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Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 23rd August 2012: 

Can University of Malaya leapfrog in QS World University Rankings 2012 to be released in 20 days' time?

At the University of Malaya's centennial celebrations in June 2005, the then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak threw the challenge to University of Malaya to raise its 89th position among the world's top 100 universities in THES-QS (Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symonds) ranking in 2004 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 when in 2005 and 2006 it fell to 169th and 192nd ranking respectively, and in the following two years in 2007 and 2008, fell out of the 200 Top Universities ranking altogether. In 2009, University of Malaya made a comeback to the 200 Top Universities Ranking when it was placed No. 180, but in 2010 it again fell out of the 200 Top Universities list when it dropped to 207th placing.

For the 2011 QS Top 200 Universities Ranking, University of Malaya returned to the Top 200 Universities Ranking, being placed at No. 167.

In the THES-QS World University Rankings 2009, University of Malaya leapfrogged 50 places from No. 230 placing in 2008 to No. 180 in 2009; while in the 2011 QS World University Ranking, University of Malaya leapt 40 places from No. 207 in 2010 to No. 167 in 2011.

The QS World University Rankings 2012 will be released in 20 days' time. Can University of Malaya make another leapfrog as in 2009 and 2011 to seriously restore her place as one of the world's top 100 universities by before 2015?

The government has announced that in addition to Najib's challenge to University of Malaya in 2005 to be among the world's Top 50 universities by 2020, the National Higher Education Strategic Plan called for at least three Malaysian universities to be ranked among the world's top 100 universities.

Recently, the U.S. News World's Best Universities Rankings included five local universities in its Top 100 Asian Universities, but this is not really something to celebrate about.

The U.S. News World's Best Universities Ranking is actually based on the QS 2012 Top 300 Asian University Rankings released on May 30 this year, which commented that overall, although University of Malaya improved its ranking as compared to 2011 ranking, the majority of Malaysian universities dropped in their rankings this year as compared to 2011.

In contrast, University of Singapore (with whom University of Malaya was of comparable international standards 45 years ago) is ranked the second Top Asian university while Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is ranked No. 17 - way ahead of University of Malaya.

Other countries in Asia are forging ahead in their higher education planning and reforms and it is imperative that Malaysia is not left behind.

This the analysis of the 2012 QS Asian University Rankings:

The story at the top of the QS University Rankings: Asia was one of consistency, with the 21 year old Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) topping the table for the second year running, ahead of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Hong Kong University.

The top-10 generally is young, averaging at 77.5 years old, compared to 338.6 for the world rankings - indicative of an extremely dynamic region.

Chinese investment in universities has continued to pay dividends, with nine of the top-10 Chinese institutions moving up, including Peking University, which overtakes the University of Tokyo for the first time - mirroring China overtaking Japan in terms of GDP.

Japan's top-10; on the other hand, all lost ground, though it remain one of region's - and the world's - higher education powerhouses.

With NUS moving up into second, and Nanyang Technological University remaining at 17, Singapore performs well, with strong internationalization policies benefitting both universities. And with seven institutions in the rankings (four in top-15), Asia's other city-state, Hong Kong, also reasserts its status.

South Korea's performance is noteworthy. Above average investment in education and research has paid off, with the 15 leading Korean universities improving their positions, led by Seoul National University, which climbs from sixth to fourth place. A total of 55 Korean universities feature the top-300 - a figure only Japan and China better.

Outside of these nations, we see India once again underperforming, with only 11 universities in the ranking, the vast majority of which are various Indian Institutes of Technology. Internationalization has been identified as a key issue. The Philippines also performed poorly, with all its universities losing ground as budget cuts kick in.

Taiwan, on the other hand, increases its share of top-200 universities by three, taking the total up to 19. And in more good news for the nation, National Taiwan University also broke into the top 20.

Malaysia's results were mixed, with top ranked Universiti Malaya's move up to 35 offset by the drop in position of nine out of its 15 ranked universities. Thailand also lost ground, with two fewer universities (12).

Where will the Malaysian universities, particularly University of Malaya, stand when the QS World University Rankings 2012 is released in 20 days' time?

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



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