Ahmad Mahdzan | Noran Fauziah | Fairy Mahdzan | TeamHardCorePavement

Higher Education and Socioeconomic Development in Malaysia:
A Human Resource Development Perspective


Noran Fauziah Yaakub (PhD)
School of Languages and Scientific Thinking
Universiti Utara Malaysia (1999)
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Ahmad Mahdzan Ayob (PhD)
School of Economics
Universiti Utara Malaysia (1999)
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The aim of higher education in Malaysia is instrumental in nature, namely, that of meeting manpower needs for socioeconomic development. The last forty years saw a dramatic growth of higher education in Malaysia. This growth is multidimensional- physical infrastructure, faculty and staff recruitment, student enrolment, and the diversity of curricula. The introduction of new programmes reflects the diversity of objectives and directions pursued in achieving socioeconomic development.

Since independence in 1957, when Malaysia had only one university, the country has implemented nine 5-year economic development plans, reflecting a philosophy that economic development should not be left entirely to market forces . The initial phase of socioeconomic development (in the sixties and seventies) emphasized the rural or agricultural sector; the policy was aimed at uplifting incomes, employment and educational opportunities. Later (eighties and nineties), emphasis shifted to the development of manufacturing, industrial and service sectors. For the next millenium, greater emphasis will be placed on developing and applying information technology, and production of knowledge workers. Malaysia has ten public universities and three private ones, besides scores of private colleges, to propel the country towards this goal.

The objectives of this paper are to: (1) trace the development of higher education in Malaysia since independence, (2) trace the path of socioeconomic development in the country (3) establish the interdependence between growth in higher education and socioeconomic development, and (4) highlight the specific role of universities in the human resource development in the country.

A major thesis of this paper is that, in Malaysia, growth of higher education and socioeconomic development are interdependent, as higher education is both a catalyst in socioeconomic development as well as it is affected by socioeconomic development. The products of higher education become agents of development, which in turn influences the course of higher education.

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