Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling
Jaya on Thursday, 9th October 2008:
Malaysia falling completely out of THES-QS
World Top 200 Universities in second consecutive year – another falling
domino to testify country’s deteriorating competitiveness
In his press statement to announce his
decision to step down as Prime Minister next March, Datuk Seri Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi spoke of the initiatives to “regain our country’s
competitiveness” which are “necessary to enable our nation and our
society to face the challenges that the world has in store for us”.
But in actual fact, under his five-year premiership, one domino after
another of our national and international competitiveness has been
collapsing one after another.
Two weeks ago, one such falling domino was Malaysia’s ranking on the
Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2008 which
plunged to No. 47 placing, a fall of ten places from No. 37 in 2007.
Another domino has collapsed today when it is revealed that for the
second consecutive year, Malaysia has fallen completely out of THES-QS
2008 World Top 200 Universities – further testimony of the country’s
Two years ago, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti
Malaya (UM) were listed at the tail-end of the Top 200 in the THES-QS
2006 ranking, and I had repeatedly warned both in and out of Parliament
that Malaysia risked being pushed out of the 200 Top Universities
ranking unless there was the political will to check brain-drain and
restore meritocracy and excellence to Malaysian academia.
It gives me no satisfaction but extreme sadness to see my dire
prediction come true – in two consecutive years in succession.
UKM was ranked 185th in 2006, the only time it appeared in the THES-QS
UM, once the nation’s premier university, has a sorry tale of continuous
decline. It was ranked among the world’s top 100 universities in 2004 at
89th position, fell to 169th in 2005 and 192nd placing in 2006.
Have Malaysian universities fallen into the “black hole” of
international university competitiveness stakes, unable to prove their
academic quality, excellence and worth in the international arena?
At the University of Malaya’s centennial celebrations in June 2005,
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak threw the challenge to
University of Malaya to raise its then 89th position among the world’s
top 100 universities in THES ranking to 50 by the year 2020.
Instead of accepting Najib’s challenge with incremental improvement of
its THES ranking, the premier university went into a free fall for two
years followed by completely disappearing from the Top 200 Universities
ranking in the past two years.
Clearly, Najib and government leaders did not realize or know that the
rot in academic excellence and quality of the nation’s premier
university had become so deep and septic that far from being able to
become the World’s Top 50 Universities, it was to plunge completely out
of the Top 200 Universities chart in the past two years.
After he became Prime Minister, Abdullah called for a “education
revolution” to achieve world-class universities in Malaysia.
This is another dismal failure of the Abdullah premiership as totally
lacking was the political will to carry out such an “education
revolution” to liberate our universities from the culture of mediocrity
and free lecturers and students from the fetters strangling academic
freedom and student idealism.
Malaysians are not asking our public
universities to scale new heights never achieved before – but to restore
the academic eminence, standards, excellence and quality which
University of Malaya had enjoyed in the sixties and even the seventies.
If Australia can have seven universities
among the top 100 Universities, Japan four, Hong Kong three, Singapore
two, China two and South Korea two, why can’t Malaysia have at least one
or two among the Top 100?
National University of Singapore is ranked
No. 30, while Nanyang Technological University of Singapore No. 77. What
must be more mortifying is Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University is ranked
When will Malaysia’s leaders wake up from the
slumber and realise that Malaysia has been losing out in the
competitiveness stakes and risk being relegated to the “stragglers”
instead of the “achievers” in the global society?
If Abdullah’s call for an education
revolution is not to end up as another empty slogan, the government must
confront and resolve the continuing crisis of higher education standards
by elevating meritocracy as the primary criteria for all public
universities – from appointment and promotion of academicians to
university student intake.
There should be an immediate end to the
divisive and fraudulent system of meritocracy for student intake by
introducing only one common university entrance examination, whether it
be STPM or matriculation.
Furthermore, Malaysian universities should
give top priority to academic excellence which should not be compromised
by non-academic considerations.
It is most ridiculous for instance that
University of Malaya, unranked, refuses to recognize the degrees of
Beijing University, ranked No. 50 Tsing Hua University ranked No. 56 in
THES 2008 Ranking of the world’s Top 200 universities.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor