What is the quality of the Ph.D’s from Malaysia?
The university of Malaya has over 13, 000 undergraduate students and more than 11, 000 postgraduate students. The students at university of Malaya comprises of the Malaysians and international students from over 80 countries, including Nigeria, Iran, United States of America, United Kingdom, Iraq, South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Sudan, South Africa among many other countries. The number of academic staffs at university of Malaya are over 1,700 including 3 Nobel laureates.
The number of students from Nigeria trooping to university of Malaya for postgraduate studies is increasing rapidly. When I enrolled in the university April 2012, the number of students from Nigeria were very few, hardly you see a Nigerian. However, before I left the university on the 25 of April 2016, the number of students from Nigeria was more than 100.
University of Malaya prioritized rigorous research and substantial amount of funds are allocated for research, innovation and invention. Academic staffs are awarded grant for the purpose of conducting high impact research. There are university lecturers with research grant up to N300 million, N450 million, N500 million and above. The performance of the grant is measured based on what the university called Key Performance Index (KPI). The KPI depends on the amount of research grant allocated to a researcher. Each N100 million is expected to publish 1 high impact research in Institute for scientific information (ISI) Web of Science (WoS) indexed journal with high impact factor commonly referred to as Q1.
PhD students in university of Malaya are required to go through rigorous research before completing their programme. Is mandatory for a Ph.D student to publish his research findings in ISI WoS indexed journals with impact factor before he/she is awarded the Ph.D. Publishing is the most challenging aspect of the Ph.D journey, after series of experiments were successfully conducted, preparing the manuscript for submission to the ISI indexed journal takes time because of the rigorous work required. At this stage both the supervisor and the Ph.D student work very hard to prepare an excellent manuscript because they will be facing external reviewers for battle. It is extremely difficult to get acceptance at the first submission, normally, if the manuscript is favored, the authors will be given opportunity to revise the manuscript based on reviewer’s comments. Many scholars get their manuscript rejected at the revision stage. I got 13 rejections before getting 1 invitation to revise, 10 rejections without the manuscript going for review and 3 rejections after review. Thanks to my supervisor for the great support and encouraging words, if not I could have concluded that it is practically impossible to publish in such journals.
Many Ph.D students are reluctant to start writing their thesis if their manuscript is not accepted because writing the thesis is not the ultimate but getting the findings published in ISI indexed journal with impact factor is the major challenge. Only professors that published 5 papers in ISI indexed journals with impact factor in the last 5 years are allowed to examine Ph.D thesis at universities in Malaysia.
This rigorous publishing training is one of the reason why is tremendously difficult to see Ph.D graduate from Malaysia that is a “ghost scholar”. Those Nigerian students presently undergoing Ph.D programme in different universities in Malaysia must consider themselves among the lucky once. This is what Johnson, A. M. said about Ph.D “While Ph.D.s are often very specifically focused, ideally the research produced should be put in an international context. Even very specific local Ph.D. projects should be made worthwhile to at least the discipline specific community to increase its relevance to a broader group besides you, your family, and your Ph.D. supervisor and examiners.” In the world of academics today, publishing in ISI/Scopus indexed journals with impact factor is the global trend. Those categories of journals have very high reputation in the world of academia. Though, publishing in such journals is difficult, challenging and frustrating because of the very high number of rejections and rigorous peer review process. Mostly, the rejection rate in ISI/Scopus indexed journals with impact factor is about 70% with some of the journals having over 80% rejection rate and having very high number of submissions from researchers across the world. Also, it takes long time, sometimes up to 2.5 years with serious battle with reviewers before publishing 1 ISI WoS indexed journal with impact factor. Top and leading researchers from Harvard university, Oxford, Paking university, university of Malaya, university of Cape town, Stanford university, University Technology Malaysia, California Institute of technology, Cambridge university, among others including Nobel laureates from the academics published in ISI WoS journals. The universities in Malaysia trained their Ph.D students in both thesis writing and journal publications. After graduation, you will be relatively known in your own area of study globally and start getting invitation to review manuscript from high profile ISI WoS indexed journals. As I write this piece I had signed a contract with Springer to write an edited book of which immediately the book is published I will be paid over 1000 Euro. This is only possible because the university of Malaya has introduced me into the academic world by pushing me to publish in ISI indexed journal with impact factor. If not, it will be very difficult or impossible for Springer to contact me to write a book. At university of Malaya, the relationship between supervisors and students is that of respect to each other. As for me the relationship with my supervisor (Sameem Abdul-Kareem, a professor of great repute in the world of artificial intelligence) is that of family relationship because it has gone beyond the student-supervisor relationship. Immediately after I graduated, my supervisor offered me 4 different jobs both full time and part time. But I declined because I had to come back to Nigeria and contribute to national development. What I noted in the university was that, there is a strong link between the university and the industries. Industries always come to the university in search for solution to their problems. A research work was brought to my faculty (computer science and information technology faculty) from the industry and I was invited to participate in the research. Unfortunately, I was reluctant to participate fully because my days were numbered in Malaysia since I have done my VIVA at that time. If not for time I could have participated to have the experience of academia – industry relationship at a very high profile level. I have to thank TETFund and FCET, Gombe for the opportunity given to me to study in Malaysia. Let me state categorically that if I have second chance of going for second Ph.D I will go back to Malaysia. No regret as far as research is concerned. Dr. Haruna Chiroma write from Federal College of Education (Technical), Gombe. Contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: haruna chiroma.