Prioritised challenges and critical success factors for delivering quality education in Malaysian private higher education institutions

Date14 October 2019
Published date14 October 2019
AuthorAzilah Anis,Rafikul Islam
Subject MatterEducation,Educational evaluation/assessment
Prioritised challenges and critical
success factors for delivering
quality education in Malaysian
private higher education
Azilah Anis
Department of Technology and Supply Chain Management Studies,
Faculty of Business and Management, Universiti Technologi MARA,
Puncak Alam, Malaysia, and
Rafikul Islam
Department of Business Administration,
International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Purpose The purpose of this paperis to develop a hierarchical model to rank the challengesfaced by the
private Malaysianhigher education institutions (HEIs) inthe provision of quality education and subsequently
their correspondingcritical success factors (CSFs)to address those challenges.
Design/methodology/approach A sequential mixmethod was adopted in this study. Semi-structured
interviews with 29 participants were initially conducted to identify the challenges and CSFs. This was
followed by a questionnairesurvey involving 158 respondents to prioritise the identied ndings.Thematic
analysis was conducted in the qualitative stage, uncovering the challenges and their corresponding CSFs.
Data for both stages were accumulated from internal and external stakeholders of Malaysian private HEIs.
Finally,the four stages of the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) were applied to rank the challengesand CSFs.
Findings The qualitative stage identied eight challenges, i.e. academics,facilities,students,
programmes and curriculum,competition,accreditation,nanceand researchtogether with their
corresponding CSFs. The AHP enables the ranking of these challenges. Financehas been found to be the
most crucial challenge and high competency in managing the institutionsnanceas the most important
CSF to addressthis challenge.
Research limitations/implications As the study restrictedits focus on Malaysian private HEIs, the
resultsmay not be generalised for public HEIs and foreign privateHEIs operating in Malaysia.
Originality/value The hierarchical model developed in this study is deemed important for
implementation to resolve the prioritisedchallenges. It spells out the specic areas in which the resources of
Malaysianprivate HEIs need to be prudently disbursedand properly managed.
Keywords Analytic hierarchy process, Critical success factors, Challenges, Quality education,
Malaysian private higher education institutions
Paper type Research paper
The authors would like to thank the chief editor, associate editor and the anonymous reviewers for
their insightful and constructive comments, which have been helpful to improve the content and
quality of the article.
success factors
Received28 November 2018
Revised21 March 2019
19July 2019
26July 2019
Accepted29 July 2019
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.27 No. 4, 2019
pp. 465-492
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-11-2018-0122
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
1. Introduction
The literature on the privatisation of higher education institutions (HEIs) has shown that
private HEIs have become the fastest-growing sector of higher education in most parts of
the world (Li, 2014;Halai, 2013).This expansion is attributed to two key factors:
(1) First, to the growth of mass higher education resulting in the inability of public
HEIs to absorb the increasing demand for tertiary education (Mukherjee and
Mukherjee, 2013). This led to the development of private HEIs as prominent
education providers in the higher education market, which was previously
dominated by public HEIs.
(2) Second, in recent years, government policies have been encouraging the private
sector to provide higher education, seeing such private HEIs as long-term change
agents (Shin and Harman, 2009).
It is within this context that the Malaysian Government launched three educational Acts in
1996, namely, the National Council on Higher Education Act 1996, the Private Higher
Education Act 1996 and the National Accreditation Board 1996 Act. The objective was to
scale up the provision of higher education and to provide support for private education.
These are watershed developmentsin the history of Malaysian higher education and to date,
there are 70 private universities(including foreign branch campuses), 34 university colleges
and 410 colleges that play a direct role in providing tertiary education(Malaysia Education
Besides, private HEIs are also recognised as a signicant contributor to the countrys
GDP and economic growth (Marginson, 2018;Arokiasamy et al.,2011;Becket and Brookes,
2008). It is estimated that Malaysian private HEIs alone contributed USD 0.32 billion
annually to the national economy. In the Tenth Malaysian Plan, private HEIs were also
anticipated to increase their GDP contribution by 1.5 to 2 per cent in 2015, particularly via
The development of private HEIs is particularly benecial for the Ministry of Higher
Education (MOHE) as it strivesto transform Malaysia into a centre of educational excellence
in the Asian region (Hou et al.,2018;Arokiasamy et al., 2011). Jantan et al. (2006) have
suggested that the development of private HEIs and maintaining high educational
standards are two strategic necessities in achieving this national aspiration. Yet, issues
concerning quality education such as negative reports on the private HEIs have inuenced
public perceptions of the institutionscapabilities. For instance, many have lodged
complaints about unaccreditedor unapproved programmes that breach the requirements of
the regulatory agency, i.e. Malaysian qualication agency (MQA) (Two private institutions
in state ned for discrepancies,2012), inadequate infrastructure, neglect of studentswelfare
(9 Private Institutions, 2013) and substandard management practices including the
registration of unqualied students and problems caused by foreign students (9 Private
Institutions, 2013). Unfortunately, most of these malpractices reportedly occurred in
Malaysian privateHEIs.
Fundamentally,as governed by the private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 and
the Companies Act 1965, Malaysian private HEIs are funded by private entities aiming for
prot. While the owners and administrators of these HEIs are obligated to their
shareholders, they are also required to achieve specic quality standards prescribed by the
regulatory agenciesthat incur substantial monetary and non-monetary commitments(Halai,
2013;Mpezamihigo, 2012). Achieving balance between generating prot and providing
quality education presents serious challenges for the Malaysian private HEIs. In this light,
Shin and Harman (2009) proposed that these challenges be identied so that urgent

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