Monday, October 09, 2006

How UKM beat out UM

The details are out, the breakdown of how each university achieved its position in the THES raking has been released. Let's see how UKM managed to beat out UM.

2006 2005 NAME PR Rec Int'lFac Int'lStu Fac/Stu Cit/Fac Score
(40%) (10%) (5%) (5%) (20%) (20%) (100%)
185 289 UKM 32 22 9 6 25 0 29.2
192= 169 UM 33 14 10 7 24 1 28.6

Firstly, let me clarify some terms. PR is the Peer Review score which has a 40% weightage, the highest among the 6 categories. Rec is Recruiter Assement which makes up 10% of the overall score. Int'l Fac is the % of faculty in a university which are international. In't Stu is a the % of students in a university which are international. Fac / Stu is the Faculty to Student Ratio and Cit / Fac is the Citations per Faculty Ratio. The weighted scores for each individual category are then summed up and normalized against the top school, which is Harvard, which has a score of 100.

As Tony has written earlier, the difference in the scores of the universities ranked outside the Top 100, let's say, is very marginal and thus needs to be interpreted with a pinch of salt. For example, only 8.3 points separate the University of Southern California (rank 101 with a score of 36.2) and the University of Paris-Sorbonne IV( rank 200 with a score of 27.9). UKM and UM is separated by a score of only 0.6 points (29.2 versus 28.6). So even if we do take the rankings as an accurate indication of quality, it is hard to say that UKM is that much "better" than UM. In any case, the only category which UKM performed discernibly better than UM is in the recruitment category where UKM scored 22 and UM scored only 14.

But what is undeniable is the psychological effect that this has on the adminstrators of both institutions. While the scores themselves don't indicate that much a of difference between the two institutions, the changes in the ranking of the respsective universities ARE very different. UKM jumped from being ranked 289 in the 2005 rankings to being ranked 185 in 2006, a jump of 104 places while UM fell 23 places from 169 to 192, very close to being left out of the Top 200.

I applaud the measured responses of all the VCs at a recent press conference as reported in the Star and Bernama. This is in stark contrast to the antics of the now infamous 'Billboard Hashim' of the past 2 years. I'm also glad that newly appointed UKM VC Dr Sharifah Hapsah did not gloat about the 'achievement' of UKM in breaking into the top 200. But more on their individual comments later.

There are still many issues that need to be discussed and data that needs to be analysed in regards to the THES rankings and the reaction to those rankings. Keep your eyes posted for more posts.


Better Education for All Malaysians said...

I disagree -- shame on the media, VCs and this site for focusing on the THES rankings. We shouldn't follow those league-table-obsessed British (yeah, Oxbridge beats all US unis but Harvard -- ask any well-informed person these days and they'll laugh at that!)

If you read press statements by top US universities, they all state that rankings (including the US News US college ranking) give only very partial view of how good a university it (Kian Ming made a good point on that 0.6 absolute difference results in a huge ordinal difference).

Instead, we rely on the job market as a barometer for how well our universities are preparing our graduates. We should demand our public unis release information on the percentage of employed grads (after say 3 months), their starting salary data, and also percentage who go on to do postgraduate studies at top universities. These statistics say much more about the quality of a university that any ranking can provide.

Rajan R said...

To Better Education for All Malaysians: That's a pretty sucky criteria to judge a university - especially a research university. What happens if a university churns out a high ratio of students who plainly don't care much about their paychecque - I for one am considering joining an NGO after graduation. If a high proportion of graduates from my university takes the same path as me instead of going for a high-paying job or enrolling for postgrad studies - does it mean the quality of education there is bad?

If I start a new college devoted to theological studies and this college manage to make several breakthroughs in the research, of say, the Bible - does the fact that my college churns out pretty much mostly low-waged pastors mean that my college is a sucky one?

And using starting pay is a notorious bad way of judging quality of education NOT ONLY because not all students go to university for materialistic reasons, but rather it cannot separate what is caused by the education received and what has nothing to do with university education. If University X churns out a high number of entrepeuners who, empathetically, don't have high starting salaries, and that's because University X's curriculum prides itself on entrepeunership - does it mean UX is a bad university?

If UMNO opens an elite university only for UMNOputras, with all of them coming out with jobs with astronomical starting pays - does this mean Universiti UMNOputra is a stunning exemplar of tertiary education? And what about universities with low to non-existant entry requirements - is it fair to paint the top students, the average and the downright pitiful with the same brush?