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Renew Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail as Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia

This petition had 12,728 supporters

“I am an outlier. In the sense that I do not have children. I do not have my own children, but I have 31,000 children in Universiti Sains Malaysia.” 

"Saya seorang "outlier". Dalam erti kata bahawa saya tidak mempunyai anak. Saya tidak mempunyai anak-anak saya sendiri, tetapi saya mempunyai 31,000 anak di Universiti Sains Malaysia. "

- Asma Ismail                                                                            


In October 2016, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) was blessed with the return of Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail, FASc our former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) as the first female USM Vice Chancellor (VC). However, the tenure of USM's beloved Datuk VC is expected to end on the 3rd of October 2019.

In the face of challenges, she has shown true leadership by example, inspiring the USM community to work smartly, creatively, with passion and with love for the university. 

More importantly, she represents the quality of the Malaysian academic breaking stereotypes of race, creed, and gender. She not only supported USM's endeavours in science and technology, but also in the arts and humanities. She fostered potential, and enabled many to strive and excel based on their strengths without bias or favor.

As of today 30 September 2019, we have not received official word of the fate of the university's leadership. For many USM staff, students, alumni and university stakeholders, this is a matter of utmost concern and importance, saturated with palpable anxiety and apprehension.

Thus, we would like to put forward our expression of hope to the Minister of Education, YB Dr Maszlee Malik and Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to re-appoint Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail, FASc for another term as the VC of USM.

We bring forth the following reasons to support Professor Asma’s re-appointment:

1. Professor Asma’s passion for USM is undeniable. 

She began her academic career as a USM lecturer in 1986 and served in various capacities including as the Founding Director of the Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM) and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation. In 2012, she left USM to become the first female VC of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). In 2014, she was the first woman appointed as Director General (DG) of Higher Education. She sacrificed her position as DG of Higher Education – arguably the nation’s most powerful position in higher education – to embrace the role as USM VC in October of 2016. Such was her love for the institution. 


2. Her reputation as an academic scholar, an effective administrator, and an inspiring leader is indisputable.

To academics within and outside of USM, Professor Asma has retained utmost credibility. She led the research team which developed the first rapid diagnostics kit for typhoid, a diagnostic tool that has been used since 2005 and recognized by the World Health Organization. As the President of Academy Sciences Malaysia (also the first woman in this role) she has been involved in many landmark studies which continue to inform the science-policy interface. She has been able to achieve all this despite the changes in political climate, by staying neutral and professional as an academic scholar. 

Within USM, Professor Asma is known for setting high standards while remaining compassionate and understanding. She has instilled a love for the university and spirit of togetherness among different levels of staff and students. The sense of community around the campus under her leadership is undeniable. She commands respect and support from the USM Board of Governors, University Administrators, Alumni, Academics, Staff, and Students as a whole.


3. As the first female appointed into many traditionally male-dominated roles, she has been tireless in championing women in science and academia, pushing for initiatives that contribute towards gender inclusiveness in the university and society.

Her empowerment as the leader of the second oldest public university in Malaysia remains a symbol of hope for many women at home and abroad, and she continues to inspire the next generation of female leadership. Despite being the first female VC, Professor Asma has always performed her duties without expecting special treatment based on her gender. As a result she has commanded the respect of USM staff, students, local and international collaborators, industry players, local government, and alumni. 


4. Time is needed to see through positive initiatives. 

Within three years of her leadership, USM achieved national and global recognition such as #49 in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Global Impact Rankings (the first-ranked among Malaysian institutions), #165 QS Global World Ranking and Most Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2018 at the Ministry of Education Entrepreneurial Award (MEA). Parallel to this, she has not only introduced new long-term initiatives such as university internationalization under the Global Village, and healthy living such as USMFit, but she has retained and augmented valuable initiatives of her predecessors such as nurturing Holistic, Entrepreneurial, Balanced, Articulate, Thinking (HEBAT) graduates. At this critical stage in USM’s journey, it is vital that she remains to see through the university’s investments in time, effort, and resources.

It is not uncommon, if not the norm, for previous USM VCs to be given ample time to see through their vision for USM:

  • Sixth VC: Prof. Dato Dr Omar Osman, 5 years (2011-2016) 
  • Fifth VC: Prof. Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, 11 years (2000-2011) 
  • Fourth VC: Prof Dato' Dr Ishak Tambi Kechik, 5 years (1995- 2000)
  • Third VC: Prof. Tan Sri Dr Musa Mohamad, 13 years (1982-1995) 
  • Second VC: Tun Hamdan Sheikh Tahir, 7 years (1976-1982)
  • First VC: Prof. Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut, 8 years. (1969-1976)

Leadership is the key determinant to any organization's environment, direction, spirit and success. Thus, to sustain USM's momentum, we humbly appeal to the wisdom of the Minister of Education and Prime Minister helming the dawn of Malaysia Baharu to:



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