THINGS THAT MATTER: WHAT THE USM VC BRINGS TO THE BEGINNING-OF-THE-YEAR BRIEFING

PENANG, 26 January 2021 – The Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Professor Dr. Faisal Rafiq Mahamd Adikan recently held a brief presentation on current issues pertaining to the University, to the USM community members.

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The presentation, which was held from the USM Chancellory Conference Room (CCR) on 14 January 2021 and viewed via Youtube, highlighted a few issues that the VC regarded as essential to be shared for further understanding.

According to Faisal Rafiq, “The aim of the briefing is to keep everyone informed and united in accomplishing the targets set, for USM to go from strength to strength. Everyone will need to continue to play their respective role(s). We need to be gritty and resilient as we expect 2021 to be as challenging.”

He began by giving an emphasis on the need to continue to add value in the outputs and to provide the best possible services. At the same time, numbers indicating surplus and deficit need to be seen in perspective. Plans need to be well-executed, and can only proceed with continued financing.

“Therefore, in facing the current situation, there is the need to adopt a moderate and balanced approach; it’s not just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ line of thought. Viewpoints need to be ‘analog’ and not ‘digital’ in nature, and to consider it as a spectrum, not something that is discrete,” he said.

The briefing touched on 3 major parts:

Part 1 was an update on COVID-19, and the guiding principles used in producing various SoPs (current and future ones). 
Part 2 was about Budget 2021 and the special allocations for 2021 new initiatives amounting to RM23.5mil. We are 'cautiously optimistic'.
Part 3 was about COVID-19 Finances - specifically - the need to be prepared financially for the long haul.

Part 1: Updates relating to COVID-19

Vaccines are being developed globally by 6 different suppliers. If there is limited supply, there is the need to take other measures. 60% of staff and students are within the identified group with potential risks.

Even with vaccination reaching our shore, USM will take steps to continue with the tight SOPs while reducing or minimising the risks. This is to ensure that the number of cases can be brought down to manageable levels or even to zero.

At the same time, there is the need to provide support to the government if called upon. There is also the field of R&D that requires attention, in addition to logistics, sharing of knowledge and information and surveillance and monitoring.

Finally, the students, who will be returning to campus, will be another area of concern. Issues such as admission and accommodation, academic and examination activities and if there is a need, a disaster management plan would all need to be considered.

Part 2: Budget 2021

VC mentioned on being ‘cautiously optimistic’ with regard to the budget. On the positive side, USM received the largest research grant, in addition to emolument for USM and HUSM, which was received in full amount. The admission for postgraduates also recorded the highest number as yet.

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On the opposite end, there will be costs for COVID-19 cases to be borne, COVID-related disruptions to deal with, as well as the change in the 2021 Budget.

Therefore, key strategies and execution plans have been laid out to deal with the above-mentioned matters.

Various revenue streams (education-based/health-based/test and measurement /mixed development) have been identified and operational excellence in a few key areas needs to be achieved. Other plans include aligning the growth process, being ready for the future and having penetration into new, global markets.

Timely execution for all the strategies, initiatives and plans is important as the university has limited resources. There will be more investments to be made in 2021 and also in 2022.

At the same time, USM needs to capitalise on its status as the sole APEX university in the country, moving ahead with the agenda on sustainability.

Part 3: Finances regarding COVID-19

The previous COVID Fund (Tabung COVID-19 USM 2020) has been utilised for the purchase of medical-related equipment; CO2 detectors to measure the ventilation quality in lecture halls/meeting rooms/etc.; personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners; and for financial assistance in anticipation of future lockdowns.

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 As such, voluntary contribution from the staff to the Fund for 2021 is very much welcomed.

More than 2,000 people tuned in to the two-hour briefing.

The VC later responded to selected questions in the Q&A session. There were plenty of questions forwarded but unfortunately due to time constraints, only those selected could be answered by him.

Text: Mazlan Hanafi Basharudin & Tan Ewe Hoe

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