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USM should cancel the appointment of London-based consultants and depend instead on available  local expertise to make recommendations to raise university excellence, quality and standard to be ranked among the world’s Top 200 Universities



Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Wednesday): Yesterday, I commended Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak for taking a more realistic approach than the Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya (UM) Prof. Datuk Dr. Hashim Yaacob  to the adverse rating of the Times Higher Education  Supplement (THES) World University Ranking 2005, as both UM and USM were the two worst Asia-Pacific university performers in the 2004 THES  Top 200 Best Universities.  In the 2005 Ranking, UM  plunged 80 places from 89th to 169th while USM plunged  by more than 89 places from No. 111 last year to fall outside the 200 Top Universities bracket altogether.

However, I had  also indicated my reservations about the USM decision to engage a London-based consultant to report on the reasons for USM being dropped from the THES list of the world’s Top 200 universities, especially as the consultant seemed to be actively involved in the preparation of the THES World University Ranking.

Today, I call on USM to cancel the appointment of the  London-based consultant  and depend instead on available  local expertise to make recommendations to raise university excellence, quality and standard to be ranked among the world’s Top 200 Universities.

If the USM Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak follows the blogs on the controversy sparked by the adverse THES World University Ranking 2005 (he should step forward as  an example to all policy makers and implementers on the need to keep themselves abreast with Malaysian grassroots views by reading Malaysian blogs) he will realize the criticism and opposition  to the proposal to engage the London-based consultant.

I support such criticism and opposition  for four reasons:

Firstly, why is it necessary to spend precious money to engage a “London-based consultant” to explain the reasons for USM being dropped from the THES  list of the world’s top 200 universities when all are explained very clearly about the six criteria used to evaluate the ranking?  The pithy first comment on my blog on this issue yesterday sums up the objection: “Sheer waste of money. Someone can't understand English?”

Secondly, Malaysian have adequate local expertise to pin-point  the causes for the prolonged and unchecked  decline of Malaysian university excellence, quality and standards, recommend a strategy to reverse these university misfortunes and even to implement them, without having to depend on any foreign expertise or support.

Thirdly, as pointed out by Tony P in his blog, Education in Malaysia,  the “consultant” engaged by USM is most likely the same party that conducted the THES survey, i.e. QS QuacquarelliSymmonds. Hashim had also said publicly that UM is setting up a meeting with QS around the same time to “discover” the reason behind its fall in rankings as well as to better understand the methodology.  There is clearly a conflict of interest if QS is paid by  USM and UM to explain its THES survey.  Both USM and UM should live up to the principles of openness and transparency and give a public accounting of how much funds they are spending on such a consultation, and whether such money could not be spent in a more productive manner.

Fourthly, it goes against the grain of what a great university should be when it is going to be run in accordance with the dictates of a survey. An university is great not because it followed the methodology of any survey, but because of its commitment to excellence, quality and standards. It will be a sad day if the methodology of the THES survey is going to be the charter of USM or UM. If this is going to be the case, might as well appoint the QS survey directors as the Vice Chancellors of USM and UM.

USM should cancel the appointment  of the London-based consultant and commission instead a task force of Malaysians, both from inside and outside the university, academics and non-academics, to formulate a blueprint for USM to attain international recognition for academic excellence, quality and standards and to be among the world’s Top 200 universities.

I strongly recommend Tony P, the host of the blog Education in Malaysia, to be a member of such a commission, for he has talked more sense on the problems faced by higher education in Malaysia in his blog  than many if not all the Vice Chancellors of the 17 public universities in the country.



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

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