Sunday, September 04, 2005

Universiti Malaya: 6th Most International University?

The previous blog posts on "Universiti Malaya: 89th or Nowhere?" Part I, II and III discussed the recent rankings study conducted by The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) which placed Universiti Malaya as the 89th ranked university in the world.

As a follow up on Part III, whereby Ong Kian Ming highlighted the fact that the manner which certain points for Universiti Malaya may be "misguided", I'll discuss these items in greater detail.

Universiti Malaya (UM) achieved an overall score of 166.4 to justify it's 89th placement, while Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) acquired a total score of 149.6 to achieve the placement of 111th.

UM's score of 166.4 comprises of 50(out of 1000) for peer review score, 29(100) for International Faculty Score, 68 (100) for International Student score and 15(400) for Faculty-Student ratio score.

USM's score of 149.6 comprises of 26 for peer review score, 27 for international faculty score, 78 for international student score and 15 for faculty-student ratio score.

From the above breakdown, one can clearly conclude that despite the fact that the international student score comprises only 5% of the overall score, it played a disproportionately large role in raising the scores achieved by UM and USM. The international student score worked out to be 40.9% and 52.1% of the total score achieved by UM and USM respectively.

The THES rationale for including the "International Student Score" as part of the criteria for ranking universities is that:
More than 2 million undergraduates now study outside their own country worldwide, and this number is growing at about 20% per annum. A university's ability to attract them is one measure of its ambition and is captured by a measure of its percentage of overseas students.
I would disagree with the criteria used because a university's popularity with overseas students could be due to various other factors not related to the university's academic credentials. However, that will be for another discussion at another time. :)

The universities' achievement in the international student score when compared to the other universities in the ranking table is particularly fantastic. In fact, there are only 3 universities faring better than both UM and USM - London School of Economics (100), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) (80) and Curtin University of Technology (79). For RMIT and Curtin, these universities are renown to enrol a large number of foreign students often making up more than 40% of the total university intake. In fact both UM and USM "outperform" Monash University (64), which has more than 30% of its students originating from foreign countries. As an "international university", USM is ranked 4th while UM, 6th(!). Wow.

Do UM and USM both have enrolments of more than 30% of foreign students? With so many "qualified" Malaysian struggling for places in local universities, it would indeed be major scandal indeed if we enrolled more than 1,500 foreign students a year at each of our public universities. The fact is, neither UM or USM have any significant foreign student enrolment, except maybe at masters or doctorate levels.

So the question is, how did UM and USM score so highly in the "International Student Score"? Our intelligent guess is, the statistics compilers at THES mistook Chinese and Indians at our local universities as "foreigners". I believe that someone should ask our very proud vice-chancellor of UM whether there is a mistake in calculating the foreign student score for the THES ranking system. It may just save him some future embarassment.

If our assumption is correct, then the next question to ask will be - where will UM and USM be placed in the rankings table if the international students score be amended? Let's look at some comparative numbers:
  • National University of Singapore (NUS) which has a large population of Malaysians, Indians and mainland Chinese students scored a 46.

  • Oxford and Cambridge University which has a significant foreign population from all over the world scored on 18 and 19 respectively.

  • University of California, Berkeley scored a lowly 7.
Given the nature of our public universities which, if I'm not wrong, is restricted to only Malaysians for undergraduate degrees, I will expect the International Student score to be closer to, if not worse than that of University of California, Berkeley.

Let's be generous and award both UM and USM a 10 for their international student score, their totals will hence be amended to 108.4 and 81.6 respectively. USM will have fallen way off the top 200 universities (lowest score: 102.9), while UM will be ranked 189th.

Is there more mistakes in the calculation? Oh, very likely so - UM and USM scored 29 and 27 respectively in the "International Faculty Score", i.e., no. of foreign lecturers and academics teaching at the universities. That score is only marginally poorer than NUS and Nanyang Techological University (NTU) of Singapore's score of 35 and 32 respectively. Both universities are known to recruit worldwide for the top academics to teach and research in Singapore. We all know that the local public universities do not engage that many foreigners to teach in our faculties - did the statisticians make the same mistake as the international student score above, categorising all Chinese and Indians as non-Malaysians?

As a simple comparison, Beijing and John Hopkins University managed only 9 and 16 respectively in the international faculty score. Would UM do better than that? A marginal correction of only 7 points from 29 to 22 will drop UM out of the world top 200 universities altogether.

Please note that I'm not providing this analysis to make anyone at Universiti Malaya or the Minister of Higher Education look bad. I have the utmost respect for the UM top students whom I recruit practically "religious" for my firm. I'm publishing this analysis to make sure we are fully aware of the existing state of our higher education standards so that we can take all the necessary measures to get back on our feet.

Instead, our UM VC being all arrogant and complacent of the "commendable" 89th placing (which was achieved purely due to the international students and faculty score) and thinking that the top 50 position is within easy reach in the next few years. Anyone has any ideas how we can "inform" our UM VC?


Anonymous said...

Congrats, most cogent argument and excellent analysis.


Anonymous said...

If your analysis was right and that Chinese and Indians are considered to be “foreigners”, than it can be deduced that there are some kind of GRAND clandestine policies that are taking effects – discrediting the social contracts.

Sounds like genocide in its “mildest” form to me. Hope I was wrong?

Anonymous said...

Probably you should research or ask THES how much these universities in Malaysia paid them (THES) to be ranked this high?

Kian Ming said...

I, like you, that is if I owned a company would have no qualms about hiring the top students from any of the local universities. But I think that they succeed DESPITE of the university education system, not because of it.

It is more important to try to ascertain the AVERAGE quality of graduates coming out of our local universities. There is a great scarcity of research in this department. For example, if a systematic test of UM graduates with a decent but not superb GPA, let's say, 3.0, on writing and analytical skills, it would not surprise me if there were found lacking.

The problem with our local universities is structural and has little to do with innate racial abilities. Too bad our politicians and our university administrators don't recognize it.

There are interesting parallels between affirmative action effects in the US in higher education and the situation in our own universities.

Admin said...

Gosh...Tony..Thanks for such a clearer picture. U know what, I have been passing through UM from PJ to Pantai Baharu (short-cut to escape traffic)for more than a month.

The sign board in UM was so big and they are so proud of being list in top 100 uni in the world. I was asking myself...who is THES? Are they making the correct research or study on UM performance? Most international student?

Now i see the actual story....nothing but rubbish. Is the UM VC reading this too? I bet he is too "malu" about it..tabloid tabloid..

Anonymous said...

It is true that Malaysia has its negative side. Snatch thefts, parang-slashing and break-ins experiences are some of which I can do without. Of course, I am well aware that crime happens in all parts of the world, but I also know the difference between what is occasional, frequent and common.

What does all this do to us? It embitters, hardens and de-sensitises the human spirit.

How does it effect the economy? As corruption reigns, the fabric of society breaks down and public safety declines, our country risk goes up. It makes it more difficult to attract foreign direct investments.

In a globalised world, where we have to attract the best and brightest to our Multimedia Super Corridor, upcoming biotech park, educational institutes and other industries, we have to address the concept of a truly civil society.

Why? Simply because the best and brightest in any field will be in great demand anywhere in the world and are thus very mobile. They have many options. They seek environments that satisfy the very basic human desire of freedom, of safe public places, of a civil society, of societies of laws and equitableness way beyond monetary rewards.

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?

We need to feel passionately about the wrongs we see around us and be able to express and show that passion. Only then can we become less embittered and show empathy for victims of injustice. Only then can we become truly more caring.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree: speaking generally, barring individual morality, values and ethics, the best and brightest who are politically neutral would go the world's best employer (currently the USA) who would provide the heftiest premiums for their services, recognition of their superiority or the elite academic environment and funding for them to further their research in their beloved areas of expertise.

Even if the employer was to become a stable authoritarian state guaranteeing their safety, rights and privileges but not the rest of the population, they would still work quietly and happily under such a system. Civil society, in any society and at any point of history, is the expression of the middle classes' love of comfort, of hard work and subesequent just reward but it is not a culture that does not celebrate extraordinary accomplishments. I think it is more important to develop a culture of upward mobility and continous self-improvement which also participates in a civil society that believes in compassion for one's fellow man as well as humility.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe I have been subjected through a year of "driving through the circus of banners" only to know that UM have been WRONGLY ranked 89th!!

Just out of curiosity, what happenend to the analyst(s) in THES who made the big boo-boo of assuming that both Chinese & Indian students & lecturers were international? I am glad THES rectified their mistake.

Hopefully by this time next year the campus will be billboard-free again.......... and we can get back to the real agenda, education!

Anonymous said...

I feel ashamed to call myself a Malaysian. I might not be a smart man, but neither am I stupid, yet I am Chinese.

It pains me further to know that as advanced or intellectually superior we claim to be, we are still unable to see past skin color, or beliefs.

Let me ask you a question, if your mother treats your brother much better than you, give him a car, education and house and you "zero" - how will you feel?

You are so lazy to even talk, what can you do? If you don't like us arguing, you can go back to Indonesia!

Malays being strong? Even with all these racist quota to help the malays, the malays are still weak, so don't talk rubbish here! If we take away the tongkat, don't you think you will FALL?

Strong? Strong people don't need tongkat in the first place!

If the Chinese were to leave Malaysia as when they leave Vietnam, Malaysia will be just like Vietnam, one of the poorest countries in the world!

Malays are sharp?

Copy food, marriage festival from Indian, copy language from English. What are your original things that you guys invented? I think even the sarong is borrowed from the Indians!

I know one thing you guys didn't borrow from people, laziness and stupidity!

I forgot, you are a Muslim but I thought Quran ask people not to LIE. So do you think you will go to heaven or hell by your religion standards?

If Malaysia was built by malays, the British won't bring in Chinese and Indians to develop the economy. Malays are well known for being lazy and stupid, that is the reason why the British brought in foreign labours, were you sleeping when Mahathir pointed out this fact?

Does a strong man need a tongkat to walk? Only those paralyzed malays like you need tongkat.

What is wrong with Mahathir saying a person who needs a tongkat is weak, because that is the TRUTH. Other people can run but the malays cannot even walk without a tongkat!

Then why don't we use your logic; Give the special rights to non-malays and malays have no special rights. By then, you will complain and should you go back to Indonesia???

Why do Indonesians come to Malaysia to work when they are so strong?

Because they like to be parasites and feed on the Chinese's income tax!

Use your brain, which has not been used because you are so lazy.

The reason why Malaysia suffered a currency plunge is because the government was giving out a lot of loans to people who cannot pay back (the malays) and they were helping a lot of government cronies based on race.

Why didn't the Singapore suffer a similar fate? Because they are efficient.

In Malaysia, it is all about malays subsidies and saving malays asses.

If the Chinese didn't save the economy in 1997, the currency would have plunge even lower and the economy suffer even more!

This is all because of the weakness of the racist policies.

Isn't it stupid to see these racial bashings, and to think that we consider ourselves a successful multi-racial country?

If you do not want Malaysians and even foreigners to criticize Malaysia due to their racist policies, please remove them. That is the biggest obstacle to unity and not because we have Chinese or Tamil schools!

I'm trying to tell everyone this country is belong to every Malaysian - a country which left majority Chinese will develop like China and a country only left Malay will become like Indonesia - there is nothing special about this country anymore.

If I am wrong, then forgive me and just treat my statements as a rambling of some poor misguided fool.

Anonymous said...

The population of the Chinese Malaysians has plummeted from approximately 40 percent in 1957 to around 25 percent in 2000 although I do not have any figures for the Indians.

This trend will continue further until somebody stops the erosion of non-malay rights. Let me give a few examples:

1) In 1957, most government documents were printed in Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. At present, some government documents are printed only in malay e.g. income tax forms. This shows that only the malay language is important in Malaysia. Signboards must have their malay wording bigger in size than other languages.

2) Mosques are mushrooming all over the place, even in non-malay majority areas while the building of new temples and churches are far and few between. When Dr Mahathir declared Malaysia an Islamic state, MCA and Gerakan dared not speak out against this. This only goes to show that they are both just puppets of Umno.

3) New Chinese schools are severely restricted from being approved and built even in Chinese majority areas where the demand is high. But new national schools are being built with much gusto even if they are highly underutilised. How can MCA and Gerakan dare to say that they fight for Chinese education when parents have to send their children to far away places every morning because competition for near-homes schools is very stiff.

4) Rich malays are granted a seven percent discount when buying luxury houses and some of them are even buying an extra house for their second wife, whereas poor non-malays have to fork out the full non-subsidised amount for their first low or medium-cost house.

Instead of migrating, please have a thought toward the unfortunates who neither have the money nor the talent to migrate overseas and that includes your relatives and friends. After all, the ancestors of the major races in Malaysia are all from different countries, the Chinese from China, the Indians from India and the malays from Indonesia.

If the French in Canada, which comprises 25 percent of the population, and the blacks in the United States, which comprises only 10 percent of the population, can fight for greater equal rights, why can't the non-malays here in Malaysia?

I think the answer is obvious.


A perfect grade of 4.0 and you can't get into university to study the course of your choice? This so-called meritocracy is truly more like merit-o-crazy.

Same time next year, all this is going to be repeated.

I remember a few months back, our country was crying out to our overseas Malaysian scientists, doctors and other professionals to return back and serve their country.

But now, a few months later, we are turning away these top scorers from pursuing their chosen course. If these students somehow manage to go overseas to further their studies (through self-financing or private scholarship) and excel in their studies, would they respond to our country's cry for their return later?

I think the answer is obvious.


The government should provide qualified teachers and improve teaching facilities, but it is up to the students to take up the challenge. I went to the same high schools as many of my malay friends. They were placed on a special fast track for overseas or local universities despite having lower tests score.

As the saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life. We already have over 30 years of combined NEP and NDP, do we need any more proof that it's not working?

I think the answer is obvious.

Anonymous said...

With so many of our brainpower flowing overseas we need to ask why.

Lately, I have travelled to Australia and Canada where I met quite a number of former Malaysians. In the course of conversation the topic of migration inevitably cropped up. Hence the question, why migrate?

Practically everyone gave almost the same answer - fair treatment by the government of their adopted country. No discrimination in education intake. No special colleges for any race. All their children sit for the same exam. No such thing as one race monopolizing the government jobs. The list goes on and on.

Look at our civil servants, how many are non-malays? All the comments that there are not many non-malay applicants are nonsense. A number of my non-malay classmates applied but none was successful.

Just look at the government offices and schools. They are virtually staffed by only one race. This is not healthy.

Special rights? Look at the level of service we get at public sector and that is special service for you. The best of the best gets slighted and what do we have left?

To improve the malays lot, more have to be made to work in private companies where competition is real and what counts is your ability. If special rights only help malays to become government servants, then all the more reason not to invoke special rights.

Unless we can change quickly in time we will be swallowed by a fitter opponent. Can't you see that we will all die or survive as Malaysians - not as Chinese, Malays or Tamils? If Malaysia fails collectively, will these special rights be a source of comfort or a hollow victory?

No, we do not want to question your special rights. You can keep it for however long you may want it for but we mustn’t keep quiet when we see our beloved Malaysia dying a slow painful, death in the global arena.

We care for Malaysia, but do you?

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Anonymous said...

cool eye & anons

what you guys spout are the same relentless, "we better than u" racist remarks that abound in postings at this blog.

u think only chinese students excel in exams etc etc. if u can for one minute prised open yr eyes from years and years of being glued shut by racism, u'd have noticed that malay students have done as well and some even better than their chinese friends.

For that matter, so have the indians and campork-campork cindian, etc so there!!

if we really want national unity, people like you should try to live other people's lives. after that, maybe u'll stick yr snobbish, racist remarks in the only deserving place ..... .

i'm really fed-up of these so victimised racists.

canton mari anon

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It isn't fair to relinquish every possible blame on the Malay population of our nation. Dr Mahathir was a Malay and I as Chinese in M'sia was damn proud of what he did for our country.It is without doubt that our current governmental ruling on certain aspects such as education are favouring Bumiputeras.But still this can't be blamed on solely the Malay population!

Who came up with these racist systems? Who wanted to have a bigger quota for the bumiputeras? It is these people who should be taught a lesson on how to be fair and just to all Msian citizens. Seeing on how things fare right now in Msia,I think its going to be long before we can even nudge them to give better chances to us non-bumiputeras.

Anonymous said...

"Malays are sharp? "

"Copy food, marriage festival from Indian, copy language from English. What are your original things that you guys invented? I think even the sarong is borrowed from the Indians!

I know one thing you guys didn't borrow from people, laziness and stupidity!"


is it all malays are that bad?
and others are damn good?

racist!so do one who invent this blog.

Anonymous said...

... Interesting blog ...
I think the biggest brain-drain from Malaysia
... is Singapore's former PM Mr.Lee Kuan Yew ...
and look at how he has made an island into a 1st world country in such a short time...

When rich nations like the Arabs states learns from Singapore
and created Dubai in much the same way ...
then I think the ruling Malaysian government could learn a thing or two from Singapore as well ....

Also I wonder why did the Malaysian govt.
spent so much money into a dumb 'space' project
when much of that money could have
been spent on improving the edu. system... Such a waste..

Anonymous said...

I think UM has an opportunity to be a leading regional university along with its divorced sister NUS. The question will be how will they translate rankings into outcomes?

What is meant by internationalisaion? a university is truly international when significant numbers of their staff can a) collaborate with major universities overseas
b) collaborate with major international NGO's and multinationals.
c) attract funding from international sources
d) outsource curriculum to other countries
e) Create research outcomes that have international impact (i.e. commercial patents)
f) publish in "high impact" peer reviewed international journals

So how do Malasyian public universities benchmark against their international counterparts for points a-f?

We can discount comparing every institution in Malaysia except for two UM and USM. For USM its really only specific discplines where there is international collaboration so we can jettison this uni as "international"

So we are left with UM! lets analyse the above indicators in relation to UM.
a-b) I am aware there is collaboration with overseas institutions in relation to tropical medicine and there are individual researchers who have networked because of their time in overseas institutions. One thing is how many foreign researchers (not overseas students) do you see on UM campus. I cant recall seeing or meeting any myself, this is a indication of a problem. I would like to hear other points of view.
c)How much funds do UM researchers attract from foreign sources? I would like to hear other points of view. My suspiscion for some faculti the amount is zero.
d) Does any university buy UM curriculum? I know the Arabs pay for curriciula from US and Australia...malaysia I dont think so.
e) How many patents originate from UM malaysia? Im guessing zero but would like to hear others
f) Finally something we can measure. If you check ISI-Thomson for number of journal articles by authors address here is the results for 1998-2008
UM = 3123
NUS = 26,855

This means the number of peer reviewed articles published by NUS researchers is nearly 9 times higher than UM! I found the 3123 articles over 10 years is barely comparable to our smallest local university in Australia - University of Tasmania (they had 5,501 articles)

I conclude there is little evidence to suggest UM is an international university. To be polite UM is aspiring to be an international university, but thats as far as I will go. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

UM is a lousy university.The majority of UM students speak Malay rather than English.Their mastery of English is extremely astrocious regardless of race.I was speaking to a Chinese student at their Kompleks Perdana Siswa(KPS)when i had a roadshow there,he reacted nervously and spoke in very broken English.I think we have overly expected the university and its students.Some students there reflected to me that some lecturers refuse to use English in their lectures and the students also tend to speak in their respective mother tongue.IF this is the case,I wonder how would UM improve and make their name in the international stage.No wonder there are getting more students choosing private universities or going abroad.

Anonymous said...

woww..what a great racist statement from good eye..

don't think ur eyes are good as ur nickname is..

stop being so sarcastic and please do think b4 u write down something..

Anonymous said...

UM, Computer Science research students are generally in a HELL, No expertise supervisors, duration 6-7 years, supervisors take minimum of one year to read a thesis before submission (some more than one year), examiners take more than 7 months to examine, Supervisors are in a hunger of ISI publications

Anonymous said...

this is UM student activities

Faymie said...

cool eye, i think it should be, BLIND EYE. u shouldnt judge ppl by race, but individually instead. not ALL chinese r perfect, and same goes for other races. u cant say that all malay are lazy etc etc, as if all chineses are hard working. Nobody is perfect. Yes, i have to admit, there are many malays lazy, but not ALL of them. Some. So plz, make urself more mature and see Malaysia in another point of view.