Academic culture in Malaysia: sources of satisfaction and frustration

Chang Da Wan, David W. Chapman, Ahmad Nurulazam Md Zain, Sigrid Hutcheson, Molly Lee, Ann E. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This paper examines the sources of satisfaction and frustration among Malaysian academics across three types of higher education institutions (HEIs)—public research university, public comprehensive university and private non-profit university. Based on interview with 67 academics across six HEIs, there is a clear pattern and relationship between the sources of satisfaction and frustration and the types of institutions these academics were affiliated. The major sources of satisfaction are related to the nature of academic work, which includes supervising, mentoring, teaching and interacting with students, as well as conducting research and disseminating knowledge through publication. However, the major sources of frustration are predominantly related to the governance of higher education, resulting from unrealistic expectations, lack of transparency of the promotion and reward system, and a strong bureaucratic culture. The understanding of satisfaction and frustration has helped us to understand issues of morale, retention and, possibly, productivity of academics across these HEIs, and in turn, the understanding of these issues about academics has implications in understanding the governing structure of HEIs. Although this study is limited only to HEIs in Malaysia, the findings have wider implications in contributing to the understanding of governance and academic culture in the broader context of higher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalAsia Pacific Education Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Fulbright Program and the National Higher Education Research Institute, Malaysia (IPPTN), for funding the study titled ‘Academic Staff in Malaysia: Individual and Institutional Responses to a Changing Workplace’ and the sixty-seven participants who spent time to share their views and perspectives about the academic profession in Malaysia.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


  • Academic culture
  • Academic staff
  • Faculty members
  • Job satisfaction
  • Malaysia


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