Just a quick recap of my earlier post and what it's about:
One of the major peeves I have is when I see many private colleges advertising their twinning programmes as "world-class" and are partnered with the "top" universities in the various countries overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK), the United States and Australia.The very long post went on to review some of the top private institutions offering these twinning programmes in Malaysia, and their corresponding "twinned" university.
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.
In the Sun dialogue, L. E. Teoh asked Tan Sri Yahaya to comment specifically to my blog post which "said most foreign universities we twin with are mediocre ones but are 'sold' to our Malaysian students as 'world class'."
The basic arguments used Tan Sri Yahaya in defending Malaysia's twinning programmes are:
- that rankings are subjective
There are two types of ranking, professional and institutionally. Professionally in certain areas, Oxford and Cambridge are the top, but certainly not in engineering. You don't go to Cambridge for engineering. I am more concerned about the professional one, focused on the judging the particular subject.
- that these ranking studies do not refer to government publications
The research seems rather unbalanced as it's based on a commercial publication without referring to the definitive Government source for UK Higher Education Quality - the UK Quality Assurance Agency
- that ministry-approval and LAN-accredition better gauge of quality
As long as the twinning degree is ministry-approved and LAN-accredited, the quality of the qualifications should be sound.
Yes, there are indeed "professional" as opposed to "institutional" rankings. But I found his comment that "you don't go to Cambridge for 'Engineering'" amusing. While 'Engineering' isn't typically what Cambridge is famed for, it is still one of the top engineering schools in UK. Only Imperial College would probably have a stronger reputation for Engineering in the UK.
But even if Tan Sri Yahaya is correct that rankings also depends on the relevant "profession", I've taken the liberty to provide subject rankings of the twinned universities for the most popular courses such as computer science and business administration in my previous post, and they still do not reflect well on the universities (none falling within the top 40.
[A quick note to all critics of any rankings - I do believe that there's no such thing as a perfect rankings system. However, it's fair to say that the tables to differentiate between a university, say in the top 10, from one ranked 50th, and correspondingly, between 50th and those in the bottom 10th percentile.]
Tan Sri Yahaya argued that we should instead rely on the findings of both the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in the UK, as well as the Lembaga Akreditasi Nasional (National Accredition Agency) (LAN) to determine if a course or university is of quality. Perhaps Tan Sri is trying to defend these twinning institutions too hard, as a former president of Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities, for we all know that neither of the above agencies tell you which one is the top institutions - Cambridge will be rated similarly to Robert Gordon University. That way, practically all universities will be rated a "world-class university".
Tan Sri Yahaya also argued that the "traditional" top universities usually do not have "strategies involving twinning and other arrangements overseas". But that's exactly the point. These universities, due to their quality standards and enrolment requirements, would not find it profitable to venture overseas, as there may not be sufficient qualified students. Qualified students will find their way to the main campus anyway. Hence, by definition, it's the poorer ranked, and I dare say poorer quality universities will be the ones "expanding" overseas via twinning programmes.
Tan Sri Yahaya did add correctly that
[the] to students is to evaluate institutions on their own merits - examine their resources, ask questions about track records in employability and above all, ask about how the institution will prepare you for long term careers.I fully agree with the above. It is not the point of my argument to say that all students should not study at the local twinning programmes. My believe is institutions of different standards and quality is catered towards different groups of students. The top students should be aiming to enrol in the top 20-30 schools in the world, while the "average" students needs will be met by the "average" universities. What I'm unhappy about is due to unscrupulous marketing, mediocre programmes from average universities are marketed as "world-class" programmes, "seducing" top students who will consequently not achieve their full potential.
The final evaluators of the institution products are the employers in the industry. The institutions will thrive depending on how marketable their qualified students are.
It is also absolutely true that the final evaluators of the institution products are the employers in the industry - and as an employer, I find most of the graduates from twinning programmes mediocre. In addition, I find that there are many high potential students from SPM who become "less attractive" because they enrolled into the wrong tertiary programmes with the wrong institutions. There are of course, exceptions to the rule (I've hired some of these exceptions as well), but I'd like to believe that these exceptions would have done well anywhere, and possibly even better at better colleges.
Just this week, I've received a letter seeking advice from a reader who has just graduated (or is graduating) from Coventry University with one of the local colleges, with a degree in Computer Science. He was definitely an above average student with 6As for his SPM. I feel extremely aggrieved that a student with great potential spent 3 years in tertiary education without achieving his full potential (or anywhere near it). And in all probabilities, many other top students are similarly led astray by the "world-class" advertising.
Another quick note, for those top students who, for one reason or another could not go pursue their education at a top university overseas and do not want to pursue the local university route, you might want to consider the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.
[The dialogue with Tan Sri Yahaya covered other issues such as the 3+0 programmes. I will address some of these other issues in a separate post]