PETALING JAYA: About 50 show-cause letters have been sent to Universiti Malaya (UM) lecturers who have not been able to complete their PhDs within the stipulated time in their contract while 15 letters of demand were sent to those who could not explain when they would complete theirs.

UM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ghauth Jasmon said the university could not accept excuses from staff who did not perform.

Lecturers have a contract with the university that they would complete their PhDs within a stipulated time frame, usually three-and-a-half to four years. “We expect people to perform according to what they have promised in the contract because if they don’t, then they are wasting the scholarships and taxpayers’ money,” he told Sunday Star.

Prof Ghauth, who took over as UM vice-chancellor in November last year, said the university had to be serious about trying to achieve quality and targets.

The lecturers who had received the letters were in various faculties and made up about two to three per cent of the 2,000 lecturers at the university.

On the penalty, he said: “The contracts are not the same but generally it stipulates a sum of money to be paid back if a lecturer does not finish his degree within the time frame.”

Prof Ghauth said some had agreed to pay while the rest had informed the university of their new plans to complete their PhDs.

Among the reasons given for not completing their degrees were changes in supervisors, lack of facilities and support.

He said it was not a problem if they had been given extensions after providing reasonable explanations.

Although this would not affect its research university status, he said the university had to be serious about trying to achieve its targets such as the number of lecturers with PhDs by a certain time.

On whether this was the first time such letters were being sent out, Prof Ghauth said: “It started during (former UM vice-chancellor) Datuk Rafiah Salim’s time. Well, it is only now that we are seriously going after these people.”

UM Academic Staff Association secretary Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman said the association had received complaints from staff who received the letters.

“We have advised them to talk to the management. We don’t deny that the university has the right to take action as there is a clear contract but we hope it will first exhaust all avenues to ensure the lecturers finish their degrees,” he said.

Higher Education Department director-general Prof Datuk Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi said it was a contractual matter between the lecturer and sponsor.

“A due legal process has to be followed and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” he said.