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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 8th October 2009: 

Malaysia’s loss of face past two years in being totally excluded from Top World 200 Universities retrieved somewhat with University of Malaya ranked No. 180 but still a long way to go for Malaysian universities to establish their excellence and international competitiveness

Congrats to University of Malaya (UM) for making a come-back in the THES-QS World Universities Rankings 2009 to be among the world’s top 200 universities – climbing 50 places from last year (No. 230) to rank No. 180 this year.

Malaysia’s loss of face in the past two years in being totally excluded from the Top World 200 Universities ranking has been retrieved somewhat with UM’s return to the Top World 200 Universities bracket but there is still a long way to go for Malaysian universities to establish their excellence and international competitiveness for at least six reasons:

(i) This is still a far cry from UM’s previous rankings in the THES-QS Top World 200 Universities – 89th in 2004 and 169 in 2005, before falling to 192 in 2006 and out of the Top 200 bracket in the following two years (ranked 246 in 2007 and 230 in 2008).

(ii) In June 2005, at UM’s centennial celebrations, then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak challenged UM to raise its then 89th position among the world’s top 100 universities in the THES-QS ranking to 50 by the year 2020. After four years, UM had fallen 91 rankings although this is not as bad as falling 157 rankings in 2007. Is Najib’s challenge for UM to be among the world’s Top 50 universities “an impossible dream”?

(iii) UM is being left far behind by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, which made giant strides from No. 223 ranking in 2007 to 166 in 2008 and 138 in 2009.

(iv) Singapore has two universities in the Top 200 ranking for the past five years. In 2009, National University of Singapore remains at 30th ranking while Nanyang Technological University improved four rankings from No. 77 to No. 73.

(v) Not a single Malaysian university in the separate THES-QS 2009 rankings of Top 50 universities for five disciplines – Engineering and Information Technology; Life Sciences and Medicine; Natural Sciences; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities.

In the 250 slots for the 50 Top Universities in the five disciplines, 49 are taken up by Asian universities with six Asian universities ranked in all the five disciplines for Top 50 Universities – University of Tokyo (ranked No. 22 in Top 200 World Universities), University of Hong Kong (No.24), Kyoto University (No. 25), National University of Singapore (No. 30) and Peking University (No. 52). Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University is ranked No. 49th in the Top 50 Universities list for Arts and Humanities.

(vi) Poor ranking of the other Malaysian universities, with adverse placings as compared to last year for Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) except for Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) viz:

Universities 2009 2008
UM 180 230
UKM 291 250
USM 314 313
UTM 320 356
UPM 345 320

If Malaysia is serious in wanting to create a world-class university system to transform the country into a knowledge-based innovative economy, it must end the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the universities and fully restore the policy of meritocracy and academic excellence coupled with social need to provide university education opportunities to economically-backward Malaysians regardless of race.

The government must recognize that so long as the NEP is kept in place in the universities, there would be no way for any Malaysian public university to compete with other universities from other countries.

If Malaysia is to get back to the trail of world-class academic excellence, all universities should be allowed to enroll the most qualified students, employ the most competent professors and researchers with competitive remunerations and restore a culture of academic excellence and freedom.

Furthermore, the Higher Education Minister must ask the Cabinet to end the present fraudulent meritocracy using both STPM and matriculation by having a common university entrance examination.

This is the recommendation of the World Bank study on “Malaysia and the Knowledge Economy: Building a World-Class Higher Education System” submitted to the government in 2007.

Otherwise, the Higher Education Ministry is only continuing to pay lip service to university excellence and quality without the political will to bring about the institutional changes without which there is no way for UM to meet the challenge to be among the World Top 50 universities and for other Malaysian universities to be in the World Top 100 or 200 universities.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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