Saturday, March 18, 2006

Malaysian Universities in the Top 50?

That's the target set by the new Higher Education Minister - two Malaysian universities among the top 50 in the world by 2010. As reported by the Star:
Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said this was in line with the ministry’s emphasis on academic excellence and internationalisation.

“Among the tools available to help us gauge our progress towards these goals are international benchmarks and rankings. We have set ourselves a target to maintain at least two of our universities in the list of the world’s top 50”.
While there are those who will argue against an excessive obsession with world rankings (which I agree - if it's "excessive"), I think it's great that the new Minister of Higher Education states his position at the start of his "reign" on top. It's always healthy to have a healthy dose of comparative competition to challenge oneself to do better, in this case, our local universities.

Some of the other little positives I gleaned from the press report included the fact that Datuk Mustapa Mohamed (Tok Pa) recognised that in order to attract the best talents to the local academia, that includes both students and staff, a strong reputation from internationally published rankings or comparative tables is extremely important. Unlike his predecessor who "appreciated" rankings only when its favourable to the local universities, and criticised them when the local universities rankings dropped, this is a particularly welcome change.

So which are the "2" to-be-selected universities? While the Ministry claims to be identifying them, it's a no-brainer that Universiti Malaya (UM) will be one of them on the list. After all, it's still the only university listed in the Top 200 list. That probably leaves 2-3 universities "fighting" for the second spot. Who are the favourites?

Well, in the year when Malaysia performed credibly in the 2004 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) rankings table due to misrepresented statistics, it was Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) which was ranked at 111th, behind UM at 89th. However last year, while USM dropped out of the rankings list altogether, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, made a surprise appearance in the Top 100 Science universities of the world at joint 91st. At the same time, the new Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia, Prof Dr Nik Mustapha Raja Abdullah has openly declared his objective for the university to be in the Top 80 in 5 years' time.

I won't be surprised at some intense lobbying by some of the vice-chancellors now, for the simple reason that the identified university will receive "all the support needed to compete globally" from the Ministry of Higher Education - which basically means plenty more funds.

The only unfortunate thing about Malaysian politics is that despite making such bold declarations, our Ministers will never be accountable for the actual outcome for hardly anyone is punished for "average" or even poor performance. On top of that post-2008 general elections, we might again have a new Minister for Higher Education, and objectives, policies and targets will change once again.

But then again, there's never harm praying for sunshine :).


Anonymous said...

You notice that these politicians always set targets which go beyond their expected term in office. That way they can never be held accountable.

Anonymous said...

That's the TRIAT of politicians of setting targets beyond their term of office....
However, do not dream of achieving the targets if TRUE MERITROCRAY is not practised.

Anonymous said...

"... when Malaysia performed CREDIBLY in the 2004 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) rankings table due to MISREPRESENTED statistics..."


Anonymous said...

Correction, I mean "TRUE MERITOCRACY".... typo error.

Anonymous said...

This is my second time in this blog and I do agree and disagree to some of the comment. It's easy to comment but it's all different animal if we are to execute. Let me throw back this to the author and readers ; if you're given the opportunity to lead the education in Malaysia, what would be the first thing you do and how? Try put into account all those national agenda elements like vision 2020 etc while thinking on how to address the Malaysian education.

Anonymous said...

Vision 2020 is something that i doubt the most that will materialize when the time comes. We left with approximately 14 years to go. Be true to yourself, ask the question, are we in the right position?

Regarding to Anon (Sat Mar 18, 09:57:45 PM), yes, what you say is true to some extend. We are not in that particular position to lead, but certainly we can comment. That's the right of a citizen, as stated in constitution - under freedom of speech. Unless you are saying there's no such thing in Malaysia.

On the other hand, what will we do if we are in that position. Let me tell you. I will abolish the NEP and practice true meritocracy, but then, i am pretty sure i will draw a swarm of fire arrows towards me :). I think you understand.

So, it's true sometimes, after talking and giving our views and comments, there is nothing else we can do. For what in the first place? Perhaps we should be more selfish then :)

Anonymous said...

Abolishing NEP is probably not that easy as yet. It needs to be systematically dismantled. How? I dont know yet, maybe start by taking off and replacing those in charge would be a good one.
As for education, first off, fire those incompetent VC, reintroduce meritocracy system, slowly replace those staff who are under performed and substandard, give students more right to protest and voice their opinions, abolish special privilleges in university level. If those people are pissed with it, so be it, that is how things are supposed to be anyway to begin with.

If it draw swarms of fire arrows, one can always justify in the political arena by saying, we are moving for a better change, and improving quality, since we are not doing well in THES we should do something that has more meaning and impact. Political arena always want justification here is one of the many. You want more? I am sure people here who read this blog can give endless supply of it.

It is not a matter of excution it is more on a matter of willingness to even listen and actually execute it to begin with. But that is just my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is indded a matter of willingness to change, but can you see it in our leaders? Our PM Pak Lah wanted a lot of changes, but he cant do enything when his subordinate won't even support him! Just look at how the MPs shunned the implementation of the police thing as blogged by Uncle Kit.

clk said...

Show me:

i) Blue Print with detailed action plans; I mean DETAILS

ii) Drop all political intervention; not just talk, walk

iii) Practice and implement meritocracy at its highest to its lowest level

iv) Implement (i) to (iii) and repeat cycle for next 2 decades...

If the above is possible, then I believe the Minister's target..

Anonymous said...

Pur.boy, the fire arrows are directed to "minister" by his/her fellow comrades (component MPs). So how can you "...justify in the political arena by saying, we are moving for a better change, and improving quality, since we are not doing well in THES..." They will sure tikam you till death for ignoring the so-called national agenda, "to create a balance society among difference races".

Sorry if i sound too extreme :P

Anonymous said...

On the education level maybe is not that bad yet since you will have the people backing it up, unless the people are equally oblivious.
Expose them more on the media about the malpractise in time and again and definitely I will still stay definitely, fire those incompetent VC. Sure I will get stabbed to death, but if I get stabbed to death without even a single person yelling out saying I am right, then I die in vain. Otherwise I think someone will eventually carry on my work.


Anonymous said...

By the way, the way Pak Lah acted so far is just not much. Even the cabinet reshuffling, he hardly change anyone in particular. I am starting to doubt him. I believe no one is irreplacable, if you fire a minister, you think no one would be eager to take his place? I think there would be many who are eager. The problem here is most likely the ministers has hidden connections and influences in the shadows, where things are too intertwined to do much. If it is in that case, if you dare resort to extreme measures, cut them off, which Badawi himself dare not do that yet.


Anonymous said...

Sounds great! I'll be proud for you guys.

I doubt the PM is collecting and keeping track of every minister's key performance indicators?

YAB PM, this will be one of the KPI for Datuk Mustapa... if you care to see it.

Anonymous said...

.. tired ... ... dun wan to talk bout this ... if they can do it ... good ... but i don't hope much ...

i said that becoz i'm one of the left-out

pedro said...

Well, that ranking (THES) is absolutely ridiculous and useless. I have studied at higher education institutions in three different countries , Portugal, the UK and the US. I got a BA from UCLA and a Msc from LSE. LSE has a higher ranking than UCLA. I have never looked at the times ranking before. I don't know what the criteria used is and I really do not care. The times sells it as a guide for helping you compare the quality of different universities. I will tell you LSE is a joke compared to UCLA in the quality of the teaching and facilities, the way students are treated by the organisation, how professional the staff is. The libraries can not be compared . LSE has a small town public library compared to UCLA’s and the librarians at LSE are not Librarians at all, from all that staff I have talked to at LSE library only one knew what he was doing , the rest are part-timers. At UCLA the library staff had degrees that allowed them to be librarians as competent as the staff at the British Library. I mean if you have never been to a good US university, you have no idea how far superior they are. If I had known what LSE was I would never had gone there. And where is Columbia university ? Come on people its not honest . The times is trying to sell the UK to foreign students.
I am European and have no hidden motive to defend the US. But the truth is that that guide is a joke...ignore it.