Rabu, 19 November 2008

Did Zahid Hamidi really had a Phd?

Phd for Zahid Hamidi

From blog Education in Malaysia

A few friends emailed me recently to tell me that an UMNO leader, Zahid Hamidi, currently a Minister in the PM's department and former UMNO Youth Chief when Anwar was still DPM, was recently conferred a PhD in Communications from UPM. I applaud his resilience in doing his PhD part time despite his busy schedule as a politician. But I am probably a bit suspect in regard to the content of his PhD thesis.

I heard Zahid Hamidi speak at a small PROMUDA function a few years back and he came across as an intelligent and intellectually curious UMNO leader. This was in 2003 and he was already doing his PhD then. I was impressed because he didn't really need to get a PhD to bolster his political credentials. I'm glad that he managed to finally finish his PhD. It's a long process which I can certainly attest to as I'm working hard to finish my own PhD thesis next year.

But I can't help but have a niggling doubt as to the quality of his PhD research. For now, I'll have to give him the benefit of the doubt in regard to whether he did all the work himself or if he hired researchers to some at least part of the work on his behalf. I'll reproduce a brief description of his thesis which appeared on the Ministry of Information
website and I'll comment after that.

Deputy Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been conferred a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Communication by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

He will receive the Phd at UPM's convocation in October, said the university's School of Graduate Studies Deputy Dean Prof Dr Hasanah Mohd Ghazali in a statement here today.

The university senate approved the degree at its meeting on Feb 21. For the Phd, Dr Zahid completed a thesis entitled "Barisan Nasional Manifesto As Agenda for Malay Language Newspaper During the General Election Campaign."

The study was undertaken to identify the usage of BN manifesto as an agenda for the Malay language newspapers namely Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian during the general elections in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995 dan 1999.

Dr Zahid, when asked to comment on the degree, hoped that it would spur the young generation to pursue their education to a higher level. He said that the major factor for his success was his belief in life long learning and hoped that it would encourage his children to follow in his footsteps.

"I hope this success will spur my political colleagues, especially the younger ones to study to a higher level. "If I can do it at the age of 55, the young generation should feel challenged (by it)," he said.

Commenting on his thesis, Dr Zahid said that based on the research the manifesto, which is regarded as a promise by BN, was the basis for the success and support obtained by the party during the general elections.

If the manifesto announced provided something good for the rakyat, the effect would be seen from the number of popular votes and increase in the number of seats won by BN, he said.
I'm not sure if this article quoted him correctly but I find the last remark quite disturbing. Has there been a case in the past whereby a BN manifesto would NOT provide something good for the rakyat thereby leading it to lose popular votes and seats? I'm not sure if he had a well defined dependent variable and a set of independent variables which he used in a regression analysis to test his hypothesis but from that statement alone, I find this hard to believe.

Furthermore, he tracked the usage of the BN manifesto in Utusan and Berita Harian in the elections starting from 1982 and ending in 1999. Unless you used very sophisticated coding to pick out and define different categories of reports and later quantify them, I suspect that you would not get much variance in regard to how these papers presented the BN manifesto to its readers - overwhelmingly POSITIVE! In social science methodological speak, you don't get any variance in the independent variable i.e. the BN manifesto or the newspapers reporting them.

In any case, I don't really think there's enough variance on his dependent variable i.e. electoral outcomes in the 6 elections he covered. He cannot possibly use the outcomes in individual constituencies as his dependent variables since you cannot possibly measure the impact of newspaper reporting on the BN manifesto by individual constituencies.

My sense is that he may have been poorly guided by his advisers at UPM who might not have wanted to piss off a high ranking UMNO leader and deny him his PhD. Every PhD inevitably has its share of weaknesses (I'm sure my own will be the same) but some methodological shortcomings will not pass muster in most universities where the advising committee does some sort of quality control.

I hope I can get my hands on his PhD thesis. If anyone has access to it, please email me.

KOMEN: Adakah betul Zahid dapat Phd? Tajuk macam begitu bolehkah jadi dissertation Phd? Ijazah doktorat yang dibeli untuk mengaburkan rakyat seolah-olah dia pandai dan cerdik. Cari pemimpin kena elok dan pandai. Tapi rakyat akan pilih pemimpin yang penipu...

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