Check annual four-figure
brain-drain of the best and brightest STPM students and Chinese Independent
Secondary school students to demonstrate that the government is serious in
wanting to build a world-class university system
by Lim Kit Siang
The national shame of Malaysia
falling completely out of the list of the world’s Top 200 Universities
this year in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES)-Quacquarelli
Symonds (QS) World University Rankings had been equaled by the scandal
that this Malaysian ignominy had been totally ignored by last week’s UMNO
General Assembly, whether by UMNO delegates or leaders.
This shows the superficiality of the commitment of UMNO leaders to the
slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemilang and Terbilang” and to transform Malaysia
into a knowledge-based innovative economy marked by a world-class
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had after the UMNO
General Assembly expressed his concern about the fall of Malaysian
universities from the international league of best universities, but why
wasn’t there a single reference to this shocking result in the UMNO
General Assembly, touted as the most important national political assembly
of the country?
Further details have shown that Malaysian universities have suffered a
very serious drop in the international league of the world’s best
For the first time, there is not only not a single university in the Top
200 Universities list, there is also not a single university in the
separate ranking of Top 100 Universities for five subject areas – Natural
Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities; Life Sciences and
Biomedicine; and Engineering and Information Technology.
For the Top 200 Universities List, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
and Universiti Malaya (UM) had fallen out of the ranking, with UKM
plunging from 185th slot last year to 309th while University of Malaya
plunged from 192nd last year to 246th spot. Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM),
which was ranked as the only “outstanding” five-star university in a
recent government survey, has fallen to 307th spot from 277 last year. In
2005, USM was in the 326th spot.
The performance of Malaysian universities in the Top 100 lists for the
five subject areas are even more dismal, with not a single university
making into the five lists although last year University of Malaya was
ranked 49 in Social Sciences and 95 in Natural Sciences, UKM was placed
No. 62 in Natural Sciences, and University Sains Malaysia placed No. 96
for Life Sciences and Biomedicine.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) (No. 33) is ranked among the
Top 100 Universities for all the five categories while Nanyang
Technological University (NTU) (No. 69) is ranked among the Top 100
universities for three categories, viz: Engineering & IT; Natural Sciences
and Social Sciences.
NUS is ranked No. 10 for Engineering & IT; No. 12 for Life Sciences and
Biomedicine, No. 25 for Natural Sciences; No. 20 for Social Sciences and
No. 21 for Arts & Humanities.
NTU is ranked No. 25 for Engineering & IT; No. 99 for Natural Sciences and
No. 88 for Social Sciences.
Even Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University is rated among the Top 100
Universities for two categories – Engineering & IT (No. 100) and Social
Sciences (No. 83)
Malaysians have not been told the real and true reasons for the shocking
performance of Malaysian universities in the THES-QS Top 200 Universities
ranking. Malaysian universities have been consistent in increasingly
deplorable results in world rankings, whether the THES-QS, Shanghai Jiao
Tong University World’s Best 500 Universities or the Newsweek’s Top 100
If the government is serious about its slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemilang,
Terbilang” to create a world-class university system to transform Malaysia
into a knowledge-based innovative economy, it must end the NEP-mentality
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
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.
One simple test of whether the government is seriously committed to
abandon the baggage of past NEP policies to create a world-class
university system is whether it has the political will to end the brain
drain depriving Malaysia of the best and brightest for the development of
For a start, I call on the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to check the
annual four-figure brain-drain of the best and brightest STPM students and
Chinese Independent Secondary school students by providing them equitable
higher education opportunities at home to demonstrate that the government
is serious in wanting to build a world-class university system.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman