Monday, August 29, 2005

Universiti Malaya: 89th or Nowhere? (Part III)

Ong Kian Ming, currently pursuing his political science doctorate at Duke University has provided some more detailed analysis to my blog post on whether Universiti Malaya deserves the 89th placing provided by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings. His analysis was written in the comments column for the part II of my post, but I thought that I should republish his analysis in its entirety as a blog post here:

"In my discussions with some Malaysian friends in the Malaysian Forum mailing list (a mailing list comprising maining US based Malaysian students), we discussed the THES ranking in depth. If you look at the details, there are two points that are noteworthy. Firstly, UM scored 68 in the international student category, the highest score that UM received in the 5 surveyed categories. By this measure, UM ranks 6th in the world i.e. it is the 6th most internationalized university in the world (even above Monash).(Tony P: Huh?!) USM's international student score is even higher, at 78, making it the 4th most internatalized university in the world.

If two of our local top universities has so many international students, then maybe some of our local youth political organizations should direct their ire at the university administrators for letting in so many 'foreigners'. Monash, with a score of 64, has 30% of its student population listed as foreigners. There is no way that UM or USM has a 30% foreign student population at the undergraduate level, at least to me limited knowledge. My suspicion is that THES might have counted non-Malays as 'foreign' students thereby increasing the rating of UM and USM in this category. If this is corrected, as it should be, in the next THES ranking, it wouldn't surprise me if UM and USM drops way down the ranking.

The second noteworthy point is that UM's and USM's Citations / Faculty score which accounts for 20% of the total score is 0. There are 11 schools in the toop 200 with a 0 score in this category and two of them are Malaysian universities. Granted, this score is heavily biased towards the sciences as well as towards English publications (the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and Sorbonne in Paris both score 0 as well) but even then, a large research university with a faculty whom are presumably relatively competent in English should be able to produce a score that is higher than that of let's say LSE, a predominantly social science school, which scored a 6 in this category.

Finally, if you examine THES ranking of Top 100 schools by Science, Engineering & IT, BioScience, Social Science and Top 50 Arts and Humanities, you will find that UM is NOWHERE to be found in these rankings. So the question is, if UM is ranked top 100 in the world, then surely it must be ranked top 100 in at least one of the categories surveyed here, right? Apparently not.

It was so dissapointing for me to observe all those banners around UM when I came back during summer bragging of the fact that they are one of the top 100 universities in the world. When we examine the details, we have many reasons to doubt UM's position among the elite 100 schools. It would be really funny to see what happens if THES improves their methodology next year and UM falls off the top 200. Will the VC then say that the methodology of the survey is wrong? Let's wait and see."

Tony P: I will follow up with my thoughts on the above analysis shortly. Watch this space :)


davors said...

i think the ranking list is not so creditable...
First of all.. i dun think UM is that high...
Then... Nottingham University from UK, (has a campus in Malaysia) is ranked at 178...
but the ranking of it in 100TOP UK UNI is 14...

Dilip Mutum said...

I am not sure about USM, but UM definitely does not even have 10%, let alone 30% foreign student population at the undergraduate level. However, it is a different story at the Post graduate level. In my PhD class, foreign candidates actualy make up about 40% of the total number of students.

Anonymous said...

Some report for year 2000 says the percentage of foreign students in UM is only 8.9% while at USM only 9.5%.

Anonymous said...

I am currently in one of the top UK universities. Here, we have arguably some of the best minds from the younger generation of Malaysia; many of the top scorers from all over converge here. Every year, around 40 of us enter the university, as undergraduates or postgraduates, and every year, around the same number graduate.

So how many actually go back to Malaysia to contribute their talents to the country? Safe to say, not more than 10 percent of the whole lot. Why? Because quite a number us are disenchanted by the system.

For those who have worked their guts out under the public education system, they just want to get out. This is especially true for those from lower- and middle-income families who have to struggle beyond all odds just because they are not ‘special,’ punished by the system not because of their abilities, but because of their skin colour.

Prospects for them to explore their potentials here in the UK after graduation are unhindered by any discriminatory systems.

What about the rest of the younger generation who are not so lucky? Many above-average Malaysian students are denied proper local tertiary education and end up being picked by universities from our neighbouring country (look for Singapore).

Hundreds of talented students are there because they were not given the proper opportunity at home. After graduating, most of them have to work in that foreign country for a couple of years and chances are that a great portion of them will not be coming back.

I have talked to a close friend from in a similar situation recently and he told to me that it is very depressing; in his own words, he said that he feels "like a destitute, unwanted by his own country," and yet he does not really feel as though he belongs where he is now.

Brain drain by the tank-loads is what we get. Every single year, Malaysia loses people who could potentially contribute to the country immensely.

Anonymous said...

How to keep universities relevant in the increasingly globalised world of the 21st century, universities have to spur top-notch research. We have the required infrastructure in our universities but an insufficient pool of talent.

Could this be due to the lower intellectual capability of Malaysians? Of course not. Our lack of talent is a self-afflicted and self-fulfilling phenomenon. It has been going on for decades.

A problem for Malaysia comes from its double-edged sword called; it is ethnic and cultural mix. Malaysia's malay controls the countries political system, with Indians and Chinese in many places of power in business.

Some from the Chinese and Indian population feel they are being left behind with preferential treatment given to malay. This could create a very damaging brain drain on the knowledge economy of Malaysia.

A likely scenario could give tip the advantage to Singapore. Malaysian Chinese and Indians feeling left behind, move to Singapore to fill the brain drain there. Higher wages and standard of living would lure these workers there.

Singapore has calmed ethnic relations among the dominant Chinese, minority Indians and Malays, and Westerners since the race riots of the 1960s, imposing controls on speech, the press and assembly in the process.

Salaries in Singapore are comparable to the US, but living costs are lower and Western researchers with children often receive subsidies for elite private schools.

Singapore has become more alluring in the wake of policy arguments inside the US.

By ignoring top minds in areas of specialisations which include medicine, information technology and engineering, we have essentially dumped our investment (subsidised by taxpayers money) down the drain at the last hurdle.

In effect, we have installed a brain drain in KL that empties into Singapore, Europe, Australia and America. These gainers are the lucky second buyers of our education.

We cannot afford to keep pushing away our most valuable resource in an increasingly level playing field. It is high time we stop this brain drain river and divert it into our pool.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It is over in San Francisco and I love respond to the question. Emigration is very common. Our family had been emigrated to USA (me), my elder brother (UK), my younger brother (Taiwan) and youngest brother (Canada).

All of them are doing very well. I am almost light year ahead of my Malaysian counterpart who did not move. Believe me, I do not have much grudge against the government.

As far as I am concerned, it is a matter of survival for our family. I just cannot wait for the 'system' to be totally fair. Because there is no such things. Even in many countries where there is only one race, there will be other self made problems such as left and right, and so on.

My vision from the point of Malaysian Chinese to be educated (real), not getting just a 'silly' diploma, diversify all portfolio internationally. You must understand that there are many Americans who are doing well, they always have some portfolio oversea, it does not mean that they are being disloyal.

The world is getting so small. I really do not see getting a job in Hong Kong or Taiwan or the US is such a big deal anymore. I am happy that we left, I do not think we could achieve in Malaysia 'even' if the system is totally fair. It is because we are lacking of vision for ourselves. We are always responding retroactively and try to catch up.

For example, Malaysia want to start the biotech, but I am worry that the educational level 'even' from the top university (UM, USM) is not good enough. I did research some of the top professors of said colleges. Sorry, I am not too impressed. We have to really catch up.

My wife is another brain drain. She just got a research grant from NIH by being the top 1% of all US scientists. Her boss always said: You must be the top 5% or above. Her group has a total of US$147000000 research grant (147 millions).

We have no clue what we can contribute to Malaysia's science if we return. We will be dealing with silly racial politics and intransigent bureaucrats.

Same thing happened to my brother in Taiwan, he is one of the top civil engineer in Taiwan and very successful one. It will be a torture for him to return home. What do you guys think?

My greatest concern is that if Malaysians are not serious about progress, I am a little pessimistic about the future. We will be seeing too tidal wave from China and India, and not to mention Japan, Korea or Taiwan.

We are so spoon fed by government, we can't think anymore. Yes, I have little respect for governments (Malaysia, Taiwan or USA) because they are run by a lot of incompetent peoples especially in science.

For example, all the chancellors in the university in Malaysia are from royal family. I am skeptical of their scientific achievement except they are great in giving themselves all the meaningless titles.

You see, my wife's chancellor was the 1987 Nobel laureate in Medicine. He discovered the 'Oncogene'. They are the people who started companies like Genentech ( or Chiron (, just to name a few.

Final suggestion: Education, I mean real. I accept only doctorate level. My wife has two, PhD and MD as well. Compete internationally.

Sorry for the bragging.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

First off, I (Malaysian) am a new migrant to Australia.

My whole family migrated here a few years back to ensure a better chance for my siblings and me to get good tertiary education. I am now at university doing a professional course, the entrance examination was done in a fair and meritocracy manner, without any hidden agenda.

I've know what I can do for my country in the future, but the more I think about it, the more I begin to wonder: What has the nation really ever done for me? Does it really deserve my help now?

How can one do great things when one's own country won't let one do medical studies even though one has scored straight As in the STPM? Heck, one doesn't even need to talk about getting into a medical course. I know of one senior who scored all As and applied for pharmacy, but still failed to get that.

How do you expect these bright students to feel when they are instead asked to do courses like 'wood technology' or 'agriculture'? Sorry, but such reasoning, no matter what its basis, just doesn't hold any water for me.

I left because I am not bumi and I disagree with constitutional discrimination. Also, there is a world out there waiting for me to explore. If emigrants are labeled as traitors, what about corrupt business people and politicians who remain in the country?

But think about it - it is our own salary that provides food and shelter while other social services and infrastructure etc are financed by taxes - again, which we contribute to.

Why would people stay if their talents are not recognised in their own country and they do not have the opportunities to develop their potential? Why remain when they can have these opportunities in another country?

And yet countries like the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada and Australia accept millions of new immigrants every year. At the same time, their unemployment rate is high and definitely higher than Malaysia's. So, what gives? Why do they take in more people than they need?

As it is, there is a brain drain from this country, which has been going on for decades. If we cannot even retain our own citizens who have to uproot from the comfort of familiar surroundings, what hope do we have of attracting top foreign talents?

The bitter truth is that the majority of this nation don't see the need to change things yet and until then, we can do little about it.

Humans have always migrated throughout history - 'in search of better lives'. It is in our blood. Animals also do it. Some prefer to settle, others move on at whatever odds. The Chinese race is a good example of enthusiastic migrants. The Scots yet another.

Patriotism is not a one-way thing, it is a two-way commitment. If one finds that one's patriotism and loyalty is not reciprocated as having to live with a corrupt government, discriminatory policies, inhumane and repressive laws etc., one has a right to review one's patriotism and commitment if one so chooses.

I would like to stress that we are all independent individuals, and migrating is a personal choice which should not be condemned. We live in a free society and everyone's personal liberty should be respected.

In the US, anyone whether black, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, etc has the right to run for president. There are no restrictions, one only needs to secure the votes.

Discrimination is a myth of the past era of 'White Australia'. In reality, meritocracy is the only prevailing force in action. For instance, two-thirds of undergraduates pursuing medical degrees in Melbourne University and Monash University are Australian of Chinese origin from different parts of Asia. Isn't this strong enough proof of Australia's non-discriminatory policy?

A better life to all.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I do agree with everyone when it comes to Malaysia's brain drain to other countries e.g Australia, Singapore and the UK. I have read many valid reasons but we as Malaysian's have to keep in mind that if the quotas in Malaysian Uni's were not kept in check there would be bigger problems like demonstrations by the Bumi's as it is unfair to them. In my opinion this will always lead to violence and that is why the government has their hands tied up on this issue. We have to accept the fact that Bumi right's will always remain to keep a balance and for the government to try and bring the Malay race up to speed...god knows since the 1st NEP. We as Chinese, Indians and other races in Malaysia have to accept this fact and if the brain drain continues, let it be as there is no end to this issue.

Anonymous said...

i am Malaysian n i'm malay, but sincerely i really agree with you guys, bumi are too comfortable in their own world, they didnt want to explore more n see the reality, i always wonder, why did malay often doing demonstration and stuff like that because of some right had been taken back, the subsidies for bumi is decrease or anything related with their well being but they never really think how's other races keep survive in this country even thought they didnt have much advantages as bumi.isn't that sound selfish??? eventhought its my own race, but i have to admit that we are too pampered in this comfort zone so that most of us doesnt want to get out from it. i understand why chinese n indian prefer to pursue their study oversea, even my uncle send all his children to chinese school then australia, coz he know that the opportunity is bigger, n they will go no no where here. now i'm studying at UM but i cant say that student here can compete internationally, some of them still have the third world attitude n mind even we have the first world facilities.. i did love this country but i hope it will change for a better future..