Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Grading" Private Colleges

We've discussed the issue of university rankings quite a bit on this blog. We've proposed that we should come up with a more objective way of ranking universities, both public and private, within Malaysia. It is interesting to note that the Ministry of Higher Education is going to publish its "grading" of private colleges soon as a means of providing more information for parents to make more informed choices about these private colleges.

According to a Star report last week, the Minister for Higher Education, Mustapa Mohamed, announced that private colleges or IPTS will give given one of three grades - A, B or C. The factors influencing this grading include the "location, facilities and quality of lecturers". He also noted that "Private institutions that fall under Grade C category will receive a warning of a possible revoking of their license unless they improved on their “poor” areas."

The issue of private colleges / university colleges is a perennial favorite of Tony's. While I am equally concerned in regards to "fly-by-night" operations which operates out of shophouses and can "close-shop" overnight, I'm a little more optimistic in regards to the potential of the more established IPTS such as Sunway, Taylors, INTI, HELP and SEGI (just to name a few). I think that as the market for private higher education in Malaysia grows and competition increases, the pressure for differentiation grows as well. Private colleges / university colleges will have to compete harder to attract students, both locally and from overseas, and to do so they will have to compete on all levels including providing the necessary facilities (computers, libraries, athletic facilities) and an improve quality of teaching.

Granted, this process may take a while since these private institutions of higher learning are primarily driven by the profit motive (which is not necessarily bad) and have not felt the need to become full fledge research universities making real intellectual contribution to the wider academic world. But I don't think this situation will last that long. Already, with the entry of Monash, Sunawy and the Nottingham campus in Semenyih, we have two internationally renowned research universities in Malaysia. Hopefully, universities such as these also bring along the research infrastructure and culture that is so crucial towards creating a well regarded research university environment.

I think that this "grading" system by the Ministry, if implemented well, could only work to create more competition between the private institutions of higher learning. Those in the "C" cateory will be forced to improve their infrastructure - both hardware and software. Those in the "A" category would also want to find ways of differentiating themselves from the other institutions in the same category.

The only worry I have is in regards to the methodology / criteria used by the Ministry. In another Star report, a senior vice-president of an IPTS, who declined to be named said the lack of transparency in the list of criteria was worrying many IPTS operators. “We laud the move to grade us but we had requested that the criteria be made transparent since the beginning and the ministry still has not given us any information. “The criteria needs to be clear so that colleges are not wrongly categorised,” he said.

The grading scheme is a learning process. There will be some initial complaints from some of the IPTS. The Ministry, hopefully, will respond to the feedback, give clarifications and improve on its methodology for future "gradings". The Ministry would do well to examine ranking systems that have been used in other countries (namely the US and the UK) and adopt best practices that will suit the local context. I'm sure that Tony and I would be scrutinizing the details of such a "grading" scheme to check if the categories and categorization makes sense (remember classifying Indians and Chinese as "foreigners" in our public universities).

One of the by-products, hopefully, of such a "grading" report is that more information such as the student-teacher ratio, the % of lecturers with Masters or PhDs, the library holdings, computer facilities can be disseminated to the public so that parents can make more informed choices. (Maybe through mediations such as this blog?!)

In the meantime, here's to hoping that the Ministry will come up with some sort of "grading" or ranking system for our public universities as well.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kian Ming, nice commentary here. Just something I have heard recently, UTS (University of Technology,Sydney) withdrew it's twinning program partnership with Taylor's. While there has been no comment from either side on this, there has been rumours UTS was concerned the Taylor's campus was turning into a degree mill, and was churning out graduates that are below par. Just something for you to ponder. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Now got UniSa mah..find new one ditch the old..

Anonymous said...

YUP it has been confirmed that UTS withdrew from its twinning program with Taylors because of its undergraduates standard( info from UTS lecturer). Really unfair since there are some high-achievers from Taylors...Well i guess Perth will be the next mini KL :)

Anonymous said...

the vine says..high SPM achievers usu. join the A Levels at taylors lah..

..from the vine, we also heard that its previous UTS admission just require some SPM credits and students take one year taylors in-house foundation prog.and then join the UTS first year business degree program.

now that they twin with UniSa, the last intake for the UTS was the july 06 one lor...

Anonymous said...

Cant blame no standard! Most of these private colleges hire young MSc graduates from dubious un recognized universities. More cheaper salary!How to have std?

cockle hunter said...

I have visited one or two of the renowned private colleges using foreign name, and I am appalled at the facilities they have to produce degree graduates. Their labs are more similar in standard as a government form six laboratories! To make things worst the lab is a general lab which not only combine biology with chemistry, engineering and physics, the same labs are being used for all the different degree or diploma programmes runned by the college.
If you doubt what I said go and pay a visit to their labs during their open days!

While its true on paper the degrees issued by the branch campus are identical with the parent universities in terms o:
paper quality
seals etc

but in terms of syllabus, it is very doubtful.

Even if they import lecturers from their parent country but they only stay for a short stint. Bulk of the lecturers are still from local workforce.
Think of the hundreds of students and parents being duped of their money...hehe

Regarding the government want to grade private colleges into grade A, B, C, I think its better if the government set the example by grading their own public universities. Let a panel of assessors from renowned international universities do the job. I bet you you will all be shocked at the standard of our own government public universities!

Anonymous said...

How come nobody talk about the 2 Australian universities in Sarawak: Swinburne and Curtin?

Or does East Malaysia never exist in the mind of you W.Msian? I believe that to be the case because everyone insists Malaysia is 49 years old but E.Msian know that to be totally false. It's 43.

Anonymous said...

Where is Sarawak? Is it near Rembau or Jerantut?

Anonymous said...

Grading of private colleages ? I think it is too late . It is reported that 40% of the intake from oversea are landing here to pursuit other business than studying . It is a shame that government only realise now !!

Then how to we grade "university college" , is this term misleading for commercial use , how would government not regulate

Anonymous said...

It's sad to say that you don't even know where Sarawak is....

Anonymous said...

It's not just sad that the west msian doesn't even know where Sarawak is. It is EXTREMELY SAD that they don't even know where is SARAWAK. It sounds like Sarawak never exist in Malaysia history despite the size of state itself. -_-" Or maybe Sarawak shouldn't join Malaya and become Malaysia in the first place. WEST MSIAN are EXTREMELY IGNORANT and STUPID!!!

N why this blog never mention anything about Swinburne and Curtin in Sarawak?
More info about Swinburne and Curtin, please visit

Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus is situated in Kuching and Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus in Miri.

-Proud to be a Sarawakian, Extremely not proud to be a Malaysian-

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for not knowing where sarawak is.You didnt go to school isnt it..???OMG....pity you la...Besides that,Curtin and Swinburne are also famous and well known but how come nvr been mention, it also hv twin program with overseas uni.
Yeah, Sarawak shouldn't join Malaya..If not we will be much better then now..even now we are better then west msian there..bleh