Shape up, Unissa's reputation is in your hands
HM to Unissa leadership
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday scrutinised the leadership qualities of those in charge of Brunei's first Islamic university and challenged them to ensure its reputation as an institute of learning.
The monarch, in his 30-minute titah at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (Unissa) yesterday, said that improvements will have to be made to the university's academic structure and admission policies.
His Majesty said that in addition to good academic staff, the university also requires leadership that is of high calibre."In fact the leaders here must not only be of high calibre but also have an understanding of the direction that the university is headed," said His Majesty.
The benevolent ruler used the analogy of a "boat" where the leaders are the steersmen while the academic staff would be the "oarsmen".
"The task of the steersmen is to determine the direction while the 'oarsmen' should only row to reach their destination quickly," said His Majesty, adding that the "boat" would not function properly if the "oarsmen" jumped in to take the position of the steersman while the latter accepts the new company willingly.
The ruler said that Unissa is just like a newborn, white and pure, and that leaders of the university are the parents who determine its direction, friends and future.
His Majesty related this to the issue of how a policy is needed when it comes to the issue of cooperation between foreign education centres."This policy is not only important for a two-way cooperation, but we still have to look at how suitable the policy is besides the benefits from our academic point of view," said the monarch.
With this in mind, His Majesty advised those in charge to not only focus on providing jobs for their graduates, but to carry out their original mission and vision of imparting knowledge.
"Do not be too enthusiastic when thinking of job prospects, (If we do) then we will only set up programmes that we consider marketable, programmes that can provide a job quickly.... forcing us to neglect knowledge," said His Majesty."This attitude is wrong and (will obviously) affect the quality of Unissa graduates. They will be called university graduates but they will lack quality," added the monarch.
His Majesty also used this opportunity to raise concerns on the structure of some of the university's programmes.An example was the university's law programme where issues regarding the ratio of civil versus Islamic law was raised.
According to His Majesty, 70 per cent of the law programme's curriculum is focused on teaching civil law and only 30 per cent of the Islamic law.
"Why is this so? Isn't Unissa a pure Islamic university? Why not increase the ratio of Islamic law or balance out the two types of law, 50-50?"Another issue raised was the conditions of admission into the university.
The benevolent ruler suggested that one's knowledge of Al-Quran should be taken into account during the consideration of admission into the university.
"A candidate (for admission) must have basic knowledge of Al-Quran, at least the achievement of a passing grade in Primary 6 Ugama," said His Majesty, who said that it was wrong for Unissa to accept candidates who lack any basic Islamic knowledge.
"If not, then how can we identify or call them students of Unissa, an Islamic higher education centre. Regardless of what faculty, this condition is a must," added the monarch.
Rumours of discrimination in favour of foreign applicants to the university was also raised.His Majesty said that he had heard that local applicants will have to sit for an Arabic language proficiency exam regardless of their qualifications or rank while those of foreign origins need not take such exams.
"Is this policy to encourage foreigners to rush into Unissa so that the university can gain popularity in the eyes of the world? Is this the reason?," asked the monarch."If this is the reason, then it is hard to accept... A (reputable) name can and will be created when Unissa successfully upgrades and maintains its quality," added His Majesty in his titah. (The Brunei Times)