I get further upset when students with great potential i.e., some of the top students in SPM and STPM are "seduced" to enrol in some of the above courses which results a poorer education, making them less qualified for the employment market as they do not fulfil their best possible potential. These students who have paid so much more taking these twinning courses would have learnt more, and be better qualified for the job market if they had enrolled in some of the better local universities in Malaysia.
The Guardian, a leading newspaper publication in the UK has in April released their University ranking guide. I saw it as an opportune moment to research the universities which our local private colleges collaborate with for their twinning programs and verify if they are indeed the "leading" or "top" or "prestigious" universities in the UK, which they are marketed to be. Please note the following assumptions, when reviewing the "results" of my simple study.
- While it can be argued that universities rankings are never going to be "accurate" in any study, it's fair to say that it does provide some indications to the quality of the institute. For example, there may not really be any difference between a university ranked 21st and 25th, but there's likely to be a significant gap between the universities placed as 30th vs 55th vs 80th vs 110th.
- This study only involves the UK universities as the Guardian have only just made the latest rankings available. However, I believe that the results from this simple study is likely to be fairly uniform across the colleges in the United States and Australia.
- In this study, I'd also focus significantly more on the Computer Science (and related) studies as it's one of the most popular course which candidates apply for today, as well as the fact that I have dealt extensively with graduates from the above courses.
- There are a total of 122 universities ranked in the Guardian study in total, of which 111 universities offer Computer Science degree courses)
- For the purposes of reviewing local private colleges offering degree courses, I've focused on some of the more popular choices such as APIIT, Inti College, Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU), HELP Institute, Kolej Bandar Utama (KBU) and Nilai College. They are used as examples and they are not specifically targeted for criticism. In general, it is my believe from my experience that most of the other private colleges suffer similar shortfalls.
- I've focused my comments a bit more on the more popular UK universities with the "leading" local private colleges. These universities are more popular through the fact that most of the graduates resumes I've received from foreign universities are from these.
1. Staffordshire University (Ranked 79/122 Overall; 79/111 for Computer Science)
Staffordshire University is the degree from which the large majority of APIIT information technology students graduate with. For APIIT which proclaims that APIIT students are "recognised for entry into leading universities in the UK" on the website, the ranking does leave much to be desired.
2. Coventry University (Ranked 70/122 Overall; 103/111 for Computer Science)
Coventry Unversity is a popular choice among degree students studying in Inti College. Twinning courses with Coventry is also available in APIIT as well as KDU. Inti College has advertised on their website that their students can select from an "impressive list of prestigious universities and enroll in the UK Degree Transfer Programmes".
Apart from a series of programmes that have been carefully and thoughtfully designed in collaboration with top-notch universities in the UK and Australia, INTI provides an exceptional environment to promote propitious Computing and IT learning.Being ranked 70th out of 122 universities in UK is relative poor, but ranking 103 out of 111 universities offering computer science courses (i.e., bottom 10%) cannot in any way be regarded even near mediocre. Students need to be made aware that by choosing to obtain your computer science degrees from Coventry University (and unfortunately, many do - I've received many resumes of such), you are enrolling to one of the poorest Computer Science universities in the UK.
3. University of Northumbria at Newcastle (Ranked 87/122 Overall; 83/111 for Computer Science; 60/67 for Electrical Engineering; 60/118 for Business)
This university is the UK university partner of Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU) - so you'd find that most UK-based degrees courses offered by KDU will lead to a degree from Northumbria. This includes Computer Science, Engineering and Business degrees. Once again, the rankings tell of how misleading the advertisements and information provided by these colleges can be:
That is why our Department of Information and Multimedia Technologies is recognised and renowned for setting high standards of excellence in education. Your UK qualification will give you worldwide recognition and equip you with the necessary skills sets to meet the challenges of this competitive market. That is why our graduates are highly sought after and earmarked for employment before graduation.
With industry recognition, work relevant programmes, experienced professional lecturers, continuous upgrading of facilities, you are at the right place - you will be joining a leading engineering department with a track record of having produced one of the highest number of 3+0 graduates in the country. [KDU-Northumbria University(3+0) B.Eng(Hons) in Electrical & Electronic Engineering]How can a local college be advertising that they have one of the "leading" engineering department when their partner university is ranked among the worst in the UK (60th of 67 universities)? Northumbria IT degrees are also offered at Binary College and Stamford College.
4. University of East London (UEL) (Ranked 52/122 Overall; 51/111 for Computer Science; 100/118 for Business Studies; 46/76 for Economics)
UEL is the main UK twinning partner university for HELP "University" College. The courses which HELP twins with UEL include degrees in Business Administration, Accounting & Finance and Business Information Systems. As a university, UEL is ranked just about in the middle tier of universities in the UK as well as for Computer Science courses. However, UEL is clearly poorer in its Business as well as Economics faculties. Fortunately, HELP does not exaggerate UEL's reputation too much on its web site (below), although it did "highlight" that "HELP has an array of programs affiliated with educational institutions of excellence in the United Kingdom..."
... a rapidly developing university with 102 years of excellence in teaching and research, offering the 3+0 programme in Bachelor of Science (Honours) Business Information Systems. On top of that, the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Multimedia Studies and Bachelor of Science (Honours) in E-Commerce are also available in 2+1 arrangement with UEL.
5. University of Greenwich (Ranked 101/122 Overall; 61/111 for Computer Science)
HELP did however, advertised one of its other degree twinning partner, Unversity of Greenwich as one of the "renown university" partners. One would hardly regard the rankings provided above as "renown" in any way. University of Greenwich programmes are also offered in Nilai College and Inti College.
6. University of Sunderland (Ranked 79/122 Overall; 66/111 for Computer Science)
The University of Sunderland is the main degree twinning partner of Binary College - whom they described as "world-class qualifications well recognised both in the industry as well as overseas universities". [You really wonder which world these colleges are talking about when they call these universities "world-class"] University of Sunderland degrees are also available through Inti College.
7. Oxford Brookes University (Ranked 51/122 Overall; 41/111 for Computer Science; 45/118 for Business Studies)
Of the various UK twinning universities, I would have to regard Oxford Brookes as one of the better ones, although its rankings are still no better than average. Oxford Brookes is the main degree twinning partner of Nilai College with its courses also available as alternative options in Inti College, KDU, Sunway College, and APIIT.
8. Nottingham Trent University (NTU) (Ranked 82/122 Overall; 43/111 for Computer Science; 75/118 for Business Studies)
NTU is the degree twinning partner of choice for Kolej Bandar Utama (KBU). NTU is described on KBU website as follows:
NTU occupies a creditable position in the UK university league table and is highly rated in many aspects such as in research. It has been praised for its excellent teaching quality and the employability of its graduates.I'd leave it to the readers to form their own conclusion as to whether a degree with NTU for the respective courses will be worthwhile pursuing.
9. De Montfort University (DMU) (Ranked 83/122 Overall; 95/111 for Computer Science)
DMU has becoming increasing popular destination for a twinning degree in Malaysia through the local private college FTMS. Obtaining one's degree through FTMS is understandably a popular choice for the simple reason that one "saves" 2 years on STPM/'A' Levels or 1 year foundation courses. I've seen many top SPM students (i.e., 7As or more) sign up for courses at FTMS, and often graduating with 1st class honours. However, having hired 1-2 of them at one time, I quickly realised that despite the excellent secondary education and a supposed 1st class honours degree, the graduates clearly do not meet the necessary depth in skills and knowledge (in my case, Computer Science degrees) to perform anywhere near say, the good local graduates. And now, after 'discovering' DMU's ranking, I'm now not at all surprised. These top students would unfortunately have done better for themselves - intellectually, academically and career prospects-wise, by enrolling in the top 5-6 local universities (i.e., do STPM, A-Levels or Foundation studies). The 1 year saved isn't any good at all in the longer term.
10. Sheffield Hallam Univesrsity (SHU) (Ranked 92/122 Overall; 102/111 for Computer Science; 105/118 for Business Studies; 54/63 for Mech Engineering)
In the past, Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) students "obtain" their degrees through an association with Campbell University in the United States. However, in recent years, more and more students are graduating with degrees offered by SHU. These degrees include IT, Business Studies as well as Engineering degrees. According to the SHU/TARC website, there are now approximately 3000 SHU graduates in Malaysia, with some 700 new graduates every year. TARC is historically one of the colleges of choice among the local Chinese school students in Malaysia. With a rapidly growing student in-take through the establishment of many branch campuses throughout the country and partnerships with universities such as SHU (no disrespect, but SHU is consistently ranked bottom 15 for its Computer Science, Business Studies and Engineering courses in the UK!), are we providing the quality education required by our students, especially those with top results (many whom do enrol into TARC)?
11. Other Twinning Universities
The other popular universities in the UK which offer twinning type degrees for Malaysian students through the various private colleges are as follows:
- University of Central England (Ranked 50/122 Overall; 80/111 for Computer Science)
- Lancaster University (Ranked 57/122 Overall; 50/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Hertfordshire (Ranked 66/122 Overall; 57/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Plymouth (Ranked 75/122 Overall; 58/111 for Computer Science)
- Liverpool John Moores University (Ranked 77/122 Overall; 68/111 for Computer Science)
- University of the West of England, Bristol (Ranked 84/122 Overall; 93/118 for Business Studies)
- Middlesex University (Ranked 86/122 Overall; 82/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Portsmouth (Ranked 94/122 Overall; 105/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Luton (Ranked 95/122 Overall; 88/111 for Computer Science; 56/101 for Psychology)
- University of Glamorgan (Ranked 106/122 Overall; 72/111 for Computer Science)
- Leeds Metropolitan University (Ranked 110/122 Overall; 96/111 for Computer Science)
- Lincoln University (Ranked 114/122 Overall; 108/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Central Lancashire (Ranked 115/122 Overall; 93/111 for Computer Science)
12. Promising Universities through Local Private Colleges?
While the above universities are clearly the most popular choices taken by the Malaysian students in the UK via the "twinning" route, there are some universities listed in the web site and marketing materials of the local colleges as their collaborative partners. These universities are of significantly better standards and they include:
- London School of Economics (Ranked 5/122 Overall; 2/76 for Economics)
- University of Manchester (Ranked 15/122 Overall; 23/76 for Economics)
- University of Birmingham (Ranked 28/122 Overall; 32/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Glasgow (Ranked 31/122 Overall; 9/111 for Computer Science)
- University of Leeds (Ranked 41/122 Overall; 15/111 for Computer Science)
However, it is totally unclear, through the web sites and marketing materials how these colleges provide the degrees from the above universities. In all likelihood, the above degrees are not awarded through the typical twinning programmes (whereby the local colleges have a large degree of autonomy with regards to entry and qualification levels), but are degree programmes in which the students will have to qualify separately for based on examinations such as 'A' Levels. It also probably accounts for the fact that there are fewer Malaysian students with degrees from the above universities than the earlier list.
However, there is one notable exception, that the Diploma in Economics at HELP is awarded by London School of Economics (LSE). LSE is ranked top 5 in the UK overall as well as for its Economics courses. This Diploma, while insufficient to secure a "lucrative" career immediately, does provide the students with the right qualification towards a separate degree with the top UK institutions. Note that to obtain these degrees from the top universities, the degree programme is NOT conducted by HELP. HELP does however, have a separate degree program in Economics (and related subjects), but it is accredited as an external degree from University of London. While the lead university in this external programme is LSE, students should note that it is not the same as a degree from LSE.
My conclusion as well as advice to prospective university students, especially those with excellent SPM/STPM (or equivalent) results (e.g., SPM aggregate <10):>
- At this point of time, based on the quality of twinning degrees offered by the local private institutions, do not sign up for these degrees. You will lose out in terms of the quality of education, and correspondingly damaging your future career prospects. This is not to say that you will not get employed if you were to undertake the twinning degree programmes - it is to say that your full potential may not be achieved.
- If you have the funds, or is able to obtain the necessary scholarships, take the academic route which will lead you to the top 20 university in the UK (top 5 in Australia and top 20 in USA). The Top 20 universities according to the Guardian in the UK are:
3. Imperial College
4. Schl of Oriental & African Studies
5. London Schl of Economics
6. King's Col, London
7. University College London
11. St Andrews
12. Queen Mary, London
15. Manchester Uni
19. Cardiff Uni
- If you do not have the funds and is for some reason or other not able to obtain the necessary scholarship (but have obviously got excellent secondary school results), aim to enter the top 5 local universities. University Malaya is always a safe bet in terms of academic quality. You are likely to save more money and be a better graduate from these universities instead of joining the twinning programmes.
For the authorities (i.e., our Ministry of Education, and or Ministry of Higher Learning), the most important agenda should be for the right candidates with the right qualifications be enrolled in the right educational institutions. It is an absolute waste of Malaysian talent, if the most promising secondary school student is enrolled into a bottom 20 university of any country. The Ministries should:
- Take a pro-active stance in monitoring and regulating the commercial marketing activities of our local private colleges. Some of the marketing activities clearly exaggerates the quality of the education provided which misleads uninformed students. I often cringe when I hear or read advertisements by these colleges proclaiming (with impunity) their "world-class" qualities. While the above study relates purely on UK universities, it is my experience dealing with twinning graduates from all countries (UK, USA, Australia) which leads me to the conclusion that the above UK study when applied on the other countries will lead to similar results.
- Be pro-active in guiding students to the institution of learning which best "fit" the potential of the students at the secondary level. The Ministry should publish guides which outlines the qualities of the schools both locally as well as overseas, so that students will be able to tell whether they are really enrolling into a "top" institution (or one which is ranked near the bottom). Note that these guides should NOT be designed by the administrative civil servants (which they often are), but actually produced by the relevant academic specialists on the above subjects as well as based on credible studies (such as the University ranking guide published by The Times or the Guardian in the UK).
As I have mentioned at the start, it really really peeves me to find students opting for the wrong courses in the wrong institutions of higher learning, which happens quite frequently due to misinformation or poor (or misguided) educational and career guidance. The university years are some 3-4 years of your life which you will not likely repeat again, and if the graduate has made the wrong choice, he will have to live through it by compensating through other means during his work life (e.g., taking a more difficult route to prove himself) in order to fulfil his or her fullest potential.