LETTER

Varsity rankings: Dont blame the methodology

Piarapakaran Subramaniam

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

Many of us are not happy that the rankings of Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and University Sains Malaysia (USM) has dropped beyond our imagination.

However, blaming the change in ranking methodology is unacceptable. When a student sits for an exam, he or she cannot hope to get the same questions set. The same goes to our universities. They have to move forward and be above the system. If you are good, you will still be shining even though the system has changed.

We did hear comments from our prime minister regarding the issue. It has become our national agenda as we are hoping to be the educational hub in the region. If you noticed, there are universities ranked around 300 last year that made it to top 200 this year. It is the matter of quality.

A sense of ownership from our local university workforce must be there. As a start, do away with those who do not perform. Do not waste taxpayers' money on them. This will also show the management's commitment. Publish the key performance index on websites to motivate achievers. There are cases where individuals who failed their PhD twice end up heading departments.

We had academics like Prof Syed Hussein Alatas, who was forced to leave when he wanted to improve UM and Prof Anuar Zaini, who was discontinued despite his great work with the university. There are those among the UM workforce who can deliver a better job. Choose leaders who belong to the universities. Give them the chance to bring UM to better heights.

The industry engagement is still lacking. Do the lecturers have enough industry exposure to lead the students? Do not blame the students if the lecturers could not perform themselves. Industries are not interested in university research findings. They are much more interested in solving their problems economically. This means that universities should find solutions for problems. The habit of finding solutions that are unfit for the problem may not be economical.

Publication is important for universities, not only for their own reference, but for international reference. We are still lacking in it. Getting more foreign students enrolled has not solved our ranking problem, so think beyond that. Focus on the niche and develop it. If the vice-chancellors are not willing to step on toes to make changes for improvement, then just step down.