. For the last two years in a row, “The Best ChangeU Intern of the Year 2012 and 2013” were from UTAR.

UTAR interns compete well with our other interns from Monash, Taylor’s, Sunway, MMU, iACT, Iowa (US), NUS, Melbourne, Telecom Business School, Evry (France), Lim Kok Wing, KDU, UM, UPM and UUM.

Many UTAR graduates have the added advantage of being able to speak Mandarin fluently. Some are also fluent in Cantonese, which is necessary in dealing with our China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong clients.

I even took a UTAR undergraduate who was the best ChangeU intern of 2012 along to a senior manager convention in Manila of one of the top 100 Malaysian brands with all expenses paid to further expose him to the international business environment.

I find UTAR interns generally to be open to new challenges, willing, quick to learn, resourceful, innovative, productive and able to hold intelligent debate on many issues. And more importantly, they are adaptive to our creative, high AQ (adversity quotient) and performance working culture and our clients’ pressure-cooker working environments.

The heads of human resources from our top brand clients such as Naza, Petronas, Public Bank, Genting, Celcom, Habib, Jewels, MSC and Berjaya are consistently impressed with our UTAR undergraduate interns and have made direct job offers to them.

Lastly, we will be very happy to accept expressive interns with the calibre of Dyana Sofya of UiTM and K.S. Bawani UUM law undergraduate of the “Listen, Listen, listen” fame. They are a rare breed who blossomed by their own efforts and personal values within a university that is a bit backward in thinking and approach as in UiTM – this is the feedback of our esteemed international human resources associates.

I hope this article is an eye-opener and a truthful wake-up call for future Malay students to decide wisely which progressive universities are best in developing them to be a healthily competitive and competent employee in either a local or international corporation. Or, Malay students and their parents can express and demand that their university be more progressive and less racist.

“We can change Malaysia by insisting on changing our education system to be progressive, inclusive, competitive, expressive, and innovative.” – May 20, 2014.

* Robert Chaen is an international change expert and online pollster. He writes at www.RobertChaen.com and www.Facebook.com/RobertChaen.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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