Malaysian universities not among world’s top ‘young’ institutions, global survey shows

by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
MAY 01, 2014

Malaysian public universities have once again failed to measure up to higher learning institutions around the world, this time being left out of the latest ranking of the annual Times Higher Education (THE) Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.

Four Asian universities are 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 (3), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (5).

Malaysia, however, failed to get on the list for the second year running. In the first rankings list in 2012, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was ranked 98th.

This is despite Putrajaya’s claim that Malaysia has one of the best education systems in the world – better than United States, Britain and Germany.

One university each from both the US and the UK were also featured in the top 10 of the latest rankings released today.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are also on the list which comprises 29 countries – one more than last year, with the addition of India, which made it on to the list for the first time.

THE described these young universities (established before the cut-off year of 1964) as rising stars which showed great potential.

“While they may not have had centuries to accumulate wealth and cannot draw on generations of alumni and rich traditions of scholarship to drive their reputations, they are free from the burdens of history: free to be more agile, lean, flexible and risk-taking, giving them an advantage in a rapidly changing global marketplace,” THE’s rankings editor Phil Baty said of the young universities.

Malaysia was also absent from the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings list which was released last month, losing out to other Southeast Asian countries.

Malaysia’s continuous failure to feature in any university rankings despite a huge education budget every year has not gone down well with the opposition, which has taken Putrajaya to task for the miserable performance.

The Education Ministry received RM38.7 billion in 2013 and has been allocated a total of RM54 billion this year – the biggest allocation yet.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, one of the more vocal critics of Malaysian education standards, had previously warned that local universities were losing ground not only to top universities around the world, but also to less comparable institutions in the region.

DAP lawmaker Zairil Khir Johari described the Top 100 Under 50 rankings as a more level playing field than Times’s other lists such as the World University Rankings which includes long-established universities such as Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge.

“The failure of Malaysian universities, all of which are under 50 years old except Universiti Malaya, to get on the list is an embarrassment,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“What makes it worse is the fact that UKM, which was placed in the list in 2012 as 98th in the world, has now dropped out of sight,” he added.

He said the fact that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and India were making remarkable progress in the education field proved that adverse socio-political and economic situations were no barrier to academic excellence.

“Clearly, Malaysian universities are uncompetitive, and will continue to be so until fundamental problems are addressed, such as the lack of academic freedom, autonomy and the quality of the faculty,” the Bukit Bendera MP said.

He said the barring of former Bar Council president and prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan from delivering a talk at a law event in Universiti Malaya last month was an example of these fundamental problems.

“If leading professional figures in our country are barred from speaking to future practitioners, how do we expect our university students to be able to develop critical thinking abilities that are necessary for a competitive economy?

“Clearly, there is political interference at play, which does not bode well for an institution that is meant to cultivate future leaders,” he said, adding that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had received a “hero’s welcome” at the university prior to that. – May 1, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 8:09 am

    At its core, the biggest variant between what should be an ideal education and that build and still designed by UMNO/BN is that UMNO/BN believes that politicising education is perfectly fine and it does it in degree Hitler and Communists would feel proud of – in a country with elections, that is no small feat.

    But the truth is all country politicize their education even in so called “developed and academic freedom” countries like US and European. In Asia, from Singapore, Japan, Korea, China etc all do have some politicisation of their education and yet they managed to achieve very good result. So why is it so different result in Malaysia?

    Firstly, the degree of politicisation in Malaysia, far exceed that of other countries that have been mentioned. Ask any other teachers from any other countries that have been mentioned to come teach here for a year and ask them about the politicisation and all of them will say its more than their home country. If you dig for honest opinion from businessmen who have come here, they will tell you that business and many things here everything here is over-politicize and education certaintly one of the top ones.

    Over-politicisation compounds our already national disease of lack of meritocracy, over-entitlement and dependencies. All other countries that politicise their education, don’t have these national diseases. When the system which is highly human already don’t feel it has to out-perform, politics makes it even worst. Add to it corruption, waste, poor design, the result cannot be unexpected.

    All the govt has done even the latest iteration is try to correct the poor design and maybe a little effort to reduce waste and corruption. It simply ignoring the larger over-arching forces that resist change – even makes it unworthwhile and that is why the ranking is not going to change that much. It can change but when you are so low, for a country with medium-range per capita, real change should be in leaps and bounds in a number of years. If you are going to compare yourself to Thailand and Indonesia, we should be leaping in droves about them, not in the same neighbourhood after a “blueprint”.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 8:37 am

    At the end of the day it is meritocracy that counts whether a university can succeed and earn good reputation in the eyes of the world. A university which is managed and run to cater for a particular race will definitely fail to make it.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 10:16 am

    Something is NOT right, nope, CERTAINLY NOT right with d way THE carried out its Top 100 Universities under 50 years old ranking

    If done according 2 d STANDARDS/criteria set by Perkosa-UmnoB, all our universities should b ranked HIGH high

    THE better comes 2 1M’sia 2 learn d proper evaluation/ranking instrument

  4. #4 by waterfrontcoolie on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 3:38 pm

    In spite of the BILLIONS we had spent on MSC – the Silicon Valley of Malaysia, year-in and year-out none of our universities could enter the final round of the IBM sponsored IT competition; universities from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and even Arab universities were able to make it to the regional final but none from the world-class Malaysian universities. Y??? On record, since 2000, the Champion Gold medalist has been either from Russia or China but not even from any Western Universities; time is changing and maybe our students should also look further from current list of universities; at least for those really keen in Computer Science! China has more than 20 such universities in the final round! As for us, it is business as usual, we will create our distinction list and will proclaim our Champions accordingly! Maybe we should budget a New Ministry: Ministry of Scientific Research so that we can offer Malaysian BOLEH DIAMOND Medal; higher than the Nobel prize!

  5. #5 by digard on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 6:36 pm

    @bigjoe (and others)

    We should distinguish clearly between adverse effects by politicization, and mediocrity. True, many of the countries you mention, and others, suffer from the former. Though, few can afford to promote not a handful of desired or well-connected, but hordes of lower-performing (lower than their colleagues) to higher academic (Profesor Madya, Profesor) or academic-administrative (Timbalan Dekan, Dekan, VC) ranks.

    It all started early, and saw a large boost when Dr. M promoted everyone in MARA with a background of more than 10 years to Profesor Madya, and MARA to a university. Today, when you go to UiTM, excellence is the exception in a field of kangkung.

    The worst of all, however, is that the large majority of the teaching (and research) staff has do desire at all to shine. They have been pampered (and hypnotized) into the feeling that they are simply entitled to an automatic ascent.

  6. #6 by Justice Ipsofacto on Thursday, 1 May 2014 - 9:23 pm

    Umno is only too happy to promote nothing more than jaguh kampung.

    Umno obviously ignored globalisation.

    But to make it’s argument stick umno has to tell the Malays that they are the supreme grand master of the universe and GOD of all gods.

  7. #7 by john on Friday, 2 May 2014 - 12:18 am

    Bumno treats Education, like other institutions as part and means of tools, for them to politicise and avenues to enrich themselves immensely.
    Firstly, the one in-charged is NOT qualified at all.
    And, Najis himself is such an embarrassment during PC with Omama, when he uttered ” pro,,, prolip,, prolifitician, ,,, and just gave up completely !. Such an embarrassment to our Nation in front of global press – think, Altantuya is easy for him to say anytime, instead.
    On top of all these, these morons seem so proud going round the world looking for English teachers – be it from India, UK, now US.
    Ya, these half-past-six Bumno goons, as Mamak Kutty would have planned for them to take over, so he can be always on top of them – FOOLS.

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