SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 30, 2014

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Malaya

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Malaysia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Dr. Mohamad Redzuan Othman, a political science professor at the University of Malaya was reportedly forced to resign his position as director of the Center for Democracy and Elections (UMCedel) and his position as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was not renewed, allegedly as a result  of government dissatisfaction with UMCedel survey findings which were not favorable to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition (including findings that the BN coalition Prime Minister Najib Razak trailed behind opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the 2013 general election, and that 60% of respondents preferred the opposition Pakatan Rakyat party’s pledges over the BN’s election pledges).
According to university officials, the decision not to renew Professor Redzuan’s position as dean was based on normal internal procedures and was not due to pressure from any outside parties. The officials claimed his term as dean was not extended because he is eligible to retire next year, and that the decision to replace Professor Redzuan as the director of UMCedel was made to allow his successor (as dean) to familiarize himself with the role of director. Professor Redzuan contends that his position was terminated before his regular term had ended, and he was not planning to retire. Former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah reportedly resigned as a research fellow at the university in support of Professor Redzuan, claiming that officials within the Ministry of Education had been calling for Professor Redzuan’s dismissal for several months.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent dismissal of an academic in retaliation for the content of his academic work and peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and related higher education values including institutional autonomy and social responsibility.