For many years, it is a heart-breaking event for Malaysians whenever there is a publication of world university rankings, for it is not to find out how well Malaysian universities compare with the best in the world but how badly Malaysian universities fared in international university comparisons and benchmarkings.
The release today of the 2014 Times Higher Education (THE) World Reputation Rankings for the Top 100 Universities is no different. In fact, it is worse.
For four consecutive years, Malaysia has been excluded from both the THE World Reputation Rankings and the THE World University Rankings for Top 400, with not a single Malaysian university able to make the grade in both rankings.
Singapore National University (SNU) achieved the best World Reputation Rankings in the four-year THE series, ranked No. 34 in 2011, 40 in 2012, 29 in 2013 and 21 in 2014. SNU is only behind two other Asian universities the 2014 World Reputation Rankings – University of Tokyo and Kyoto University in 11th and 19th ranking respectively.
Other Asian universities following closely behind SNU in the THE World Reputation Rankings 2014 are Seoul National University (No. 26), Tsinghua University (No. 36), Peking University (No. 41), University of Hong Kong (No. 43), Osaka University (No. 50), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), National Taiwan University and Tokyo Institute of Technology (No. 51-60), Tohoku University (No. 61-70), Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yonsei University (No.81-90) and Nanyang Technological University (No. 91-100).
What must be very mortifying to Malaysians who in the past had prided in having University of Malaya in the fifties and sixties as one of the world-ranking universities comparable in academic excellence with universities like the Universities of Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney now finding Malaysian universities not only trailing far behind their previous peers, including Universities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney, but being overtaken by universities which Malaysians had never heard before.
For example, the Middle East Technical University of Turkey and the University of Sao Paulo of Brazil have consistently been ranked in the THE Top 100 Universities World Reputation Rankings for the past three years from 2012 – 2014, which put Malaysian universities to shame!
It was nine years ago during the University of Malaya’s centennial celebrations in June 2005 that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, then Deputy Prime Minister, who threw the challenge to University of Malaya to raise its 89th position in 2004 among the world’s top 200 universities in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World Universities Ranking to 50 by the year 2020.
The year 2020 is only six years away, but in the nine years since Najib’s challenge for a Malaysian university to be ranked among the world’s Top 50 universities, the reverse process university decline and regression had set in – and there is not a single university ranked in both the THE Top 100 Universities World Reputation Rankings and the THE World University Rankings for Top 400 in the past four years.
The first step for Malaysian university reform and transformation to ensure that Malaysian universities can regain world-class academic standards and standing is that our Education Minister must dare to ask publicly as well as to offer a proper answer as to why Malaysian universities have regressed so poorly when compared to our peers in excellence in the fifties and sixties?
Dare Muhyiddin make a Ministerial statement in Parliament next week to explain why Singapore can get two universities for four consecutive years into the THE Top 100 Universities World Reputation Rankings and THE World University Rankings for Top 400 but not a single one from Malaysia and what university reform measures he has in mind?