Did the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, give approval for the organizing of the recently cancelled Malaysia Marathon?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 9th of September 2017

Did the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, give approval for the organizing of the recently cancelled Malaysia Marathon?

The Malaysia Marathon, which was supposed to take place in Kuala Lumpur on the 1st of October, has been abruptly cancelled less than a month before the run. The cancellation was announced on the Malaysia Marathon website and facebook page on the 5th of September, 2017. On the 7th of September, the Minister of Tourism, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, announced that the reason for the cancellation of the marathon was because the organizer could not deliver its initial promise of bringing 5,000 runners from China to participate in this run.[1]

Not surprisingly, Malaysian runners vented their frustration via facebook including the FB page for the Malaysia Marathon. At the time of writing, the FB posting for the cancellation of the race had received 371 comments, mostly negative.[2] The last-minute cancellation of running events is not a new occurrence in Malaysia. It has happened many times before which is why I presented the results of a survey of Malaysia runners to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, via his Deputy, Datuk M. Saravanan in parliament on the 1st of August 2017.[3] Understandably, the Minister has been busy with the 29th Kuala Lumpur SEA games and now, with the Paralympic games which starts on the 17th of September 2017. But this last-minute cancellation raises a few questions which needs to be answered by the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Youth and Sports, which are listed as the organizers of the Malaysia Marathon (together with DBKL and Wisdom Sports (M) Sdn Bhd).

Firstly, did the Minister of Tourism have any contingency plans if the race organizer, Wisdom Sports, was not able to bring the promised number of Chinese runners to Malaysia? The Minister should know that even for established marathons with more than 40,000 participants such as the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM) and the Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM), the number of foreign participants is far less than 5,000, what more for a race that was supposed to attract only 20,000 participants.[4] Did the Ministry not think about the welfare of the Malaysia runners who had signed up for this race, some of whom had booked train, bus and plane tickets to travel to KL from other states to participate in this race? Was the Ministry not able to attract enough corporate sponsorship to help with the expenses for organizing this race, even if there was an insufficient number of Chinese participants? The explanation given by the Minister for the cancellation of this event is not sufficient and shows that the Minister does not care about the welfare of Malaysia runners and tourists.

Secondly, the Minister of Youth and Sports should inform the public if he signed off on this event. Section 33 of the Sports Development Act 1997 states that “no person shall bid to host any international sports competition or event in Malaysia without the prior approval in writing of the Minister whose decision thereon shall be final”.

Since the Minister of Youth and Sports was listed as one of the organizers for this event and the international nature of this event involving so many Chinese runners requires the approval of the Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin should state if he did indeed sign-off on this race. If he gave his written approval for the organizing of this race, then he should explain to the public what sort of assurances he had that this race would not be cancelled if there were an insufficient number of participants from China. I do not think that this would be a valid reason for other international marathons such as the SCKLM and the PBIM to be cancelled. Why should it be a valid reason for an event like the Malaysia Marathon?

In addition, there were numerous other details concerning this Malaysia Marathon which indicated that the organization of this race was not in accordance to international sporting standards (which is required by Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997) including not publishing the details of the route for the 42km, 21km and 10km races, not publishing the amount of prize money and other prizes for the 42km, 21km and 10km races and for initially ‘mislabelling’ this run as being certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)[5]. Was the Minister aware of all these potential shortcomings of the Malaysia Marathon before he signed-off and approved for this race to be organized?

The last-minute cancellation of a supposedly international marathon that included two prominent Ministries as its organizer leaves a shameful black mark on the running landscape in the country. If the Malaysian government cannot protect the welfare of Malaysia runners in a race called the Malaysia Marathon, then can we trust the government to protect the welfare of Malaysian runners in other races which are organized in the country?

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] http://www.thesundaily.my/node/479618?

[2] https://www.facebook.com/notes/malaysia-marathon/cancellation-of-malaysia-marathon-2017/276215422875144/

[3] http://ongkianming.com/2017/08/01/media-statement-the-ministry-of-youth-and-sports-needs-to-do-more-to-improve-the-quality-of-running-events-in-malaysia/

[4] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/01/marathon-targeting-20000-entries-one-belt-one-road-run-at-dataran-merdeka-expected-to-generate-rm40m/

[5] The claim of the IAAF certification was later removed when it was questioned by members of the running community.

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高等教育部不应过分痴迷于全球大学排名竞赛,而是重点关注本地的评估系统,以便改善我国大学的表现

(2017年9月8日)槟城研究机构吉隆坡分院总经理王建民博士的媒体声明

高等教育部不应过分痴迷于全球大学排名竞赛,而是重点关注本地评估系统,以便改善我大学的表现

2018泰晤士高等教育世界大学排名刚在本周出炉。起初的新闻焦点主要是两家英国大学,牛津大学和剑桥大学,分别排名第一和第二名。

尽管如此,马来西亚大学的成绩与排名并不理想。马来亚大学是马来西亚成绩最好的大学,排名介于第351至400名。紧接下来,拉曼大学则是落在第501至600名的榜单。马来西亚国民大学,马来西亚博特拉大学,马来西亚理科大学,马来西亚工艺大学,国油工艺大学均落在第601至800名之间,随后是国家能源大学排名第801至1000名和最后马来西亚北方大学是排第1001名以上(请参阅以下图表1)。

与2018年QS世界大学综合排名相比,马来西亚大学在排名榜上的位置就相对形成鲜明对比。五所马来西亚大学分别与排名第114名的马大挤进前300名的榜单( 博特拉大学排名第229,国民大学排名第230,工艺大学排名第253和理科大学排名第264)。

如果我们再参考其他两个权威排行榜-2017上海交大世界大学学术排名(ARWU)和《美国新闻与世界报道》 所报道的最佳全球大学排名,我们就会发现马来西亚的大学都排名前300之外。例如,在2017上海交大世界大学学术排名,马大和理科大学都落在第401至500名的榜单内,而国民大学和博特拉大学排在第501至600名,工艺大学排在第701至800名。

在《美国新闻》2017年大学排名,马大排名最高(第356名),随后才是理科大学(第576名),工艺大学(第639名),博特拉大学(第670名)和国民大学(第783名)。

图表1显示了马来西亚大学在QS世界大学综合排名和其他三个榜单(泰晤士高等教育世界大学排名,上海交大世界大学学术排名和美国新闻大学排名)的差别

我们要如何解释上述的排名差异呢?其中原因可能包括,QS世界大学综合排名将“学术研究和引用”占整体评分的比例分配到最低。2总结了这四个全球大学排名的评分结构,和计算了根据“学术研究和引用”(大学论文出版数量)所占总体的权重和比例。最后发现,QS世界大学综合排名分配“学术研究和引用”的评分比例仅有20%。相比之下,泰晤士高等教育世界大学排名和美国新闻大学排名给予学术研究和引用的评分比例分别高达70%75%

在QS世界大学综合排名中,学术声誉和雇主声誉占总分的50%。这些都是十分依赖受调查对象的样本和主观感受。例如,在2018QS世界大学综合排名中,马来西亚受访对象占学术调查中国籍比例过高基于马来西亚仅占世界人口的0.41%,但其受访对象在学术调查中的国籍比例却占了3.7%。学术调查中的马来西亚受访者所占的百分比甚至高于中国(1.7%),德国(2.9%)和日本(3.2%)。

在QS世界大学综合排名中,国际留学生和研究生数量占了整体评分的10%,任何想要改善QS排名的大学,只需在数量下功夫,而不需费心地提高教学质量,学术论文和研究质量或学生素质。事实上,我们也不要忘记,马大曾在2004年QS世界大学榜中排名第89名[1],原因是马来西亚的华裔和印裔学生和讲师被误为是外国人,从而错误地提高了马大国际学院和学生的积分。[2]

高等教育部决定根据QS世界大学综合排名来评估马来西亚大学的表现是十分短视的举动,因为QS排名不强调学术研究成果。如果我们继续借用马来西亚大学已改善QS排名来证明国内大学尤其是在学术研究方面的进步,那只能说教育部在自欺欺人和愚弄大马人民。

这并不意味着我们应该盲目采用其他更加重视研究成果评分的全球大学排行榜。其他排行榜系统也并非没有自己的缺点。例如,上海交通的排名对科学项目和论文出版及多少校友曾经获得诺贝尔奖和菲尔兹奖而言都是过分的重视。因此,马来西亚大学可以通过向几位诺贝尔奖和菲尔兹奖得主提供短期奖学金来改善上海交大世界大学学术排名,但此举却不太可能有效地提高该大学的整体研究成果。

因此,教育部与其痴迷于国际大学排名的竞赛,不如努力改进目前教育部和大马学术资格鉴定机构(MQA)所推行的学术指标和评分标准,以便评估本地国立和私立大学的质量。这些标准包括大马研究评估制度 (MyRA),马来西亚高等教育机构评估系统(SETARA)和以学科为单位的评估系统(D-SETARA)。目前,我们鲜少了解这些评估系统的数据是如何被收集和讨论它们的改善措施,以便公众可以利用这些数据来评估这些大学的素质或大学可以根据这些标准来改善自己的表现。例如,如果我国大多数私立和国立大学都同样获得五星的评分(满分是六星),那MySetara将很大程度地失去其评估的意义。我们又要如何区分这些大学在研究成果质量或教学水平的表现呢?

槟城研究机构吉隆坡分院刚发表了题为“痴迷全球大学排名的不健康现象” [1]的研究报告,以便提高大家对各全球大学排名系统优缺点的认识,并提出建议教育部不应过于迷恋马来西亚大学在这些国际排名上的表现,而是应该侧重于改进由教育部和大马学术资格鉴定机构所推行的评估系统。如果我们持续根据更合适的本地评分标准来重点改善我国大学的表现,那我们大学最终在研究质量,教学水平和毕业生素质方面的成绩也会有所改善。如果我国大学随后在这些全球大学榜中的排名都有所提升,那么我们可将之视为额外的奖励。

[1] Authored by Lee Zi-Sheng, an intern with Penang Institute in KL and Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Head of Penang Institute in KL. A copy of this report will be uploaded to the Penang Institute in KL website: http://penanginstitute.org/v3/research/penang-institute-in-kuala-lumpur

[1] This was when these rankings were published jointly by QS and THE. They started publishing separate rankings in 2010.

[2] http://rankingwatch.blogspot.my/2012/08/universiti-malaya-again-in-many.html#links

Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi (KPT) tidak seharusnya terlalu obses dengan ranking (penarafan) universiti dunia, sebaliknya ia harus fokus terhadap penunjuk yang dibangunkan dalam negara bagi memperbaiki universiti kita

Kenyataan Media oleh Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Ketua Penang Institute Kuala Lumpur pada 8 September 2017

Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi (KPT) tidak seharusnya terlalu obses dengan ranking (penarafan) universiti dunia, sebaliknya ia harus fokus terhadap penunjuk yang dibangunkan dalam negara bagi memperbaiki universiti kita

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 telah diterbitkan pada awal minggu ini. Tajuk utama yang menonjol di akhbar adalah tentang dua buah universiti di United Kingdom yang telah berjaya mengungguli carta di tempat pertama dan kedua, iaitu University of Oxford dan University of Cambridge masing-masing.

Bagaimanapun, pencapaian universiti di Malaysia adalah tidak begitu baik. Universiti Malaya berada di tangga tertinggi dalam kelompok universiti di Malaysia, iaitu antara kedudukan 351 hingga 400. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) pula di tangga kedua iaitu antara kedudukan 501 hingga 600. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), dan Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) semuanya berada di kedudukan 601-800, diikuti oleh Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UniTen) di kedudukan 801-1000 serta Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) di kedudukan 1001+ (Lihat Jadual 1 di bawah).

Jadual 1: Kedudukan Universiti Malaysia di Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2018

Kedudukan Nama Universiti
351–400 University of Malaya
501–600 Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR)
601–800 Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Putra Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Sains Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Teknologi Petronas
801–1000 Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN)
1001+ Universiti Utara Malaysia

Kedudukan universiti Malaysia dalam ranking THE adalah amat berkontras dengan 2018 QS World University Rankings di mana 5 buah universiti di Malaysia tersenarai dalam kedudukan 300 teratas yang diungguli oleh UM di kedudukan ke-114 (dengan UPM di 229, UKM di 230, UTM di 253 dan USM di 264).

Jika kita mengkaji dua lagi carta kedudukan universiti dunia yang terkenal, iaitu Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) dan US News and World Report’s Best Global University Rankings, kita akan mendapati bahawa universiti-universiti di Malaysia berada di luar senarai 300 teratas. Sebagai contoh, bagi carta ARWU 2017, UM dan USM berada di tangga 401-500 manakala UKM dan UPM di tangga 501-600 dan UTM pula berada antara 701-800.

Dalam kedudukan US News 2017, UM berada di tangga tertinggi bagi universiti tempatan, iaitu 356, dan diikuti oleh USM (576), UTM (639), UPM (670) dan UKM (783).

Rajah 1 di bawah menunjukkan perbezaan dalam kedudukan universiti-universiti di Malaysia bagi carta QS World University Rankings berbanding dengan tiga carta lain – THE, ARWU dan US News.

Rajah 1: Carta Ranking Universiti Dunia Terbaru untuk 5 Universiti Penyelidikan Utama di Malaysia bagi Tahun 2017/ 2018

Apakah yang dapat menjelaskan perbezaan prestasi universiti Malaysia dalam ranking QS berbanding ranking universiti dunia yang lain? Salah satu sebab yang mungkin adalah kerana ranking QS memperuntukkan peratusan terendah daripada markah keseluruhan kepada kaedah berasaskan penyelidikan dan petikan (citation). Jadual 2 di bawah meringkaskan komponen dalam keempat-empat carta ranking universiti dunia ini dan mengira pemberat keseluruhan yang diberi kepada kaedah berasaskan penyelidikan dan petikan (iaitu hasil penerbitan universiti). Ranking QS hanya memperuntukkan 20% daripada skor keseluruhan kepada kaedah penyelidikan dan petikan. Ini berbeza dengan peratusan carta lain, iaitu 60% bagi THE, 70% bagi Shanghai AWRU dan 75% bagi US News yang diperuntukkkan kepada kaedah berasaskan penyelidikan dan petikan.

Di dalam ranking QS, reputasi akademik dan majikan mempengaruhi 50% daripada jumlah markah keseluruhan. Pengiraan ini adalah subjektif dan boleh kuat dipengaruhi oleh sampel responden yang ditinjau. Sebagai contoh, dalam ranking QS 2018 terbaru, ahli akademik Malaysia mempunyai perwakilan yang tinggi iaitu 3.7%, walaupun populasi Malaysia hanya 0.41% daripada populasi seluruh dunia. Peratusan responden Malaysia dalam kaji selidik akademik ini adalah jauh lebih tinggi berbanding China (1.7%), Jerman (2.9%) dan Jepun (3.2%).

Peratusan ahli akademik dan pelajar antarabangsa adalah 10% daripada skor keseluruhan QS dan jika sesebuah universiti itu bijak, ianya hanya perlu meningkatkan angka ini bagi mempertingkatkan ranking QSnya tanpa menambah baik kualiti pendidikan, kualiti kajian akademik atau kualiti pelajar. Malahan, kita tidak patut lupa bahawa pada tahun 2004, ranking QS[1] meletakkan UM di tangga ke-89 dalam dunia kerana pelajar-pelajar dan pengajar-pengajar kaum Cina dan India telah disalah klasifikasi sebagai warga asing, dan ini telah secara palsu menaikkan skor UM bagi komponen Fakulti dan Pelajar Antarabangsa.[2]

Jadual 2: Kompenen dan Pemberat bagi Carta Ranking QS, THE, Shanghai ARWU dan US News

Ranking Komponen Pemberat Pemberat Berasaskan Penyelidikan & Petikan (Citation)
QS Reputasi akademik 40% 20%
Reputasi majikan 10%
Nisbah pelajar fakulti 20%
Citations (Petikan) per fakulti 20%
Fakulti antarabangsa 5%
Pelajar antarabangsa 5%
THE Pengajaran: persekitaran pembelajaran 30% 60%
Penyelidikan: jumlah, pendapatan dan reputasi 30%
Citations: pengaruh penyelidikan 30%
Pendapatan industri: inovasi 2.5%
Pandangan antarabangsa: staf, pelajar dan penyelidikan 7.5%
Shanghai ARWU Alumni dari institusi yang memenangi Hadiah Nobel dan Pingat Fields 10% 70%
Kakitangan dari institusi yang memenangi Hadiah Nobel dan Pingat Fields 20%
Penyelidik-penyelidik yang banyak dipetik dalam 21 kategori subjek yang luas 20%
Kertas-kertas kajian yang diterbitkan dalam Nature and Science* 20%
Kertas-kertas kajian yang diindeks dalam Science Citation Index-expanded dan Social Science Citation Index 20%
Prestasi akademik per kapita sebuah institusi 10%
US News Reputasi penyelidikan antarabangsa 12.5% 75.0%
Reputasi penyelidikan serantau 12.5%
Penerbitan 10.0%
Buku 2.5%
Persidangan 2.5%
Impak citations ternormal 10.0%
Jumlah citations 7.5%
Jumlah penerbitan yang antara 10% paling dipetik 12.5%
Peratusan jumlah penerbitan yang antara 10% paling dipetik 10.0%
Kerjasama antarabangsa 10.0%
Bilangan kertas-kertas kajian yang kerap dipetik yang antara 1% paling dipetik dalam bidang masing-masing 5.0%
Peratusan jumlah penerbitan yang antara 1% kertas-kertas kajian yang paling dipetik 5.0%

Keputusan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi (KPT) untuk menanda aras universiti Malaysia berdasarkan QS World University Rankings boleh dilihat sebagai berpandangan pendek dan silap memandangkan ranking QS tidak banyak menitikberatkan penyelidikan. KPT akan memperbodohkan diri dan masyarakat awam jika ia berterusan menggunakan ranking QS sebagai penunjuk bahawa qualiti universiti-universiti kita sedang bertambah baik, terutamanya dari segi aktiviti penyelidikan.

Ini tidak bermakna bahawa kita perlu bergantung kepada ranking universiti dunia yang memberi lebih pemberat kepada bidang penyelidikan. Carta lain juga mempunyai kelemahan masing-masing. Sebagai contoh, ranking ARWU Shanghai memberi pemberat yang terlalu tinggi kepada subjek-subjek sains dan penerbitan dan juga kepada universiti yang pernah memenangi Hadiah Nobel dan Fields Medal. Universiti Malaysia boleh meningkatkan kedudukan ARWUnya dengan memberi tempat kepada pemenang Nobel dan Fields Medals untuk jangka masa pendek namun ini mungkin tidak cukup untuk meningkatkan hasil penyelidikan universiti secara keseluruhan.

Daripada obses dengan permainan ranking, KPT seharusnya berusaha menambah baik penunjuk dan kaedah akademik yang dibangunkan oleh Kementerian dan Agensi Kelayakan Malaysia (MQA) bagi mengukur kualiti universiti awam dan swasta tempatan, seperti Instrumen Penilaian Penyelidikan Malaysia (MyRA), Sistem Penarafan Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Malaysia (SETARA) dan Sistem Penarafan Berasaskan Disiplin Pengajian (D-SETARA). Pada masa ini, tahap ketelusan dan pendedahan tentang bagaimana data ini dikumpul adalah amat kurang dan terlalu sedikit perbincangan untuk memperbaiki langkah-langkah ini supaya ia boleh digunakan oleh orang awam untuk menilai kualiti institusi dan juga institusi-institusi untuk menanda aras prestasi mereka. Sebagai contoh, MySetara kurang bernilai jika majoriti universiti awam dan swasta diberi penarafan lima bintang (daripada enam bintang kesemuanya). Bagaimana untuk kita membezakan antara universiti-universiti ini dari segi kualiti hasil penyelidikan atau kualiti pengajaran, sebagai contoh?

Penang Institute di Kuala Lumpur telah menerbitkan satu laporan bertajuk “Obesesi kurang sihat terhadap Ranking Universiti Dunia?”[3] sebagai salah satu usaha meningkatkan kesedaran terhadap kekuatan dan kelemahan setiap sistem ranking universiti dunia dan sebagai hujah bahawa KPT tidak patut terlalu obses dengan prestasi Malaysia dalam carta-carta tersebut tetapi seharusnya fokus terhadap menambah baik kaedah pengukuran yang dibangunkan oleh KPT dan MQA. Jika kita fokus kepada menambah baik universiti mengikut penunjuk yang lebih sesuai dan dibangunkan di peringkat tempatan, maka hasil universiti dari segi kualiti penyelidikan, kualiti pengajaran dan kualiti graduan juga akan meningkat. Dan jika penambahbaikan ini secara tidak langsung membantu meningkatkan kedudukan kita dalam sistem ranking universiti dunia, maka ia adalah satu bonus bagi kita.

[1] Ini adalah ketika ranking diterbitkan bersama oleh QS dan THE. Bermula 2010, ranking ini diterbitkan secara berasingan.

[2] http://rankingwatch.blogspot.my/2012/08/universiti-malaya-again-in-many.html#links

[3] Ditulis oleh Lee Zi-Sheng, pelatih di Penang Institute di KL dan Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Ketua Penang Institute di KL. Salinan laporan ini boleh didapati di laman web: http://penanginstitute.org/v3/research/penang-institute-in-kuala-lumpur

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The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) should not be overly obsessed with global university rankings but instead focus on locally developed indicators to improve our universities

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Head of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur, on the 8th of September 2017

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) should not be overly obsessed with global university rankings but instead focus on locally developed indicators to improve our universities

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2018 were released earlier this week. The initial headlines focused on the fact that two United Kingdom universities, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, topped the rankings coming in at number one and two respectively.

Malaysian universities, however, did not fare so well. Universiti Malaya (UM) was the highest ranked Malaysian university at the 351-400 range. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) was the next highest ranked Malaysian university at the 501-600 range. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) were all ranked in the 601-800 range followed by Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UniTEN) in the 801-1000 range and Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in the 1001+ range (See Table 1 below).

Table 1: Ranking of Malaysian Universities in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2018

Rank Name of University
351–400 University of Malaya
501–600 Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR)
601–800 Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Putra Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Sains Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
601–800 Universiti Teknologi Petronas
801–1000 Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN)
1001+ Universiti Utara Malaysia

The position of Malaysian universities in the THE rankings stand in stark contrast to the 2018 QS World University Rankings where five Malaysian universities were ranked in the top 300 with UM occupying the 114th position (UPM was ranked 229, UKM was ranked 230, UTM was ranked 253 and USM was ranked 264).

If we examine the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and the US News and World Report’s Best Global University Rankings, two of the other well-known global university rankings, we also find Malaysian universities being ranked outside the top 300. For example, in the ARWU rankings for 2017, UM and USM were ranked in the 401-500 range while UKM and UPM were ranked in the 501-600 range and UTM in the 701-800.

In the US News 2017 ranking, UM was the highest ranked Malaysian university at 356 followed by USM (576), UTM (639), UPM (670) and UKM (783).

Figure 1 below shows the difference in the rankings achieved by Malaysian universities in the QS World University Rankings versus the other three global university rankings – THE, ARWU and the US News ranking.

Figure 1: Latest Global University Rankings of the Top 5 Research Universities in Malaysia (2017/2018)

What can explain the differences in the performance of Malaysian universities in the QS rankings versus the other well-known global university rankings? One likely reason is that the QS rankings allocate the lowest percentage of its overall score to research and citation based measures. Table 2 below summarizes the components of these four global university rankings and calculates the overall weightage which is given to research and citation based measures i.e. the publication output of a university. The QS ranking only allocates 20% of its overall score to research and citation measures. In comparison 60% of the THE, 70% of the Shanghai AWRU and 75% of the US News rankings are allocated to research and citation measures.

Under the QS rankings, academic reputation and employer reputation account for 50% of the overall score. These are subjective measures which can be heavily influenced by the sample of respondents surveyed. For example, in the latest 2018 QS rankings, the representation of Malaysian academics in the academic survey is unduly large, considering that Malaysia makes up merely 0.41% of the world’s population yet its representation in the academic survey is 3.7%. The percentage of Malaysian respondents in the academic survey is even greater than countries like China (1.7%), Germany (2.9%) and Japan (3.2%).

The percentage of international academics and students make up 10% of the overall QS score and discerning universities which want to improve their QS ranking can increase these figures without necessarily increasing the quality of teaching, of academic research or of student quality. Indeed, one should not forget that the QS rankings[1] in 2004 ranked UM at 89th in the world because Chinese and Indian Malaysian students and lecturers were mistakenly classified as foreigners thereby artificially inflating UM’s International Faculty and Student scores.[2]

Table 2: Components and Weightage of the QS, THE, Shanghai ARWU and US News Rankings

Ranking Components Weightage Research & Citation Based Weightage
QS Academic Reputation 40% 20%
Employer Reputation 10%
Faculty Student Ratio 20%
Citations per Faculty 20%
International Faculty 5%
International Students 5%
THE Teaching: the learning environment 30% 60%
Research: volume, income and reputation 30%
Citations: research influence 30%
Industry income: innovation 2.5%
International outlook: staff, students and research 7.5%
Shanghai ARWU Alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals 10% 70%
Staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals 20%
Highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories 20%
Papers published in Nature and Science* 20%
Papers indexed in Science Citation Index-expanded and Social Science Citation Index 20%
Per capita academic performance of an institution 10%
US News Global research reputation 12.5% 75.0%
Regional research reputation 12.5%
Publications 10.0%
Books 2.5%
Conferences 2.5%
Normalized citation impact 10.0%
Total citations 7.5%
Number of publications that are among the 10 percent most cited 12.5%
Percentage of total publications that are among the 10 percent most cited 10.0%
International collaboration 10.0%
Number of highly cited papers that are among the top 1 percent most cited in their respective field 5.0%
Percentage of total publications that are among the top 1 percent most highly cited papers 5.0%

The Ministry of Higher Education’s (MOHE) decision to benchmark Malaysian universities using the QS World University Rankings is thus short-sighted and faulty since the QS rankings do not give much emphasis on research output. MOHE is fooling itself and the Malaysian public if it continues to use the improvement of Malaysian universities in the QS rankings as a sign that our universities are improving, especially on the research front.

This does not mean that we should rely on the other global university rankings which give more weightage to research output. The other ranking systems are also not without their own weaknesses. For example, the Shanghai ARWU rankings gives too much weightage to the science subjects and publications and also to universities with previous winners of Nobel prizes and Field medals. A Malaysian university can conceivably improve its Shanghai ARWU ranking by giving short term fellowships to a few Nobel prizes and Fields Medals winners but this may not improve the overall research output of that university.

Rather than be obsessed with the ranking game, MOHE should instead work to improve the existing academic indicators and measures which have been developed locally by the Ministry and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to assess the quality of local public and private universities such as the Malaysian Research Assessment Instrument (MyRA), the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (SETARA) and the Discipline-Based Rating System (D-SETARA). Currently, there is very little transparency or disclosure on how the data for these measures are being collected and even less discussion on how to improve these measures so that they can be used by the public to evaluate the quality of these institutions and for these institutions to benchmark themselves. For example, MySetara loses much of its value if the majority of our private and public universities are given five stars (out of a possible six). How do we differentiate between these universities in terms of the quality of research output or the standard of teaching, just to name two?

The Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur has published a report entitled “An unhealthy obsession with Global University Rankings?”[3] as a way to increase awareness on the strengths and weaknesses of each global university ranking system and to make the argument that MOHE should not be overly obsessed with Malaysia’s performance on these rankings but instead focus on improving the local measures of university quality developed by the MOHE and MQA. If we focus on improving our universities according to more suitable locally developed indicators, the output of our universities in terms of the quality of research, the quality of teaching and the quality of graduates will also improve. And if a by-product of this improvement is that our rankings rise in these global university rankings systems, then this can be seen as a bonus.

[1] This was when these rankings were published jointly by QS and THE. They started publishing separate rankings in 2010.

[2] http://rankingwatch.blogspot.my/2012/08/universiti-malaya-again-in-many.html#links

[3] Authored by Lee Zi-Sheng, an intern with Penang Institute in KL and Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Head of Penang Institute in KL. A copy of this report will be uploaded to the Penang Institute in KL website: http://penanginstitute.org/v3/research/penang-institute-in-kuala-lumpur

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