Wholesale Disruption in the Higher Learning Industry


Nature of Business:
Learning and Education

Organization Leadership Performance

Re-Thinking, Re-Skilling, Re-Sourcing the National Higher Education Industry

The Malaysian government has always taken the view that highly skilled human capital to be the nucleus of a knowledge-based economy, and in their conviction has introduced reforms to its higher education policies since the early 1990s in pursuit of a knowledge-based workforce. Fast forward to the present, the public higher education sector is besieged with unrelenting challenges- both at the local and global level, threatening to derail their mission to catalyse the transformation of Malaysia into a first-world nation through human capital. 

At the local level, shifts in government funding mechanisms to public universities have resulted in a shock that has sent tremors across the value chain with deep and wide repercussions on the future of Malaysia. At the global level, large-scale forces of change (global megatrends) are rapidly converging to dramatically reshape the business and social landscape, promising to disrupt the higher learning industry, wholesale. Public Universities must now re-think, re-skill and appropriately resource to keep abreast, if not keep ahead of the private institutions.

A Rude Awakening

Faced with budget cuts of up to 30 percent and an increasing government expectation for them to become more self-sufficient over the longer term, public universities must also improve their global ranking. To thrive in this complex and ever-changing future requires exceptional resolve in the public higher education system and learning institutions.

Having to contend with these challenges while at the same time compete almost at par with the private institutions, the administrators of public universities were given a rude awakening that resulted in behavioural changes spanning the entire academia. Their new reality required drastic changes to their modus operandi and the changes needed to come in thick and fast.

New Blood for a New Reality

The gamut of leadership skills with which public universities surround themselves is vast— academics, finances, marketing, branding, fundraising, operational excellence, facilities management and research to name just a few, all centralised within a shared governance model would drive any traditional business leader to bewilderment. The job requirements have changed so much that it not only requires leaders with administrative and financial acumen, fundraising ability, and political deftness but with razor-sharp business instincts fitting of a CEO of a large multinational.

Confronted with this dilemma, the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MOHE) needed a solution to address the new skills and capabilities gap while at the same time prepare an ever-ready leadership pipeline to lead public universities into new frontiers.

Augmenting Real-World Business Acumen in Public Universities

Drawing from its prowess in the science of human capital performance, Dibta offered its know-how to help MOHE address the mounting pressure on national universities. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, Dibta formulated a plan to aid MOHE in identifying, assessing and preparing future leaders with the right calibre from within the existing pool. The CEO faculty 2.0 program is a bespoke solution that not only provides the sector with ready leadership pipeline but also ensures a dynamic relationship with the business sector for collaboration.

The initial task was to put 500 candidates through a rigorous funnelling process to identify 60 high potential candidates to undergo the transformation program. Subsequently tapping from its vast experience in the science of people performance, Dibta immersed the 60 high potential candidates in a profiling exercise to assess and report the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. The report enabled Dibta to recommend customised leadership development plans based on the earlier findings.

One Small Step for Public Universities, A Giant Leap for National Talent

Signed, sealed and delivered, not just yet. Growing expectation is that these new breed of leaders are able to transform public universities to become more dynamic, competitive and productive. As a key success factor, the ability of the 60 candidates to withstand and thrive in real-world business circumstances is of utmost importance to national interest.

The CEO Faculty Program continues with the matching of the 60 high profile candidates to top Malaysian CEOs where they will be mentored by business and industry captains. Ultimately, these high potential candidates will be deployed to the frontlines using their unique skillsets to help public universities to manoeuvre the uncertain future.


The CEO Faculty 2.0 Program was intensely scoped to address a critical issue in the role of public universities in development of human capital to sustain the nation’s aspirations of becoming a high-income, knowledge-based society. As a result of the program, MOHE has now the capability to control the development of leaders through the following.


Leadership Dashboard: a snapshot of gaps, leadership derailers and readiness level to help MOHE formulate leadership development plans.


Future Academic Leaders Competency Model


Stronger communications and networking between public universities and the business sector


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