Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohamed Shariff
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A FEW parties took to social media to question the appointment of Prof Dr Taufiq Yap Yun Hin as the new vice-chancellor (VC) of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). Whilst the people’s scrutiny of every government move is always welcome, it is also important to distinguish between good, constructive criticism and non-constructive or even distracting ones.
1. Firstly, it is important to note that the Prof Yap’s appointment is based on merit, and it is rather telling that criticisms on his appointment thus far had skirted around this. It could not be more obvious that he has had an illustrious academic career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and proven his leadership and social service given his various roles with civil society organisations.
Prof Yap was an award-winning young scientist at the early stage of his career; a fellow of both the Academy of Sciences, Malaysia and Royal Society of Chemistry, UK; visiting professor at Nagoya University, Japan and a few others; elected titular member of International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC); and council member of Asia-Pacific Association of Catalysis Society (APACS) – just to name a few.
2. Prof Yap is also the first non-Malay public university vice chancellor in the past few decades. He is also a native Sabahan who knows the meaning and value of public service, especially to his native state. This further proves the Ministry of Education’s resolve to put the best talent in a role where they can make the most difference, regardless of race.
3. Thirdly and most importantly, this one of the attempts to infuse new blood into the system. His works with the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association as president
and his contribution to various bodies including JAKIM, MAIS, MAIWP and Malaysian Catalysis Society are merely a fraction of his exemplary works that earned him the National Maulidur Rasul Award 2017 by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Rather than appointing yet
another ‘purebred’ academician to yet another academic top post, the Ministry of Education took the brave step to select someone who is known as a society leader, a consensus-builder, and a figure whom the society can trust and its members can rally behind.
Last but not least, this slightly out-of-the-ordinary step is warranted given the urgency to
accelerate the transformation of higher education institutions in Malaysia. UMS has a strong foundation, popularity among foreign students and strong links with foreign universities, yet it has failed to rise to its full potential, even in comparison with a few local private universities. With this reset, the university’s leadership has a renewed mandate to implement a better strategy to reach its full potential.
All in all, Prof. Yap’s appointment is a positive step for the Ministry of Education generally, and UMS specifically. His vast experience locally and internationally especially in STEM, his leadership, his strong research background, and new perspectives that he would bring to the job would be an invaluable addition to the stakeholders, especially for UMS students and staff. Prof Taufiq Yap is undoubtedly a leader whom everyone can look up to.