Changing higher education practice in Malaysia: the conundrum of incentives

Chang Da Wan, David Chapman, Sigrid Hutcheson, Molly Lee, Ann Austin, Ahmad Nurulazam Ahmad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


International university rankings are a widely used measure of higher education excellence. Since publication rates are an important element in most ranking systems, pushing faculty to increase their publication in top-tier international journals is viewed by many government and university officials as an important strategy for improving ratings and thus gaining international recognition. This study examined the manner in which public universities in Malaysia have created and aligned incentives in an effort to encourage faculty members to increase their publication rate in top-tier international journals. The study is grounded in principal–agent theory and utilized data from 47 interviews conducted with faculty members from across four public universities in Malaysia. Findings suggest that while university administrators’ aspirations for higher international rankings are high, administrators are limited in the incentives they can utilize in effecting the change they seek. Their levers of influence over faculty work are limited in the Malaysian context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2134-2152
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society for Research into Higher Education.


  • Malaysia
  • faculty
  • incentives
  • principal–agent theory
  • university rankings


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