Prof. Emerita Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Sharifah Hapsah

President, National Council of Women’s Organisation (NCWO), Malaysia


MBBS (Mal); MHPEd (UNSW); MD (Mal); FAMM; FASc
D Eng Hon(SIT); D Ed Admin Hon (Yala Rajabhat); D HE Mgt Hon (UPadjajaran); D Med & HE Hon (Alba Iulia); Hon Prof (YARSI)


Education and Academic Qualifications
1955-59: Sekolah Sultanah Asma, Alor Star: Sijil Sekolah Rendah
1960-64: Sekolah Menengah Methodist Perempuan, Kuala Lumpur: Sijil Persekolahan
1965-66:Menengah Sekolah Methodist Laki-Laki, Kuala Lumpur: Sijil Persekolahan Tinggi
1967: Asasi Sains, University of Malaya
1968–73: Universiti Malaya: Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
1981-82: University of New South Wales: Master of Health Personnel Education (MHPEd)
1996: Universiti Malaya: Doctorate in Medicine (MD)

Professional Fellowship
Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Malaysia (FAMM)
Fellow of the Academy of Science Malaysia (FASc)
Honorary Degrees from 5 universities in Asia, Europe and USA
Honorary Doctorate of Educational Administration, Rajabhat University, Yala
Honorary Professor, Universiti of YARSI, Jakarta
Honorary Doctorate in Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey, USA
Honorary Doctorate in Higher Education Management, Universitas Padjajaran, Bandung
Honorary Doctorate in Medical and Higher Education, 1 December 1918, University of Alba Iulia, Romania

State and Federal Awards
Darjah Seri Setia Tuanku Muhriz Yang Amat Terbilang (SSTM)
Darjah Gemilang Seri Mahkota Kedah (DGMK)
Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM)
Dato Setia DiRaja Kedah (DSDK)
Johan Setia Mahkota (JSM)
Ahli Mahkota Kedah (AMK)

International Awards
Fred Katz Medal of Excellence for contribution to medical education in developing countries by the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medical Education (ANZAME).
Commonwealth of Learning-International Council for Distance Education (COL-ICDE) Medal of Excellence for innovation in the Family Medicine Programme by Distance Education at UKM.

Career summary
After graduating as a medical doctor in 1973, she served as house doctor at University Hospital UM and medical officer at Hospital Kuala Lumpur. In 1975 she joined UKM as a lecturer in Physiology and rose to become head of Physiology and later as founder head and professor of the Medical Education Department. Among the innovative programmes that were introduced were problem-based learning in the undergraduate curriculum and distance learning in Family Medicine. In 1996 she was appointed as Director of International Relations and later as Director of Strategic Planning and Development at the main campus in Bangi where she played a more central role for university development, including quality assurance.

In 2000 she was appointed as Director of the Division of Quality Assurance, Ministry of Education, tasked with developing the quality assurance system for public universities. While simultaneously serving on the Lembaga Akreditasi Negara Board (LAN) she initiated the accreditation of educational programmes in Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Pharmacy. In January 2006 she was appointed the CEO of LAN and completed the formulation of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Bill, which became the MQA Act in June 2007.

In August 2006 she was appointed as the first woman Vice Chancellor of UKM and served until December 2014. She brought the university to be at par with leading research universities of the same age (40-50 years), while preserving its role in promoting Bahasa Melayu as an academic language. Under her leadership UKM was accorded Self-accrediting status, granted autonomy and was selected as a Research University. During her tenure UKM was ranked number 23 for world universities below 50 years and 8th in Asia. UKM was consistently in the top 300 of world university rankings. She changed UKM from a university that had only 180 citations to one that accumulated 16,000 citations within 7 years. Through her leadership and an innovative transformation programme for UKM, she managed to break the academic silos and got faculty to work together in multidisciplinary research groups, focusing on 11 niche areas which supported the National Transformation Programme. Research productivity increased with more than 800 patents filed and technology transfer for commercialization through 33 start-up companies which generated revenue and created jobs. The basic curriculum was revamped with clear learning outcomes and a compulsory requirement for entrepreneurship where students were assisted to launch companies. During her tenure more than 100 student companies were incubated and launched at graduation. Her NCWO background heightened her sensitivity to university-community engagement where students and staff were encouraged to transfer knowledge for societal development. Community engagement was most active at the five regional sites where UKM has a campu (living labs), namely the Langkawi Geopark Research Station, Teluk Intan Community Health Campus, Mersing Marine Research Station, Tasik Chini and Wetlands Research Station and Fraser’s Hill Montane Research Station. In addition UKM adopted two villages in Kundang Hulu, Pagoh and Pulau Manis, Pekan.

As Vice Chancellor, she was tasked by YB Dato Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of Higher Education then to draft the National Higher Education Strategic Plan (NHESP), which served as the blueprint for Higher Education in Malaysia.

In 2011 she was appointed by MOHE to chair the Critical Agenda Project on governance for autonomy. Within a year she produced the Code of University Good Governance (CUGG) and procedures for evaluating the preparedness of IPTAs for autonomy or University Good Governance Index (UGGI). Both documents are used for auditing universities before conferring the status of autonomy.

She also served as Chairperson of the Vice Chancellors’ Committee

Upon her retirement as Vice Chancellor of UKM she was appointed as Senior Consultant to the Prime Minister’s Department (2014-18) and tasked to oversee the PERMATA programmes which she helped to develop as Vice Chancellor. The programmes include early childhood education (PERMATA Negara), two schools for the Gifted and Talented (PERMATA Pintar at UKM and PERMATA Insan at USIM), Empowerment programme for Youths-at-Risk (PERKASA Remaja), Centre for children with autism (PERMATA Kurnia) and the PERMATA Children’s Hospital at UKM.

Service in National Commissions and Committees
She was appointed by His Majesty the King, Prime Ministers and Ministers to serve in numerous Commissions and Committees. The major ones are:
Appointed by His Majesty the King: Commissioner in SUHAKAM (2004-2006) and Commissioner in the Malaysian Commission for the Integrity of Enforcement Agencies (2012-2013).
Appointment by Prime Minister/Deputy Prime Minister: member of National Information Technology Council (1996-2000) where she co-chaired the task force on e-community which led to the widespread uptake of ICT by marginalized communities, including women; member of National Economic Consultative Council or NECC 2 in 1999 where she authored the Chapter on Women and Development); member of the National Unity Panel (2008-2013); member of National Innovation Council (2009-13) and Malaysian Foundation for Innovation; member of Cabinet Committee on Gender Equality (2003) which led to the policy of 30% representation of women in decision-making in the public sector; member of Independent Review Panel for the National Education Blueprint (2011-13); member of the National Council on the Integration of Women in Development or NACIWID.

Voluntary work in civil society

She is President of the National Council of Women’s Organisations since 2000 with major contributions in advocacy and implementation of programmes to advance women’s status and rights in Malaysia and internationally. Her active involvement in NCWO has led to the formulation of the National Policy on Women, law reforms including those pertaining to rape, domestic violence and syariah, as well as policy of at least 30 percent women in decision-making. Other contributions include the establishment of the Malaysian AIDS Council, intensifying the use of information and communications technology by women organisations, poverty reduction through entrepreneurship and the promotion of national unity in multi-ethnic Malaysia. Some highlights of her contributions are as follows:

Development of the National Policy on Women and Malaysia development Plans

It was in the formulation of the first National Women’s Policy and Action Plan in 1989 that her contribution became paramount. Sharifah devoted many long hours in a series of grassroot consultation nationwide to receive suggestions and feedback from various women’s organizations in every state. She compiled the voices of the women into specific recommendations in the NGO Action Plan for Women, covering issues and challenges faced by women in all sectors of life, ranging from education to health, economy, law, media, science, technology and the environment. It sets goals and identified key strategies such as research and data collection as well as effective administrative machinery with set targets and time lines for action. The Action Plan was presented to Government In addition to the National Policy on Women Sharifah played another crucial role when she was appointed a member of the National Economic Consultative Council (2000-2001). She provided insights into the needs of various communities and was a loud proponent of women’s equity and equality in the national development plans. Despite facing strong resistance she successfully incorporated a ‘Women’s Chapter” in the final report, working the whole night to get the chapter ready for approval the following day.

Women and HIV/AIDS
Representing NCWO, she co-founded the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC) in 1992 to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation if the HIV/AIDS pandemic was left unchecked and to address the challenges of the new infection which was spreading silently but surely in the community through heterosexual contact and to babies through feto-maternal transmission. She managed to raise funds for multilevel and multisectoral HIV/AIDS prevention activities. One product of her efforts is the Women’s Declaration on HIV/AIDS, a very progressive and non-discriminatory document for people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly families and women. Through her, NCWO was the first organisation to raise the issue of economic burden of HIV/AIDS on the country at the Budget Dialogue in the early 1990s. This resulted in significant funding for HIV/AIDS prevention activities. Her activities caught the eye of international organizations. UNAIDS and WHO co organized with NCWO a regional awareness programme for the ASEAN Council of Women’s Organization or ACWO in 1995. In 1999 she became rapporteur for the 5th International Congress on AIDS in Asia Pacific held in Kuala Lumpur themed, The Next Millenium, Taking Stock and Moving Forward. Sharifah was invited to the WHO consultation on Women and HIV/AIDS in Geneva and was invited as a consultant to write the report on the HIV/AIDS workshop organised by the ASEAN Secretariat that led to the 7th ASEAN Summit Declaration on HIV/AIDS on 5 November 2001 in Bandar Seri Begawan. She was also invited to present a paper at the Expert Group meeting on the HIV/AIDS Pandemic and its Gender Implications in Windhoek, Namibia, 13-17 November 2000 in preparation for the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CEDAW). In March 2001 she was invited as a panelist at the HIV/AIDS meeting held in conjunction with the annual Commission on the Status of Women, New York.

Women and Information Technology

As a member of the National Information Technology Council (NITC) and co-chair of its e-community task force (1996-2000) Sharifah piloted e-community projects to increase the uptake of ICT in the community, with particular focus on the most challenged segments of society, including women. Securing funding from the demonstrator grant scheme (DAGS) she encouraged the use of websites and email service in women’s organizations, bringing them into the modern knowledge society. Today NCWO and its affiliates are all connected through modern telecommunication. Through her work important issues such as “the last mile”, safe access to ICT centres, use of IT for problem solving, equal access and benefits for women as well nurturing community champions were brought to the fore. More importantly ICT was seen as a way of bringing development to marginalised communities. To her the limiting factor in e-community was not technology (which was advancing very rapidly) but the ability of the human race to use it wisely and positively. In 2000 she chaired the ICT and Women Forum together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNIFEM (now subsumed under UN Women) as part of the World Bank initiated Global Knowledge Partnership conference. She edited a book under the auspices of UNDP, “Transcending the Gender Information Divide”, which publish the proceedings of the forum. In March 2003 she was invited by the Commission on the Status of Women to speak in a panel on Gender and ICT in New York.

Women and National Unity

As a member of the National Unity Advisory Panel (2004-2008) and member of the National Unity Foundation (2008) Sharifah contributed a lot to building positive ethnic relations in the country. She leveraged on her position as Vice Chancellor to collaborate with NCWO in promoting intercultural understanding and unity among students from different ethnic backgrounds. A shining example is the homestay programme jointly organised by NCWO and UKM’s Student Affairs Department since 2008, aimed at promoting greater intercultural understanding among student leaders from different ethnic backgrounds. She believes that students, especially student leaders, should be engaged with society and should not be detached from the very community they are going to serve. As future leaders, they must understand and respect cultural diversity and learn how to adapt and draw on the strengths of diversity to create richer ideas for their own progress as well as that of the nation. Participants of the homestay programmes volunteer for other NCWO activities such the anti- trafficking of people and HIV/AIDs prevention. It is also a good way of bringing new blood to NCWO.

Women and Poverty reduction

Another innovative way in combining her job as Vice Chancellor and President of NCWO is the KPWKM/NCWO/UKM Teman 1Azam project aimed at uplifting the plight of women in the bottom 40 percent of the income pyramid. Using UKM experts in business and economics she developed a unique one-year training programme that helps 70 women, mainly single mothers, to improve their products, develop business plans and business networking opportunities. They are also taught their legal rights in their business transactions, basic book-keeping and marketing, including on-line. A before and after comparison has shown more than doubling of income through better pricing on value added products. A group of lecturers and students from the Faculty of Economics and Management not only provide the training and monitor the group but they actually supervise or hand-hold the women in conducting their business. It’s a practical learning experience for the students.

Ten-Year Strategic Plan for NCWO

Her lasting legacy to NCWO is the 10 Year Strategic Plan which was developed in 2010 and an updated version from 2021-25, giving greater insight and clear directions about the path NCWO is embarking upon to align with the country’s strategic agenda. The Plan identified five major outcomes, key results areas and strategies on improving women’s participation in the innovation economy, increasing their knowledge and application of science and technology, strengthening women’s important contribution in international peace and national unity as well as enhancing their role in environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation. In 2013 she led a nationwide roadshow to raise awareness about the government’s national transformation programme (NTP) and to obtain feedback on how the women perceive the NTP was benefitting them. Feedback from more than 8000 women was compiled and submitted to government. The 2021-25 Plan focusses on four key areas – unity in diversity, digital economy and alternative financing, family well-being and care of the elderly and law reforms and advocacy.

International involvement

Internationally she is active in regional and global networks related to higher education and women’s issues. She was the President of the ASEAN Confederation of Women’s Organisations (ACWO) 2012-13. She was the Founder Secretary of the Association for Medical Education in the Western Pacific Region (AMEWPR) from 1988-2000 and was given the honour by the World Federation for Medical Education to read the Edinburgh Declaration on Medical Education in 1988; Board member of the Network for Community-oriented Medical Institutions (1985-1996); was the President of the 200 strong Association of Universities in the Asia-Pacific and member of the Steering Committee of the Talloires Network of Community Engaged Universities since 2011-13. From July-August 2000 she served as Adviser in Human Resource for Health at the World Health Organisation, Western Pacific Region, Manila.

She was frequently invited as adviser, consultant, speaker and chairperson by numerous organizations such as UNESCO, WHO, ILO, UN Commission on the Status of Women as well as other universities. Examples related to women issues include the WHO consultation on Women and HIV/AIDS in Geneva, consultant and rapporteur to the ASEAN HIV/AIDS workshop that led to the 7th ASEAN Summit Declaration on HIV/AIDS on 5 November 2001 in Bandar Seri Begawan, speaker at the Expert Group meeting on the HIV/AIDS Pandemic and its Gender Implications in Windhoek, Namibia, 13-17 November 2000 which led to her invitation as a speaker in the panel on HIV/AIDS at the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CEDAW) in March 2001 in New York. In 2000 she chaired the ICT and Women Forum together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNIFEM (now subsumed under UN Women) as part of the World Bank initiated Global Knowledge Partnership conference. The proceedings on the conference “Transcending the Gender Information Divide”, was edited by her and published by UNDP. In March 2003 she was invited by the Commission on the Status of Women to speak in a panel on Gender and ICT in New York.