Saturday, November 10, 2007

Malaysian Universities

Guess most of us, who have been reading newspapers have been rocked by a reality. None of the Malaysian universities manage to get into Top 200 of the Times Higher Education Supplement ranking. While it is just a mere ranking, it does impact a lot! Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia both drop out of top 200. Universiti of Chulalongkorn from Thailand do drop out of top 200 too.

What goes wrong? Universiti Malaya drops from 85 to 169 to 192 to 246 position. UKM goes up from 289 to 185 last year, but drops to 309 this year. USM goes up from 326 to 277 last year, but drops to 307 this year. UPM goes up from 394 to 292 last year, but drops to 364 this year.

The criteria for this year is 40% Peer Review, 10% Recruiter Review, 20% Faculty:Student Ratio, 20% of Citations, 5% International Students, 5% International Faculty.

Universiti Malaya has improved in terms of Recruiter Review, International Students and International Faculty. In terms of international students, total international students go up from 1126 to 3073. Really within a year, UM is now full of international students. For international faculty, it has gone up from 115 to 323. Thesis or publications have gone up to more than 3,000 too, although this figure is still very low, and is one of the main reasons for UM low ranking.

So, whose fault is it? What kind our local universities do? Does this drop of ranking mean our quality continue to slide? Does this mean that others are growing faster than we do? What really goes wrong? We should really go down into the details to find out and really work hard!

Lets look at the ranking. My alma mater, Cornell drops from 15 to 20. NUS drops from 19 to 33, whereas Peking University drops from 14 to 36. Stanford University drops from 6 to 19, whereas UC Berkeley drops from 8 to 22. MIT drops from 4 to 10, whereas LSE drops from 17 to 59. Washington University in St. Louis drops from 48 to 161. Macquarie from 82 to 168.

So, if everyone is dropping, which universities went up? Imperial College from 9 to 5. Princeton from 10 to 6, University of Chicago from 11 to 7. University College of London 25 to 9. McGill 21 to 12. Penn 26 to 14. University of Hong Kong 33 to 18. Carnegie Mellon University 35 to 20. King's College London 46 to 24. Brown from 54 to 32 etc.

So, does this ranking matters at all? What causes those certain universities to drop a lot? Does those % ratings matter? Would student:faculty ratio matters a lot? Would 10 student:1 faculty vs 7 student: 1 faculty matters a lot? It might not, but the ranking would show greater difference.

Moving forward, what can we do to strengthen our universities? Would these 4 research universities continue to slide or can buck the trend and improve? What needs to be done? What kind of KPI needs to be institutionalized? Can the public support their alma mater more?


haha said...

I would say Malaysian Universities should focus on those areas which are more important. Sending a dozen of students to participate in Geneva Invention Exhibition does not sound sane to me as the Geneva Exhibition is known to the scientific world as a money-making exhibition. It carries no weight in the scientific world. Participating in such an event is a waste of money and it is like buying a prize from Geneva. After that, can the Malaysian universities stop comparing themselves with those universities whose rankings drop in this new ranking system. Of course, we can make a thousand of reasons covering our failure, but I think the most important thing is learn something from there like if the new ranking system favors one university to the other why Hong Kong University managed to get into top 20. Of course, I am still in disbelief that HKU was ranked higher than those research intensive universities in the States like University of California Berkeley. But, the fact that the rankings of our universities drop every year in the ranking mean something. Seriously, we need to revamp our education system. That's what I can say.

haha said...

Using the term "research universities" is inappropriate. Try to spend a night in UM and a night in NUS and you will know the difference. The worst of the story is that mediocrity still prevails in our very own universities. Look at those issues they were trying to brought up in the newspaper(dress code in UUM), it is just plain silly to discuss such small trivial matters.