The person who should resign for the plight of higher education in Malaysia today is not Professor Datuk Dr. Mohamad Redzuan Othman as head of University of Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) and his removal as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in the university, or former deputy Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah as senior research fellow from University of Malaya, but Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Education Minister.
What has Muhyiddin to show in more than a year as the powerful Education Minister gobbling up the former Ministry of Higher Education, in the field of tertiary education apart from the latest disgraceful episode of interference with and violation of academic freedom resulting in the resignations of Redzuan and Saifuddin from the University of Malaya?
It has become a heart-rending occasion 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.
Less than two weeks ago, the release of the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014 provided latest testimony of the continued decline in global rankings of Malaysia’s public universities, with no local tertiary institution in the top 100.
Five countries were represented in the top 10 of the Asian university rankings – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and China. Even India made outstanding progress with 10 institutions in the top 100, compared with only three last year. Thailand was in the top 100 list.
The Middle East was also well represented, with universities from Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey making the list.
University Of Tokyo emerged top among Asian universities followed by the National University of Singapore.
University of Hong Kong, Seoul National University and China’s Peking University clinched the third, fourth and fifth spots respectively.
Thailand has two universities in this year’s ranking, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, which rose five places to joint 50th, and Mahidol University, which dropped 21 places to 82nd spot.
Singapore has two highly placed universities in the ranking, NUS at second spot and Nanyang Technological University at 11th position.
Hong Kong was named the star performer by THE, given its size, and the fact that it had six universities the top 50 of the ranking.
In April, Malaysian public universities were also left out of this year’s ranking of the annual Times Higher Education Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.
Four Asian universities were ranked among the top 10 of the world’s young universities, including South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology which took the top spot, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) (third placing), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (5).
The country was also absent from the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings list released in March, losing out to other Southeast Asian countries.
Will Redzuan and Saifuddin’s resignations from University of Malaya, and the failure of Malaysian universities to regain world-class academic standards and standing, which is so critical and crucial to Malaysia’s international competitiveness, be on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and is this one of the “taboo” subjects which no Minister dares to raise in Cabinet?