Funding is not the main focus in the THE rankings as research outputs and other indicators are just as crucial in determining the world class status of a university.
FINANCES inevitably play a major role in any organisation and universities are no different. Huge sums are needed to run both the institution as well as generate the research and development aspects.
There are many types of rankings available but the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings is the only global rankings that take into account a university’s resources.
Phil Baty who is THE World University Rankings editor, said that in the real world, money is highly relevant to a university’s world class status.
“It takes money, after all, to attract and retain the leading scholars, and build appropriate facilities for top class teaching and research,” he said.
Universities with world-class aspirations are by definition operating in a single global marketplace, he said.
Baty was responding to a statement by Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon that the THE rankings gives substantial marks for research funding, incomes and endowments.
In the THE World University Rankings 2012-13 released on Oct 4, there were no Malaysian public universities on the list.
Baty said although Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia participated in the rankings this year, both varsities did not make the top 400 and so did not have a ranking position. UM and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) did not take part in the rankings.
Rankings not reflective: Prof Ghauth says the university does not want
to be part of an exercise when the ‘starting line’ of the competitors are already at a disadvantage.
The THE World University Rankings is an annual list of the world’s top institutions, using 13 separate performance indicators across five areas — industry outcome, teaching, citations, research and international outlook to comprehensively measure and assess all the core missions of a university using objective data over subjective opinion. The California Institute of Technology topped the list for the second consecutive year.
When responding to the THE rankings, Prof Ghauth said the criteria for research funding, incomes and endowments was unfair to universities in the third world, developing countries and relatively smaller economies like Malaysia.
“Our country does not have the culture of giving endowments unlike other countries,” he had said.
Prof Ghauth explained that the QS World University Rankings measured outputs and outcomes whereas THE measured incomes as well.
In an immediate response, Baty said it was important to put this into the correct context.
“We use 13 separate performance indicators to assess the full range of a university’s activities, across the teaching environment, research, knowledge transfer and global outlook. Only three of the 13 take into account a university’s income.
“To help us to better understand a university’s teaching environment, we look at its total income, scaled for the size of an institution. This is worth just 2.25 percent of the score.
“In examining research, we look at an institution’s total research income, scaled for its size (six percent) and, to assess its ‘third mission’ activities, we look at its ability to attract funding from business and industry, weighted at 2.5 percent,” he said.
He explained that ‘third mission’ activities in higher education are broadly defined as stimulating and directing the application and exploitation of knowledge to the benefit of society’s social, cultural and economic development.
“So while we believe it is crucial to examine income and helpful for countries looking to compete with the best in the world to compare their investment in higher education with competitors, these indicators are collectively worth just a fraction over 10 per cent,” he said.
Baty said that only 10 percent of the methodology was actually concerned with funding and income.
Level playing field
Explaining further, he said in every case, the numbers for purchasing power parity is adjusted so that all nations, rich or poor, competed on a level playing field.
“The largest of all our indicators actually concerns itself with research output, that is citations per paper and for this indicator we not only normalise the data for subject mix, but we also normalise it to take into account different national contexts.
“We think this approach is fair and appropriate,” he said.
Responding in turn to Baty’s comments, Prof Ghauth said marks given for research funding and incomes automatically “knocks off marks from universities like us which are low in research incomes and funding compared to those in the United States and Europe”.
“We do not want to be part of an exercise when the starting line of the competitors are already at a disadvantage,” he explained.
Prof Ghauth said THE also uses a a 10-year period for ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) citations whereas Scopus (database of academic publishing) uses a five-year period.
“The idea of research universities in Malaysia started about five to six years ago and I became vice-chancellor of UM four years ago.
“Universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard have been in the High Impact Research business a long time. We would certainly do better given more time, but to participate in THE rankings now would be quite unwise,” he said.
Baty explained earlier that institutions were invited to participate in the rankings exercise but were not compelled to do so.
“The invitation to take part is issued by our data provider Thomson Reuters. If they (varsities) do not want to do so, they are not included as is the case with UM and USM.
“We would like to encourage more institutions to work with us so that an even clearer picture of higher education in Malaysia can be formed, allowing it to create a better benchmark for itself against the world’s very best,” he said.
A total of 655 universities from 69 countries this year submitted data toThomson Reuters and were therefore assessed for the rankings.
KAREN CHAPMAN firstname.lastname@example.org The STAR Online Home Education Sunday 21 October, 2012