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The University Transformation Programme (UniTP) Silver Book - Enhancing Academic Productivity and Cost Efficiency


The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education), or the MEB (HE), defines 10 shifts critical to sustaining continued excellence in the Malaysian higher education system.

Universities are expected to create and implement their own tailored transformation plans to put the elements of the MEB (HE) into practice. This transformation effort is known as the University Transformation Programme (UniTP). The Ministry of Higher Education (the Ministry) will support this effort by identifying and codifying best practices in a series of books with practical guidance for universities carrying out their transformation programmes.

Recognising the need for a long-term financial strategy for Malaysia’s higher education system, the Blueprint included Shift #5: Financial Sustainability to improve the nation’s ability to provide accessible, equitable and high-quality education. One of the key initiatives under Shift #5 calls for increased productivity and improved cost efficiency in public universities. These changes will be critical for the broader transformation that universities will undergo as they implement the supporting elements of the MEB (HE). The content of the UniTP Silver Book serves the dual purpose of benefitting both the Ministry and individual university management teams:

At the Ministry level, the data and insights from the analyses will serve as an important baseline to monitor the overall progress of public universities as they seek to improve productivity performance.

At the individual university level, university management will be able to use the analytical framework and strategies derived from the insights as a starting point for improving the performance of their respective institutions.

At the simplest level, productivity is broadly defined as the amount of input required to produce a particular output. For higher education, inputs include the institution’s system of governance and management, academic and support staff, the teaching and learning environment, and the research ecosystem. Some examples of outputs are the institution’s reputation, its teaching and research effectiveness, as well as its broader socioeconomic impact on society at large.

The Ministry recognises that productivity can be measured against a multitude of factors. However, for the initial phase of the University Transformation Programme and in the context of the UniTP Silver Book, academic productivity is defined as cost per graduate, an internationally recognised measure used to define productivity in universities.

This intentional focus on financial costs and number of degrees awarded is appropriately aligned to Malaysia’s current challenge: an overarching need to produce more graduates with a limited amount of public funds. However, as cost efficiency and intake graduation on time (iGoT) improve, the University Transformation Programme will expand the scope of academic productivity to include a broader set of input and output factors. Henceforth, in this book, academic productivity will refer to the cost per graduate.

The insights captured in the UniTP Silver Book regarding academic productivity were derived from data provided by public universities. However, the analyses and outlined strategies are valuable and worthwhile for both public and private universities as they reflect on their own productivity challenges and ways to improve performance.

As universities collectively tackle productivity challenges across the higher education system, student outcomes and cost effectiveness will improve. This will set the stage for Malaysia’s public universities to meet the nation’s critical higher education needs and more broadly, Malaysia’s bold economic development ambitions.