Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Arts


In 1991 the Malaysian government launched a long term plan known as Vision 2020 it emphasized building capability in technology. Building this capacity also requires building Malaysia’s human capital, something which various critics have suggested Malaysia has been not doing adequately. In response to these concerns, Malaysia has started to invest heavily in programs to develop its human capital. Investments have been focused particularly on higher education. This has been done by increasing university student intake, increasing funds for education and skills development programs, and the creation of skills development funds. This thesis works in the context of these concerns about the best ways to promote innovation and human capital development in Malaysia. It provides: an overview and analysis of the key literatures relevant to innovation and human capital development, an overview of the economic and political history of Malaysia in relation to questions of innovation and human capital formation, an original case study looking at the relationship between three different styles of institutions representing three different skills acquisition modes, i.e. a public university (University of Malaysia), a large local corporation (Tenaga Nasional Berhad), and an industry–public sector initiative (Penang Skills Development Centre), and concludes, by offering some suggestions for ways that strategies to generate human capital in Malaysia might be improved. Five key challenges were identified in terms of developing strategies to enhance human capital formation in Malaysia: (1) effectively managing ethnic diversity, (2) encouraging collaboration and networking between key institutions, (3) encouraging the development of key government support institutions, (4) enhancing worker satisfaction and other strategies to stop the ‘drain’ of skilled labour out of Malaysia, and (5) matching knowledge and skills gained in formal university settings with the demands of industry. This analysis will be set against growing preoccupations amongst policy makers and academics concerning the relevance of the ongoing role of the public university relative to other institutions where skills may be created, and how such institutions can interact most effectively. It will also pay special attention to the ways that the Malaysian National Innovation System (NIS) has been shaped by government policies which have evolved to deal with the longer standing challenges of Malaysia’s ethnic diversity and more recent challenges of dealing with rapid technological and economic change.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.