A Malaysian public university may one day be mentioned in the same breath as Oxford or Yale Universities in the rankings if all stakeholders work together.
THERE are many types of university rankings. These ranking systems have their fair share of supporters and detractors.
It cannot be denied that these systems play an essential part in influencing a country and its universities’ policies, especially with the aim of improving its rankings.
These rankings include the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankingsto the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy (formerly known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities) to the QS World University Rankings, QS University Rankings: Asia, QS World University Rankings by Subject, Universitas 21 (U21) Ranking of National Higher Education Systems and Best Global Universities Rankings.
The International Ranking Expert Group (IREG), a reputable organisation that comprises independent experts evaluates and verifies ranking reviews are done professionally and using transparent methodology.
It focuses on good practices and responds to a need for relevant information on various stakeholders. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) tops the list for International Rankings by IREG which have included all three of their ranking systems.
Malaysia has taken part in all the rankings by QS, ARWU, Best Global as well as the Universitas 21. One of the core aims of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) is to empower universities and their boards through autonomy to determine strategically the agenda they choose based on the strengths of each university.
The ministry recognises that each university has the rights to choose the ranking system that best suits them.
This is to stand out in a niche category of academics that showcases their competitive advantage and strengths.
In the era of globalisation, the ecosystem of higher learning in the nation needs to prioritise what is important for them as well as for the nation.
Under the QS World University Rankings 2014, it was good news that Malaysian universities showed a marked improvement. For example, Universiti Malaya (UM) moved up 16 places from 167 to 151. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) improved 10 places to 259 in 2014, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) was ranked 309, Universiti Putra Malaysia was 376 while Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) was 294.
Our Malaysian universities have also showed improvements in the QS University Rankings: Asia from 2013 to 2015.
Under the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Malaysian universities have shown improvements too. USM and UM each had one subject in the world’s top 50. USM ranked 31st for environmental science while UM ranked 32nd for development studies (this is a new subject included in this year’s ranking).
Nine subjects were ranked within the top 51 to100 in the world across five of our public universities, namely USM, UM, UKM, UTM and UPM.
UM led with six subjects in the top 51 to 100, including English and literature, linguistics, architecture and built environment, chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering.
USM has five subjects within the top 51 to 100, which are architecture and built environment, chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, development studies as well as mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering.
UTM has two in architectural and build environment as well as chemical engineering, while UPM and UKM have one each with agriculture and forestry, and development studies ranked within the top 51 to100 in the world.
Universitas 21 is unique because it ranks the nation’s entire higher education system rather than by university or subject.
The criteria used by U21 include resources, environment, connectivity and output. These include research output, impact and the employability of graduates which carries the heaviest weightage.
Malaysia was ranked 27th out of 50 nations according to the U21.
Overall, Malaysian universities are definitely on the right track in improving their standings among regional and global universities.
However, this is the beginning of a long journey for us to become a truly globally recognised force in academics. Is it impossible for Malaysia to have a public university mentioned in the same breath as Oxford or Yale one day? It is not impossible if all stakeholders work together in implementing the core tenets of the Malaysia Education Blueprint — in terms of strategy, implementation and execution.
What we have achieved so far may be baby-steps, but eventually we will be walking and then running; soaring upwards confidently to meet the global challenges that await our beloved country.
P. Kamalanathan is Deputy Education Minister. He welcomes feedback via twitter@PKamalanathan. This is one in a series of articles for this column which appears every fortnight. It also sees the contributions of Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap who share their views on various education-related issues. The STAR Home News Education 12 July 2015