Hornbill Unleashed

October 3, 2014

Global education index disappointed UM, UKM snubbed rankings poll

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Two top Malaysian institutions, Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), did not submit data for the annual World University Rankings 2014-2015, effectively missing out on the opportunity to be assessed against other universities in the world, says a global education index compiler.Four other Malaysian universities submitted their data but none made it into the top 400 of the rankings, which was released by Times Higher Education (THE) today.

“This is very disappointing as they are essentially holding Malaysia back from being able to benchmark the true standard of its higher education against the rest of the world and, indeed, identify the areas that need improvement,” THE rankings editor Phil Baty told The Malaysian Insider.

In an immediate response to Baty’s comments, UKM’s Strategic Centre deputy executive director (performance assessment) Associate Professor Dr Masturah Markom told The Malaysian Insider that the university preferred to focus on rankings that were fair to its direction.

“This ranking (THE) has different indicators and it’s more suitable for universities that have been established far longer.

“Indicators, such as ‘industry income’, are unfair to us as Malaysia’s (industry income) is not as much as in the United States, for example. We cannot compete with them so it is best if we spend on rankings that are better suited to our direction and focus,” she said, referring to the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings.

In the QS World University Rankings released last month, UKM was ranked 259th place, moving up 10 places from last year’s spot. UM is at No. 151.

The criteria used by QS to rank universities are academic reputation, employer reputation, student to faculty ratio, papers per faculty, citations per paper, internationalisation and student exchange programmes.

UM has yet to respond to The Malaysian Insider’s request for comments.

Western universities dominated the top 10 of the World University Rankings for 2014-2015, with California Institute of Technology retaining top spot for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Harvard University in second place.

Oxford University takes third position, followed by Stanford University and University of Cambridge (UK) at fourth and fifth place respectively.

The highest-ranking university in Asia is Japan’s University of Tokyo, which takes the 23rd spot with the National University of Singapore trailing at No. 25.

“It was a strong year for Asia. Asia now has 24 universities in the world top 200, up from 20 last year. Two Asian universities now make the world top 25 and six make the top 50,” Baty said.

Other Asian countries represented in the top 400 include South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Iran and Thailand.

Malaysian universities, however, have never made it to the top 400 since the inception of the rankings in 2004.

Baty expressed concern over the lack of engagement by Malaysian universities with global rankings, such as THE’s World University Rankings, which had been used as a “serious and rigorous” benchmarking tool worldwide.

“The THE World University Rankings and Asia University Rankings are respected by governments and university leaders around the world as a serious, rigorous benchmarking tool – they are the only global rankings to measure universities right across the full range of their core activities: teaching; research; knowledge transfer and international outlook.

“Engagement with the rankings helps universities to identify their weaknesses and strengths and to plan for a stronger future. But we are finding that some Malaysian universities are not yet ready to share data, which I feel is a real missed opportunity,” he added.

In contrast to Malaysia, Baty said the president of India had said that its universities should engage with the THE rankings as a matter of policy.

“In India, there is now a clear understanding that institutions need to look globally and use trusted global performance benchmarks to improve.

“Since its increased engagement with our rankings, it has gone from having one institution in the rankings in 2011 to having four this year,” he said.

The World University Rankings are based on assessments of an institution’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.

Baty said the four Malaysian universities which submitted the data had received “quite low” scores for reputation and also for citation, which were the most heavily weighted indicators in the rankings.

“The single area where Malaysian universities are underperforming the most is with regards to the research related indicators, such as ‘citation impact’.

“In the short term, an intense focus on this area would likely result in improvements for Malaysian universities’ performance.”

Malaysia should also place more focus on its academic reputation and financial indicators, which, he said, were the area that THE has seen the most improvements in from many east Asian universities which have risen on the charts.

“It is hard for me to suggest a time frame for Malaysia breaking into the top 200 of the rankings, especially as its institutions do not currently even sit within the top 400. Clearly there is much work to be done.”

Citing India again, Baty said increasing its engagement with the rankings would be a good starting point for Malaysian universities to improve.

“Malaysian university leaders can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to global performance benchmarks.”

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