The only exception to the above is Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) whose main campus is located in Penang. USM came in at position 111th in 2004 but disappeared altogether from the Top 200 in the current year's list. The only media comment I've read made by the vice-chancellor of USM on October 30th was highlighted in the earlier post.
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."As discussed many times on this blog, this argument is total nonsense. The real and only reason why USM was even in the Top 200 in the first place, is because the guys engaged by THES to compile the data, QS QuacquarelliSymmonds Limited, made a major boo boo with the USM data. Because QS were likely to have treated Chinese and Indian students as "foreign students", USM was ranked an incredible 4th most international university in the world. See blog post here for a more detailed explanation. As a result, the "size" of the foreign students contingent in USM results in a surprisingly respectable position of 111th in the world universities rankings table.
However, for some reason or other, which I find really really really difficult to believe, the academics and administrators at the university appears to be totally oblivious to the above factual reason behind the dramatic "fall" in rankings by USM. The figures and facts to arrive at the above conclusion are easily available, published by THES and do not require any complex mathematical calculations at all.
Why then, do I read today, that the USM Vice-Chancellor has chosen to engage "a London-based consultant to report on the reasons for USM being dropped from the list of the world's top 200 universities".
The consultant will submit its report at a meeting with USM administrators on Nov 21, said vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.If I'm not wrong, the "consultant" engaged by USM is the same party that conducted the above survey i.e., QS QuacquarelliSymmonds. This is because, the UM Vice Chancellor was quoted earlier to have stated that UM is also setting up a meeting with QS around the same time to "discover" the reason behind the fall in rankings as well as to better understand the methodology.
He said the consultant was required to report in detail the criteria used by the newspaper to evaluate the top universities this year, after ranking USM at 111th spot last year.
I wish USM will just pay me the consultant fees and I'll provide the reason(s) for the "fall" in rankings. I'll even give a big discount, saving Malaysian tax payers some valuable cash. Heck, I've published the analysis here for free already!
It is interesting also to find out what type of feedback QS will be giving UM and USM, since QS is the party contracted by THES to conduct the survey. Wouldn't there be some sort of conflict of interest if QS takes $$$ from the Malaysian universities?
And so what if UM and USM managed to better understand the methodologies behind the rankings table? Would both universities then decide to adapt and change the way to run the university in accordance to the table's ranking criteria just to improve the university's ranking? That just sounds a little too silly, right?
Wouldn't it be better for both universities to just focus on improving the quality of academics and facilities at the universities? The rankings will then naturally improve if our academics produces enough quality research valued by the peers and published regularly in respected journals. I just hope that the university administrators and the education authorities will get the priorities right!