The admission by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi that local tertiary institutions have become recruiting grounds for militants and that Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, senior lecturer with University of Malaya (UM)’s Department of Akidah and Islamic Thought, the Academy of Islamic Studies, was among five individuals wanted by the police for militant activities have catapulted Malaysian universities to unwanted national and international attention and publicity.
Instead of producing world-class universities in keeping with the Vision 2020 objective to achieve developed nation status, Malaysian universities have for the past decade been a national embarrassment, annually confirming the absence of world-class universities in Malaysia.
Malaysia was completely absent from the Times Higher Education World Rankings 2013-2014 for the world’s top 400 University.
For the second year running, Malaysia failed to get on the list of the 2014 Times Higher Education (THE) Top 100 Universities under 50 years old – although four Asian universities are ranked among the top 10 of the world’s young universities, two from South Korea, one from Hong Kong and one from Singapore. In Malaysia, all the public universities except for University of Malaya, are under 50 years old.
Malaysia was also excluded from the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2014 for the Top 100 Universities, although 14 universities from Asia were included – five from Japan, two from Singapore, three from South Korea, one from China, two from Hong Kong and one from Taiwan.
Last month, in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014, Malaysia was again conspicuously omitted among the top 100 Asian universities.
Five countries were represented in the top 10 of the Asian university rankings – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and China.
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.
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.
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 with two universities, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, which rose five places to joint 50th and Mahidol University (No.82).
The Middle East was also well represented, with universities from Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey making the list.
But there was not a single university from Malaysia in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014, which is most shameful and mortifying for Malaysians as in the fifties and sixties, University of Malaya was one of the world-class universities comparable in academic excellence with universities like Universities of Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney.
Now, after 57 years of Merdeka and 51 years of Malaysia, University of Malaya has not only been left behind by its previous peers, including Universities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, all our universities are regarded as far inferior to foreign tertiary institutions which had not been highly regarded by Malaysians in the past.
Instead of producing world-class universities, Malaysian universities are hitting the international headline for the wrong reasons such as becoming recruiting grounds of terrorists for IS (Islamic State) in their current “war” in Syria and Iraq.
Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, whose Education Ministry has swallowed up the separate Higher Education Ministry after the general election last year, should present a Higher Education Masterplan for October Parliament to produce at least two world-class Malaysians universities by 2020 instead of allowing Malaysian universities to become recruiting ground for terrorists for Islamic State (IS) war in Syria and Iraq.
If Najib and Muhyiddin are serious in wanting to achieve the objective of Malaysia becoming a developed nation by 2020, then it is all the more urgent and imperative that they ensure that Malaysia can produce two world-class universities by 2020, for there is no country in the world that has achieved developed status without first producing world-class universities.