Malaysian varsities fail to make the cut among Asia’s top 100

June 11, 2015

THE’s Asia’s top 100: University of Tokyo No.1 and NUS No.2

by Anisah

University of TokyoUniversity of Tokyo

Despite the gains Malaysia has made in the 2015 QS University Rankings: Asia, local varsities again failed to feature in Times Higher Education’s (THE) 2015 ranking of Asian universities released today.

THE’s Asia university rankings sees Singapore’s National University of Singapore (NUS) maintaining its second place and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) rising to 10th place.

Topping the list is Japan’s University of Tokyo, while University of Hong Kong is at third place, followed by China’s Peking University and Tsinghua University.

NUS2NUS No.2 in Asia

Thailand has two universities in this year’s top 100: King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi at 55th place and Mahidol University at 91st. Countries like Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran also show improvements.

In contrast, Malaysia has so far featured just once in THE’s annual Asia University Rankings: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) came in at 87th place when the ranking debuted in 2013.

The representative Fran Langdon told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that local universities had “poor global visibility”. “In the case of Malaysia, it really is a case of ‘you have to be in it to win it’ and unless we see more participation from Malaysia as a whole, I do not anticipate its universities making the tables in the near future – they are suffering from poor global visibility for one.”

But she was unable to reveal which Malaysian universities had submitted data to be ranked, saying THE only disclosed the names of those that made the top 100.

Previously, THE editor Phil Baty told The Malaysian Insider that local universities’ refusal to submit data to be ranked, as well as weak research, are two reasons they fared badly in THE’s rankings.

In an immediate response, DAP’s MP in charge of education, Zairil Khir Johari, said Malaysia could not be afraid to compete with the world if it wished to be world class.

“A few weeks back, Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh once again repeated his claim that Malaysian universities could become world class at their current rate of progress,” he told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

“Unfortunately, such a claim is nothing but a pipe dream when it cannot be backed up by empirical statistics. The only way to prove that Malaysian universities are progressing is through competitive international assessments such as the THE, QS, Thomson Reuters and other world rankings.”

He said the government was wrong to point to Malaysia’s performance in the QS rankings as proof it was doing well, since world-class universities did well across the board in all rankings, rather than a select few.

Yesterday, QS revealed that UM broke into its Asia’s top 30 rankings, while Malaysian universities across the board improved their rankings in its latest evaluation for 2015.

But Zairil said in the Centre for World University Rankings, UM only managed to place 492nd in the world, while it ranked 423rd in the Thomson Reuters Best Global Universities Rankings. “Unfortunately, cherry-picking is disingenuous,” he said.

Baty had in the past similarly cautioned Malaysia not to rely solely on rankings that put them in a good light, while QS said its ranking should not be used as the only measure of quality of Malaysian institutions.

On May 21, Idris acknowledged the need to participate in THE’s rankings, but did not mention any deadline.“We are aware that the QS ranking isn’t the only ranking out there. But we must begin with the QS rankings. For instance, children start out by riding ponies before they ride horses,” Idris had said.

He had also told the Dewan Rakyat that last year’s SCimago Journal and Country Rank revealed Malaysia had published more journals than Singapore in 2013.

But Zairil  said Idris was again being “selective” about facts, adding that Malaysia had 63 institutions of higher learning, while Singapore only had 32.

“As such, number of publications is a terrible indicator as we should technically be doubling Singapore’s output. A more nuanced assessment should be based on the impact and quality of research, such as the Thomson ISI Index for scientific articles and other impact assessments.

“For example, NTU in Singapore placed first in Asia in terms of quality and impact of research, based on research by Thomson Reuters and Elsevier. Being only 23 years old, this is a great achievement as it has outperformed universities from Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.”

Zairil said Asia was projected to be the next “global higher education superpower” as a result of vast improvements in many Asian universities, but Malaysia appeared to be left out of the Asian education renaissance.

“Besides China, other countries that have done well are Japan, though its dominance is now increasingly threatened by newcomers, South Korea and Taiwan.

“Hong Kong, for example, has seen all six of its universities ranked in the top 50 now, an improvement from last year. Even Macau has entered the rankings with the University of Macau at joint 40th place.”

10 thoughts on “Malaysian varsities fail to make the cut among Asia’s top 100

  1. I really do not know why everyone seems to be so obsessed wth world ranking and Asian ranking. As far back as the early 1970s, I told the Chairmen of the UM Council ( the late Datuk Dr. SMA Alhady and later the late Tan Sri Dato’ A.M. Ismail) to forget about such ranking. I told them to get the vice chancellor to do just a good job and build up UM to the best of his ability and recognition would come automatically. I also told the same to the current VC of UM in the UM Facebook. The VC (Dato Dr. Amin) had said that he would get UM within the best 100 in the ranking list by 2015. I said he should just do a good job, address and correct the wrong things in UM and build up UM to the best of his ability. At times, I wonder if those people talkig about world ranking really know what it is all about. Chung Tat Lim.

  2. Very simple and quick way to improve the rankings.

    1. Ban all ministers, government officials from sending their children for overseas studies.

    2. Cancel all government scholarships for overseas studies. Use the monies save to hire the best teachers around the world to come to Malaysia to teach these scholarship holders instead. I betcha this will cost a fraction of what we spend sending people overseas for studies.

    I guarantee you within 5 years, our univertisities will be world class. But then, I am just dreaming that our government will be bothered about this.

  3. “THE’s Asia’s top 100: University of Tokyo No.1 and NUS No.2”


    Just to share this…

    JOHOR BARU: “Nine pupils from SJK (T) Yahya Awal received a grand welcome from their schoolmates after clinching three gold awards at an international invention competition held in South Korea.

    The students also created history as it is the first time that a school from Malaysia has clinched the awards in the World Invention Innovation Contest (WIC) 2015 held on June 5 and June 6 in Seoul…”

    June 11, 2015 MYT 11:57:28 AM – Pupils strike gold in South Korea –

    From Outsyedthebox Syed Akbar Ali’s Blog – June 11, 2015 on the above article..

    “My comments : Dr Yunus Yasin you better be on the lookout.

    The Tamil schools winning all these international Science contests in Beijing, Seoul, London etc is embarrasing the MIC and also the gomen.

    The MIC is embarrassed because they dont give any money to ASTI or the Science Fairs. They are not part of the program.

    The Ministry looks stupid because they paid the ‘con’ sultans RM25 Million just to prepare the Education Blueprint and nothing good has happened.

    Malaysian schools are falling out on the PISA scores. Our universities are also hitting the bottom of the league tables.

    Yet here come the quite neglected Tamil schools who dont get anywhere near as much as the allocations given to sekolah kebangsaan yet they are winning Science awards all over the world.

    This makes the MIC and the gomen look really bad.

    Dr Yunus I am glad the ISA has been abolished (though the POTA was passed into law recently).

    I dont think any of these Tamil school scientists will be volunteering to join ISIS.

    Somehow I feel that “obstacles” may be thrown up to ‘cool down’ all these high achievements by the Tamil schools. Just to save some people from embarassment.

    Maybe for future Science contests and fairs they may insist on special permits, GST compliance, shariah compliance, etc. Who knows.

    In this country there is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. Other people cannot have it.”

    Posted by Syed Akbar Ali at 6:00:00 PM

    Also to share this…

    “OK folks here is some good news for a change. Lets forget about politics for a while.

    Over the past 12 years or so there has been a quiet but now increasingly noticeable “Science Revolution” going on among Tamil schools in Malaysia.

    At the primary school level, up to UPSR, the Tamil schools are scoring the highest grades for science and mathematics. They are even beating the Chinese schools. They have left the sekolah kebangsaan behind. (Sekolah agama, sekolah pondok semua tak payah sebut lah ok.)

    And now the Tamil schools are getting into the top league in the UPSR exams. As an example, for 2014 the SRJK (Tamil) Taman Tun Aminah in Johor Bharu produced the best UPSR results in Malaysia. 43 students scored straight 7-A’s and another 43 students scored 7-B’s. Another Tamil school in Johor the SRJKT Masai has also been hitting the big leagues in the UPSR.

    There are a few factors behind the success of the Tamil schools. One of them is that for the past eight years SRJKT Taman Tun Aminah has been participating in something known as the National Science Fair For Young Children (….” (From Outsyedthebox Syed Akbar Ali’s Blog)

    May 12, 2015 Dr Yunus Yasin’s Science Revolution –

    Lee Kuan Yew and Education –

    (Vegetative Propogation) Education Debate with Dr Goh Keng Swee –

    Jul 25, 2013 RI = Raffles Institution – Singapore’s education system trumps the British –

    Circa 1988 – Meet the younger LKY having a nice chat with his friends –

    You be the judge.

  4. /// I told them to get the vice chancellor to do just a good job and build up UM to the best of his ability and recognition would come automatically. ///

    chungtatlim – how would you know UM has arrived if you do not track the university ranking? Because Moohideen said so?

  5. Looks like our public universities will have to appoint Germans, Britishers, Americans as vice chancellors just like MAS has to appoint a German CEO to bravely cull 1000s of mostly deadwood Bumi employees and cancel lopsided UMNO related lucrative catering contracts.

    This of course is only half the story. The other half is the students. If only the truly good and deserving students of any race are allowed in, then half the number of universities will have to close. How could it ever be allowed to happen? All the 100s of mostly Bumi professors and lecturers will be out of a job overnight, just like in MAS. These people will not be employable in the private sector, which is why they are in the universities in the first place…..those who can’t do, teach?

    UMNO / BN will be voted out for sure.

    Everything that requires good governance is failing in Malaysia which I suppose is to be expected as a country, (just as any organization or an individual employee), will always sink down to its own level of natural comfort, just as water will always find its lowest level of stable equilibrium.

    So Malaysia is actually where it should rightly be. Get used to it. If not you know where you can go.

  6. High Ranking university with bad teachers and bad students will lead to lower ranking. Low ranking university with good teachers and good students will lead to higher ranking. Sometimes simple change to policies can bring you benefits over and beyond your expectations.

  7. “The” asked how I knew what UM was or is if i did not not follow the world ranking or I said what I said because Mohideen said so. The answer to that is simple – I do not know who Mohideen is. I don’t speak about the standard and quality of a university based on other people’s judgement. I make my comment based on my personal experiences. I never said that I never followed the world ranking of Malaysian universities. I have been following that. What I said was that UM should not be obsessed with world ranking or any other ranking – which is different from following or not following world ranking. I happen to know a bit about higher education as I helped build up UM to what it was from 1959 to the early 1970s, i.e. before its standard began to slide down. I happen to be responsible for academic affairs in UM from 1967 to the early 1970s, responsible to the vice-chancellors then and to the University Senate. I happen to spend four years doing research In UM gathering material for my Book from 2009 to 2013. How many people who speak about higher education in Din Merican’s blog have that record, going as far back as 1959 or even earlier? I hope this answers your question, THE.. Thank you. Chung Tat Lim.
    CT Lim, you wrote the history of UM. I recommend the book to the young generation of Malaysians. I was at UM KL from 1960 to 1963. I was also offered a place in UM in Singapore but chose to go to Pantai Valley. It made no difference then whether it was KL or Singapore. But now 2015, you must be very outstanding academically to be get into the door of NUS.–Din Merican

  8. I know, Din. You and your fellow students of that period were outstanding students then. As you said, there was no difference between UM in Singapore and UM in Kuala Lumpur then. Both universities were Divisions of the former University of Malaya. The split only came in January 1962 when the Singapore Division became the University of Singapore (NUS from 1980) and the Kuala Lumpur Division became Universiti Malaya (UM), Despite the split, the standard and quality of UM continued to be high. Many of the teaching staff in UM then were from the Singapore Division. Chung Tat Lim

Leave a Reply to TL Man Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.