Curtin University is in PR hell this morning after thousands of angry Malaysian students hammered the institution's Facebook page to slam an honorary doctorate awarded to Rosmah Mansor, the controversial wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Last week Curtin vice-chancellor Jeanette Hacket presented the unpopular spouse with the gong, ostensibly for her commitment to early childhood education. But Mansor, likened to Imelda Marcos, is a hated figure among the 2500-strong Malaysian student body at its Sarawak campus that tips millions each year into Curtin's Australian coffers. Overnight, angry comments on Curtin's Facebook wall were running at a rate of two a minute as dissenters spiralled into the thousands, highlighting her ostentatious displays of wealth and alleged involvement in a murder/sodomy scandal. In the most popular post, one student ripped up their Curtin Bachelor of Applied Science and posted the photo, attracting a massive 1400 "likes".

Some Facebookers described the award as a ham-fisted attempt to curry official support and hoard Malaysian cash -- but Curtin's decision is likely to go down in the annals of public relations history as a revenue-draining balls-up of the highest order. In its original, since altered media release announcing the award, Curtin added insult to injury by referring to Mansor as the Malaysian "First Lady", a faux-pas that enraged monarchists who pointed out the title is reserved for the Queen. In a note posted on Facebook to staunch the bleeding, Hacket accepted that "the decision to make this award has attracted criticism. We also accept that our use of the term 'First Lady' has offended some people, and apologise for this. We will no longer use that term, and have reissued our media statement with this change made." The reaction on the university's official page swiftly turned nuclear: "It is quite amazing that Curtin U had chosen to ignore the sentiments of Malaysians who are very well aware of Rosmah's notorious reputation. God, don't the researchers at CU read?," said Tony Yap. "Shame on you! You have no integrity. This woman is part of a government that is corrupt, racist, oppressive etc.," noted Anthony Meow Meow. "Curtin, last choice of mine when I get to go to university.. what a judgement of error!," Ming Xuan Choong said.