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DAP calls on Prime Minister to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into shocking decline of quality of Malaysian universities highlighted by University of Malaya falling  from 89th  to 169th placing  while USM disappearing  from the THES World Top 200 Universities Ranking 2005



Media Conference Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

Penang, Saturday): Malaysian universities suffered a global blow when the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings for the top 200 universities shattered the complacency of the two Malaysian universities which had been listed in the previous year.

In the THES global ranking of the world’s best 200 universities 2004, the University of Malay ranked No. 89 (71 places behind University of Singapore) and the Universiti Sains Malaysia ranked No. 111.

These rankings were proudly advertised by these two universities to demonstrate their academic excellence and quality in a rather unashamed and unacademic fashion.

At the centennial celebrations of the University of Malaya in June, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed the hope that the University of Malaya could be ranked among the world’s top 50 universities by 2020.

All these dreams are shattered by the release of the 2005 THES World University Rankings in United Kingdom yesterday – with University of Malaya falling a steep 80 places, plunging from 89th last year to 169th position, one of the greatest plunges for any single university.   University Sains Malaysia plunged  even more steeply, falling out of the 200 ranking altogether from last year’s ranking of No. 111.

The THES World University Rankings is the latest confirmation of the deep  and prolonged crisis of higher education in Malaysia.  The country and government must end the denial syndrome  particularly of  the Ministry of Higher Education that the higher education system in Malaysia is very sick indeed.  A lot of hard analysis and soul-searching on the direction and future of higher education in Malaysia must now begin.

I call  on  the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry comprising  reputable academicians and respectable Malaysians  into the  shocking decline of quality of Malaysian universities highlighted by  University of Malaya falling  80 places  from 89th  to 169th placing  while USM disappearing  from the THES World Top 200 Universities Ranking 2005.

A quick look at the THES 2005 Ranking of World’s Top 200 Universities shows that Malaysia, whose University of Malaya was  regarded as one of the premier universities in the world in the sixties, has not only fallen far behind other countries in terms of university excellence and quality, but we are in danger of falling further behind.

The THES 2005 World Top 200 Universities has proven me right when I had tried to waken up Parliament, government and the nation that we are in danger of being overtaken by our neighbour in the  indicators of international  competitiveness.  In the seventies and eighties, Malaysia was ahead of Thailand in almost all significant indicators of international competitiveness, but in the past decade, we are losing to our Thailand in more and more aspects of competitiveness.

Thailand has become the “Detroit of the East” as the hub of automotive industry in the region while Malaysia, which started off ahead of Thailand in the automotive industry in the seventies and early eighties, is struggling with her Proton national car industry after more than two decades of national subsidy with ordinary Malaysians having to pay for more expensive and lower-quality cars. 

In the 21 years from its establishment in 1983 till 2004, Proton had exported 245,222 vehicles – which is not even equal to the car export for Thailand for one year.

This year we  lost out for the first time to Thailand in international competitiveness when Malaysia fell 12 places from  16th to 28th ranking
in the International Institute For Management Development (IMD)  World Competitiveness  Yearbook 2005 with Thailand placed at No. 27th.

Thailand is fast catching up with Malaysia in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, with Malaysia being stuck in No. 39 in the TI CPI 2005 while Thailand is fast improving its ranking from No. 64 last year to No. 59 this year. If Thailand improves five placings per year in the annual TI CPI, Thailand would have caught up and even overtaking Malaysia in the TI CPI at the end of the Ninth Malaysia Plan in 2010.

And now, for the first time, Malaysia has lost out to Thailand in having the better  university. Thailand’s premier university Chulalongkorn University is ranked No. 121 in  the THES World Top 200 universities, ahead of University of Malaya’s No. 169 – when last year, Chulalongkorn did not even make it into the Top 200 list.

The second point about the THES Top 200 Universities 2005 is that international competition for academic excellence by prestigious universities is very keen and ferocious, which explains why Singapore National University, which was ranked No. 18 fell four places to No. 22, with three Asian universities in the top 20 being reduced to two.

Beijing University  is now rated  the best Asian university ranked at No. 15 (compared to No. 17 last year), ahead of Tokyo University, ranked No. 16 (falling fall places from No. 12 last year).

Thirdly, Malaysia is sadly trailing behind many other Asian countries, as shown by the better ranking of  the following Asian Universities as compared to University of Malaya:

Beijing University (China)    15
Tokyo University  (Japan)     16
National University of Singapore  22
Kyoto University (Japan)  31
Hong Kong University    41
Hong Kong University Sci & Technol 43
Nanyang Tech University (Spore)  48
Indian Institutes of Technology   50
Chinese University of Hong Kong 51
Tsing Hua University (China)   62
Indian Institutes of Management     84
China University of Sci & Tech    93
Seoul National University    93
Tokyo Institute of Technology   99
Osaka University   105
National Taiwan University 114
Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) 121
Nagoya University (Japan)  129
Tohoku University (Japan)   136
Korea Adv. Inst of Sci and Tech 143
Hiroshima University (Japan)   147
Nanjing University (China)  150
Hokkaido University (Japan)  157
Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)   169
Malaya University    169
City University of Hong Kong    178
Korea University  184
Jawaharlal Nehru University 192
Showa University (Japan)  198

 Where are Malaysians to hide their face with 23 other Asian universities ranked as better than our premier university, University of Malaya?

Fourthly, Australia continues to be a power house for tertiary education not only in the region but in the world, raising the question why Australia can do what Malaysia cannot.

The Australian Universities in the Top 200 are:

Melbourne University 19
Australian National University 23
Monash University 33
Sydney University 38
University of New South Wales 40
Queensland University  47
Macquarie University     67
University of Western Australia  80
Adelaide University   80
RMIT University   82
University of Technology Sydney  87
La Trobe University  98
Curtin University of Technology  101
Queensland University of Technology 118
University of Newcastle  127
University of South Australia   154
Tasmania University    166

It is a national shame that there are 17 Australian Universities which are internationally regarded as better than the premier Malaysian university, not to mention the other 16 public universities in Malaysia.  It would appear that any university in Australia is better than the best in Malaysia. I do not believe Malaysian human capital and talents are any less inferior to Australians. If we lose out, it is in our system of governance and educational institutions.

The shocking THES World University Ranking 2005 for Malaysian universities and Malaysians should be the top agenda for parliamentary debate when MPs reconvene on November 14, 2005 for the resumed debate on the 2006 Budget. 

The question to be asked is whether the country can afford to have a Higher Education Minister who preside over the disastrous plunge in the international ratings of Malaysian universities.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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