The Star has a shorter article entitled "Pak Lah wants UM to find out why ranking dropped". However, the Star must be given credit for being able to provide extensive coverage of the rankings table in the "Star Education" pull-out segment, within such a short period of time.
The responses from various parties from the government and education sector, as well as politicians and concerned parties have come in a fast and furious pace. This blogger actually feels particular "slow" in providing the necessary response! :) Sdr Lim Kit Siang himself have issued 3 statements already on the subject.
Hence over the next couple of days, you can expect Kian Ming and myself to provide additional analysis and commentary on the issue and its wider implications. While the focus of the issue is on UM itself, we believe that the problems faced by UM are really fairly uniform across Malaysia's public universities. Therefore, this issue deserves serious attention by concerned and interested parties like ourselves and others.
But first of all, I'd just like to coagulate the responses that has been provided so far by the parties related to UM and other public universities. Unfortunately, with the exception of Pak Lah, the responses has displayed apathy, the standard denial syndrome and total incredulity to the "drastic" fall in the rankings of the universities.
Our Deputy Higher Education Minister Fu Ah Kiow said the magnitude of UM’s fall in the ranking was "inconceivable".
"There is obviously some inconsistency in the ranking criteria," he said, adding that the ministry understood that some of the criteria were not relevant to local universities. For example, he said, one criterion was the number of international students and lecturers in the universities.Oh my goodness! First of all, just because UM suffered a large fall doesn't make it "inconceivable". Would someone like to volunteer forwarding our take on the previous year's rankings analysis to our dear inconceivably ignorant ministers?
Secondly, our deputy higher education minister blamed the international students and faculty criteria for the drop in rankings, and that the criteria wasn't relevant for Malaysian universities. Does he know that the only reason why UM was ranked in the top 100 for the previous year is solely because it received (mistakenly) an extremely favourable rating in the same criteria? Does he know that the reason why UM and USM received such favourable ratings is because ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians were likely to have been treated as "foreign students" previously?
While, NST was unable to make contact with the vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya, Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaakob, the Star was able to extract a few invaluable quotes from him.
UM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob said that the marks the university obtained is more significant than its ranking. UM scored 0/100 in the employer survey and highest (33/100) for peer review. The university also scored low in citations (1/100) and international students (7/100)."I am not worried" - if this doesn't make him "worried", then I really wonder what will. This statement only serves to show the type of apathy engulfing the administrators of our academic institutions. I'd hazard a cynical guess that his recent suggestion at increasing foreign student intake is to "easily" climb the rankings table. Not surprising, Sdr Lim Kit Siang has called for the vice-chancellor to be sacked.
“I am not worried because we are still within the top 200 and for the first time a Malaysian university has broken into the top 50 in the arts and humanities and the top 100 in the social sciences.”
Prof Datuk Dr. Hashim Yaacob should resign as University of Malaya Vice Chancellor not only for the shocking 80-place plunge of the nation’s premier university from 89th to 169th position in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking for Top 200 Universities 2005, but for his disgusting complacency when he could say that he was “not worried”.Just a little more than a month ago, UM has arrogantly placed a full page advertisement in NST proclaiming it's excellence - and with a cocksure stance, declared that:
From Hashim’s reaction, it would appear that there was nothing wrong whatsoever with the University of Malaya – and that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was completely misguided and misinformed to be “very sad” at University of Malaya’s slide in the rankings.
It is most shocking and completely unacceptable that the Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya is the very picture of smug complacency when he should be the most distressed and ashamed person in the country over the university’s drastic drop of 80 places in the 2005 Ranking.
In 2004, UM was placed 89th in the 'University World Ranking' by The TIMES of LONDON. YAB Deputy Prime Minister earlier this year has challenged UM to be among the 50 best universities by 2020. To achieve this target, UM has to improve its position by 2.6 places each year. What is UM's position for 2005? Wait and see in November this year!!!Yes, now we have seen - so what say you, Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaakob?
Of course, have you seen the large billboard outside UM proclaiming its world class status, are they going to take down the billboard now? Maybe, instead of "UM Sudah Bertaraf Dunia", they should just do the errata: "UM Pernah Bertaraf Dunia". It'll be cheaper than taking down the billboard.
USM Vice-Chancellor, Prof Datuk Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak was also interviewed by the Star, for the drop from 111th to "unranked". He hypothesized that "the addition of new criteria such as the employer survey could have contributed to the sharp drop in the university’s position."
“Our poor standing could also be attributed to the fact that we are a relatively young university compared to UM which is 100 years old. They have built up a stable reputation in that time.”Being academics, I find their responses extremely discouraging and shows their complete ignorance of data and facts, not to mention, the lack of any credible analytical skills. Prof Dzulkifli's theory that UM did better relative to USM because UM have acquired a more "stable" reputation hence achieving better scores in the employer survey is completely off the mark. The fact is, despite a more "stable reputation", UM scored an absolute "0" for the recruiter review.
Prof Dzulkifli also cited the poor staff-student ratio in Malaysian universities. “Over the past years we have doubled our intake. USM now has 35,000 students including 28,000 undergraduates but the number of lecturers, about 1,800 has not increased in tandem.”
The blame on the "poor staff-student ratio" while appearing reasonable, was also not the significant issue in this case. USM scored only 15/400 in the 2004 survey (yes, that's 3.75%), hence it could not have been much worse at all in the current year survey. The fact of the matter is simple. The 2004 survey ranked USM as the 4th most international university in the world i.e., with the 4th highest international student population - probably due to the high Chinese Malaysian population in Penang, and that has wrongly resulted in the 111th ranking. This year, the mistake has been rectified and USM rightly, disappeared from the list.
We expect our university academics to be more analytically sound. Instead we find them searching for irrelevant excuses, and go as far as attempting to discredit the rankings table, when it is not in their favour. Our analysis here is made purely from widely available and published data which the same university academics have access to. Their inability to comprehend and interpret simple statistical data, or worse, their possible blatant attempt at ignoring them, makes them unbefitting leaders of our premier institutions of higher learning.