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University of Malaya may follow  USM and drop out of the THES World University Ranking for Top 200 universities next year  if the Vice Chancellor and Higher Education Minister persist in their denial syndrome and refusal to wake up to what all Malaysians have known for a long time



Media Statement at the DAP  Deepavali Open House held at Kampong Tawas

by Lim Kit Siang  

Ipoh ,Tuesday): The University of Malaya (UM)  may follow  University Sains Malaysia (USM) and drop out of the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking for Top 200 universities next year  if the  UM Vice Chancellor and the Higher Education Minister persist in their denial syndrome and refusal to wake up to what all Malaysians have known for a long time – the sharp drop and decline of academic excellence and university standards of Malaysian public universities led by the nation’s premier university in the past three decades.


For the fifth day, the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh  has kept mum on the THES World University Ranking 2005 which saw UM  plunging 80 places from 89th to 169th position while USM fell more than 89 places and was knocked out of the Top 200 Universities Ranking altogether.


Is Shafie still in “shell shock” from the 2005 World University Ranking or is he desperately looking for credible  excuses to explain away the importance and relevance of the  World University Ranking, waiting to see how the UN Vice Chancellor Datuk Prof Dr. Hashim Yaakob is faring with his ridiculous comments and responses?


As if the 80-place plunge of UM in the World University Ranking 2005 is not sufficient shame and dishonour to the nation’s premier university , Hashim has brought the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit to new heights when he managed to plunge the university into greater shame and dishonour with his infamous statement that he was not worried about UM falling from 89th to 169th placing.


It is most fortunate that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is clear-sighted about the deep crisis of higher education as  to express his sadness at the UM’s plunge from the world ranking, showing that he  has not been obfuscated by the thicket of excuses and denials emanating from the UM Vice Chancellor’s office.


Yesterday, Hashim made the  most ridiculous and unprofessional statement  that THES World University Ranking was flawed, giving his purported reasons.   There are definitely room for legitimate criticisms of the THES World University Ranking, whether the criteria or weightage used, and THES itself has admitted the need for continuing improvements on the various indicators and statistics  for a fair international comparison of universities on different continents.


But Hashim should be the last person to criticize  THES World University Ranking now as he had fully endorsed it last year, littering the campus with giant billboards, banners and posters proclaiming UM as a “world-class university No. 89”  thanks to THES.  If he was prepared uncritically to accept THES World University Ranking last year, he is estopped from ciriticisng  its latest ranking this year or when  UM drops out of the 200 Top Universities Ranking  in future because of the refusal or inability of the likes of Hashim to exercise their critical faculties and leadership qualities in the public universities.


Hashim’s claim yesterday that UM had been wronged and victimized in the THES World University Ranking 2005 really boggles the imagination – raising the question whether he is fit to be head of a department let alone the Vice Chancellor of the premier university of the nation.


Hashim  maintained that UM’s  performance had improved despite falling from 89th to 169th spot, as  the survey by the THES  newspaper showed the university's overall score had increased to 23.5 from 16.6 last year.

He said: "Actually, UM is better this year as compared to last year as we are graded as excellent in three out of the five university categories in the survey."

The five categories evaluated are arts and humanity, social sciences, bio medicine, science and technology. UM is ranked among the 100 best universities in the arts and humanity category at number 45, social sciences at 83 and bio medicine at 82.


Hashim’s unprofessional claim contains three fundamental flaws.


Firstly, on his claim that UM’s  performance had improved despite the fall in ranking, as THES showed the university's overall score had increased to 23.5 from 16.6 last year.


It is clear that Hashim does not even know how the read the THES Ranking correctly.


Malaysia’s final score last year was 166.4 as compared this year’s 23.5, as a new criteria and different weightages have been used  – with the data normalized  to show the top institution scoring 100 in the 2005 Ranking as compared to 1,000 last year.


Hisham’s claim that UM's overall score had increased to 23.5 from 16.6 last year is therefore both wrong and meaningless.



Even operating on the basis of such a false premise as a  rough indicator, Hashim has nothing much to complain or boast about, as other universities had achieved even greater gains than UM’s overall score  having “increased to 23.5 from 16.6 last year”, as demonstrated by some of the universities, viz:


    2004 Score       2005 Score
University of Malaya 166.4  (89)    23.5 (169)
Beijing University    391.8  (17)    56.3 (15)
Tokyo University   482.0  (12)  55.1 (16)
Melbourne University   353.2  (22) 54.5 (19)
National University Spore  385.9  (18)     53.0 (22)
Aust. National University   417.7  (16)   52.9 (23)
Kyoto University   303.7  (29)     47.5 (31)
Monash University   286.0  (33)    46.5 (33)
Sydney University  245.2  (40)  42.6  (38)
Univ. of New South Wales   275.7  (36) 42.5  (40)
Hong Kong University    245.9  (39)     42.0  (41)
Chulalongkorn Univ-(below102.9) (below 200)   26.7  (121)



Even if we take the unprofessional approach of Hashim in regarding the 2004 final score in two decimal points, the 16.9-pt increase (i.e. 23.5 – 16.6) pales into insignificance when compared with the much heftier increases of other universities, such as Beijing 17.2, Melbourne 19.2,  Monash 17.9, Sydney 18.1, Chulalongkon more than 26.7, or Indian Institute  of Management  (India) which shot to No.84 from previous outside the Top 200 Ranking, i.e. a improvement of more than 29.9, Fudan University (China) which leapfrogged from No.  195 to No. 72 this year (a final score  improvement of 20.9, i.e.  from 104.5 last year  to 31.3).


Secondly, UM was ranked No. 89 last year by THES under false premises. As convincingly demonstrated by Malaysian education blogger Tony P in his post, Universiti Malaya 6th Most International University?


This is what Tony P blogged:


Universiti Malaya (UM) achieved an overall score of 166.4 to justify it's 89th placement, while Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) acquired a total score of 149.6 to achieve the placement of 111th.

”UM's score of 166.4 comprises of 50(out of 1000) for peer review score, 29(100) for International Faculty Score, 68 (100) for International Student score and 15(400) for Faculty-Student ratio score.

”USM's score of 149.6 comprises of 26 for peer review score, 27 for international faculty score, 78 for international student score and 15 for faculty-student ratio score.

”From the above breakdown, one can clearly conclude that despite the fact that the international student score comprises only 5% of the overall score, it played a disproportionately large role in raising the scores achieved by UM and USM. The international student score worked out to be 40.9% and 52.1% of the total score achieved by UM and USM respectively.”


Tony P rightly pointed out that it was ridiculous for both USM and UM to be ranked so high in having  a ratio of foreign student population, even higher than London School of Economics (LSE), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Curtin University of Technology, with the latter two often having more than 40% of total university intake comprisng foreign students.


How could  USM and UM be regarded as having more than 30% of foreign students? Tony P’s guess was right – “the statistics compilers at THES mistook Chinese and Indians at our local universities as ‘foreigners’.”


Tony P estimated that with a more correct score for international students last year, UM could have dropped from 89th position to 189th position while USM would have fallen off the top 200 universities bracket – which is what happened to USM this year.


As Kian Meng, who co-host the Education in Malaysia blog with Tony P, posted yesterday, THES 2005 had corrected this error which regarded UM as the 6th most international university in the world, which partly accounts for its plunge from 89th to 169th position in the 2005 Ranking.


The question is Hashim and the UM administrators should have known that the 89th ranking of THES World University Ranking 2004 was the result of a serious flaw on international sudents.  Why didn’t they have the intellectual honesty and decency  to point out this mistake, unless they do not even access Tony P and Kian Ming’s education blog – which is even more unthinkable and horrendous?


This is the third fundamental flaw of Hashim’s claim – that the UM adminstrators led by him fully exploited the undeserving  89th position of UM  in the 4 Top 200 Universities 2004 ranking,  with the shameless  spree of billboards, banners, posters and media advertisements, as well as misleading  the Prime Minister, the Higher Education Minister, the Cabinet, Parliament and the nation into believing that the 89th Top University ranking of UM was well-earned.


For this intellectualy dishonesty, Hashim should be sacked as UM VC.



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

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