Academic Correctness under Monarchy. Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Its Research

By Kershaw, Roger | Borneo Research Bulletin, Annual 2003 | Go to article overview

Academic Correctness under Monarchy. Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Its Research


Kershaw, Roger, Borneo Research Bulletin


Abdul Latif bin Ibrahim (ed.) 1996 Purih: Universiti Brunei Darussalam Dalam Satu Dekad. Kumpulan Esei Mengenai Negara Brunei Darussalam/A Collection of Essays on Brunei Darussalam. Brunei: Akademi Pengajian Brunei/Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Abu Bakar bin Apong (ed.) 1992 Sumbangsih UBD. Esei-Esei Mengenai Negara Brunei Darussalam/Essays on Brunei Darussalam. Brunei: Akademi Pengajian Brunei/Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Gunn, Geoffrey C. 1997 Language, Power and Ideology in Brunei Darussalam. Athens, Ohio, Ohio University (Center for International Studies Monographs in International Studies, Southeast Asia Series 99).

Hussainmiya, B. A. 1995 Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III and Britain. The Making of Brunei Darussalam. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

A Retrospective Introduction

The article that follows was written in 1998, four years after I left Brunei Darussalam at the end of a ten-year stint with the Brunei Ministry of Education. That stint had included a short spell at the then embryonic Universiti Brunei Darussalam, as it began to absorb the Institute of Education. The article has not previously been published in English, but appeared in German translation in Periplus (Kershaw 2000). I am grateful for the permissive policy of the Sudasien Institut, Heidelberg, towards reappearances in English--not to mention the original, ready acceptance of the article in 1998 and generous departmental mobilization for its translation. (1) Needless to say, the opportunity to publish now with the BRB, with no changes from the original text, but two new notes, is also greatly appreciated.

Part 1: The "Correct" University

The oppressive atmosphere of "political correctness" of which conservative opinion in the United Kingdom and United States is wont to complain may be a tribute to the effectiveness of liberal and left-wing thought, in recent decades, in discrediting certain political and social norms of the upper and middle classes, at least to the extent of making their adherents perceive that the norms might reflect "self-interest" in some degree, not exclusively a broader "public good." There was even a period when some basically conservative individuals in Western universities felt beleaguered on a range of issues, both internal and external to university life--and behaved as if discreetness was the better part of valor. In Britain, so it seemed, "academic freedom" was less often invoked as a bulwark of self-expression, indeed became subject to self-doubt in its own right. The doctrine which depicts that freedom as a subtle instrument of the hegemony of "capital" or the State was not without its own subtle effect on the intellectual climate--notwithstanding the relative unconditionality of state funding of British universities in those days; the almost total freedom of revolutionary expression; and the striking reluctance of governments of any hue to tender support to university authorities in conflict with radical students.

This homily, even if it be accepted as a reflection of typical late 1960s/early 1970s academic reality in one country of the West, may seem a rather off-beat way of introducing Universiti Brunei Darussalam and its works. But connections can be established, both causal (in real life) and heuristic (i.e., at a comparative-analytical level). In causal terms, the image of "student revolution" in the West made it not only possible but politically prudent for the Minister of Education-cum-Vice Chancellor to declare, at the launch of the University in 1985, that "academic freedom" would not be tolerated. It was left to expatriate staff to work out, in due course, how far this was applicable to teaching and research as well as to student discipline. And for comparative purposes, it is in fact interesting to notice how "political correctness" in any area of Brunei life (not only the academic) becomes "immanent" without being formally spelt out, at least in any law or regulation. …

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