by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
October 03, 2013
Although Putrajaya continues to spend billions on education, Malaysian universities are not benefitting from it. If it’s any indication, for the third year running Malaysian universities have failed to feature in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Meanwhile, universities in Thailand and Singapore continue to track higher as shown in the 2013-14 Times survey.
Last year alone Putrajaya allocated RM38.7 billion in its budget for education, with emphasis on improving quality and standards.
One of Putrajaya’s goals is also to make Malaysia an education hub for the region and attract some 200,000 students to local universities by 2020.
But these latest rankings show that for all the money spent and all of Putrajaya’s efforts, Malaysia’s institutions of higher learning are falling behind.
An earlier survey by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), last month saw Universiti Malaya as the only Malaysian university to be placed among the top 200 in that ranking. Even then, it dropped from 156 in 2012 to 167 this year.
The Times rankings are based on assessments of a university’s strengths using 13 indicators to measure its teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook, powered by Thomson Reuters which independently collects, analyses and verifies the data.
In the latest Times Higher Education Survey, two top universities in Singapore – The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University – improved their rankings from 29th to 26th and 86th to 76th respectively.
Thailand’s only top-400 representative, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, rose from the 351-400 group to the 301-350 band.
For the third straight year, the California Institute of Technology remained top of the list, with Harvard University and the UK’s University of Oxford sharing second place. American universities dominated the list with 7 institutions in the top 10 and 77 in the top 200 – one more than last year.
Japan’s University of Tokyo maintained its status as Asia’s top university, moving up four places to 23rd spot.
Australia’s University of Melbourne dropped to 34th from 28th last year. Saudi Arabia and Iran have no top 200 institutions, although both are represented in the 200-400 group.
Just recently, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, commenting on the QS rankings, noted that Malaysia’s ability to set up higher education institutions has not been matched by the quality of education offered because it has been done in haste.
He pointed out that while the teachers hired were qualified, it was a possibility that they might have been “probably lacking in certain areas”.
But Universiti Technologi Mara vice-chancellor Tan Sri Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar defended local universities, calling those who criticised the decline “short-sighted” and adding that he was not perturbed by the drop in rankings.
Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon also came out to say that fluctuating rankings were normal.
“No university’s ranking continues to rise. What’s important is that its ups and downs should on average be positive to show progress,” he said. – October 3,