Just as Vice Chancellors must
be held responsible for the poor rankings of their universities, Higher
Education Minister Mustapha must also bear personal responsibility for the
dismal international ranking of Malaysian universities
Spech at DAP Bukit Bendera Dinner
by Lim Kit Siang
Just as Vice Chancellors must
be held responsible for the poor rankings of their universities, the
Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad must bear personal
responsibility for the dismal international ranking of Malaysian
universities - particularly for 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
I find it scandalous that the shocking fall of the ranking of Malaysian
universities THES-QS 2007 World Top 200 Universities was totally ignored
by last week’s UMNO General Assembly, whether by UMNO delegates or
leaders, although the 2007 THES-QS rankings were revealed when the UMNO
General Assembly was in session.
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
Further details and studies have shown that Malaysian universities have
suffered a very serious drop in the international league of the world’s
best universities, virtually undergoing a free fall when compared to other
For the first time, there is not a single university in the Top 200
Both Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Malaya (UM) had
fell out of the Top 200 Universities ranking, with UKM plunging from 185th
slot last year to 309th while University of Malaya plunged from 89th in
2004 to 169th in 2005, 192nd in 2006 to 246th in 2007. Universiti Sains
Malaysia (USM), which was ranked as the only “outstanding” five-star
university in a recent government survey, fell to 307th spot from 277 last
year. In 2005, USM was in the 326th spot.
But this is not the only dismal result for Malaysian universities in the
THES-QS 2007 ranking. Also for the first time, there is not a single
Malaysian university in the separate listing of Top 100 Universities for
five subject areas – Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and
Humanities; Life Sciences and Biomedicine; and Engineering and Information
Last year Malaysia was placed in four of the 500 slots in the five Top 100
Universities for the five subjects - University of Malaya ranked 49 in
Social Sciences and 95 in Natural Sciences, UKM No. 62 in Natural Sciences
and USM at No. 96 for Life Sciences and Biomedicine.
This year, Malaysia was completely excluded in all the five listings of
Top 100 Universities for the five categories.
There are 38 “elite of elite” universities, which are not only ranked in
the Top 200 Universities list, but also ranked in every one of the five
Top 100 subject list. The country breakdown and details for these 38
“elite of elite” universities are:
United States - 15
United Kingdom - 4
Australia - 6
Canada - 5
China - 2
Japan - 2
S. Korea - 1
Taiwan - 1
Spore - 1
Hong Kong - 1
Total - 38
United States – (Ranking in
Top 200 Universities in bracket)
John Hopkins (15)
Carnegie Mellon (20)
California, Berkeley (22)
Texas at Austin (51)
UCL (University College London) (9)
British Columbia (33)
New South Wales (44)
Hong Kong (18)
National University of Singapore (33)
Seoul National (51)
National Taiwan (102)
I am very surprised that the Higher Education Minister, who is currently
on a visit to universities in China, had asked the Chinese government to
recognize more Malaysian universities and colleges for two reasons.
It was news to me and to most Malaysians that China has recognized 50
institutions in the public and private sector in Malaysia – 7 IPTAs
(public institutions of higher learning) and 43 IPTSs (private
institutions). This is a clear indicator that public universities in the
country are losing out in terms of academic excellence and international
recognition to private institutions.
Secondly, the Chinese government has recognizing more Malaysian
universities and colleges than the Chinese universities and colleges
recognized by the Malaysian government – when many Chinese universities
are internationally recognized for their academic merit and excellence
while Malaysian universities have disappeared from the international radar
of academic excellence.
In the 2007 THES-QS World Top 200 University Rankings, six Chinese
universities were ranked but not a single one from Malaysia.
The six Chinese universities are:
36. Peking University
40. Tsinghua University
85. Fudan University
125. Nanjing University
155. University of Science and Technology of China
163. Shanghai Jiao Tong University
China has two universities,
Peking University and Tsinghua University, which are among the 38 “elite
of elite” universities, as they are also listed in all the Top 100
Universities in all five different categories.
Altogether, Chinese universities occupy 21 spots in the 500 slots in the
five Top 100 Universities for five categories – but Malaysia does not
recognize anyone of them although we do not occupy a single spot in the
500 slots for the five lists of Top 100 Universities.
Malaysia even refuses to accord recognition to the degrees of Peking
University and Tsinghua University, two of the “elite of elites”
universities as the Malaysian government only recognizes their degrees for
Chinese language studies.
Details of the 21 spots occupied by Chinese universities in the five Top
100 lists are:
• 6 in the Top 100 Life
Sciences & Biomedicine (Peking 18, Tsinghua 51, Fudan 52, Nanjing 78,
Science and Technology of China 84 and Shanghai Jiao Tong 92);
• 5 in the Top 100 Natural Sciences (Peking 15, Tsinghua 34, Science and
Technology of China 40, Nanjing 76 and Fudan 80);
• 4 in the Top 100 Engineering & IT (Tsinghua 16, Peking 36, Science and
Technology of China 49 and Shanghai Jiao Tong 55);
• 3 in the Top 100 Social Sciences – (Peking 23, Tsinghua 44 and Fudan
• 3 in the Top 100 Arts & Humanities – (Peking 18, Fudan 45 and Tsinghua
Why has the Malaysian
government not recognized these internationally-acclaimed Chinese
universities for their world-class degrees and courses, when Malaysia does
not have any equivalent whatsoever?
It is most strange and extraordinary that a country which has dropped out
of world-class university rankings is asking for more recognition for its
universities from another country with universities of international
repute but which it has refused to recognize?
The Malaysian government should promptly and forthwith recognize all the
degrees of Chinese universities which are internationally-recognized as
among the world’s top universities, and not just the Chinese Language
Studies of four Chinese universities, before we can righteously ask China
for more recognition of Malaysian universities by Chinese government.
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 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.
It is the NEP policy and mentality which caused University of Malaya to
fall 213 rankings behind University of Singapore in less than four decades
as both universities had started on the same footing some 50 years ago.
University of Malaya is ranked No. 246 as compared to the 33rd ranking for
National University of Singapore.
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. This
is why Malaysia is also losing out to universities from Thailand and
Africa – which was unthinkable four decades ago!
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.
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 annual
brain drain depriving Malaysia of the best and brightest for the
development of the country.
For a start, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet should check the annual
four-figure brain-drain of the best and brightest STPM students and
Chinese Independent Secondary school students to Singapore by providing
them equitable higher education opportunities at home to demonstrate that
the government is serious in wanting to build a world-class university
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman