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Idris Jusoh slammed for litany of ‘half-truths’

 | February 25, 2015

“Idris Jusoh is making a mockery of our higher education system by selectively highlighting statistics.”

idris jusoh world class2KUALA LUMPUR: Education Minister II Idris Jusoh appears to be behaving like the proverbial “ayam berkokok, riuh sekampung” (a chicken crows — after laying an egg — the whole village knows) when he insisted that Malaysia has achieved “world class” higher education standards.

Malaysians hope that he could be more enlightened and honest in his assessment of local education standards.

“While we are thankful that we are certainly not in the league of many Third World countries, we are far from being able to proclaim ourselves as world class without sniggers from both the academic world and the knowing public,” stressed Petaling Jaya Utara Tony Pua in the continuing war of words between Idris Jusoh and the Opposition on the state of higher education in the country.

“Idris Jusoh should stop making a mockery of our higher education system by liberally interpreting what is ‘world class’ and selectively highlighting statistics which are favourable to local universities.”

Despite being mocked publicly for his statement that Malaysia has “world class higher education”, added Pua who is also DAP National Publicity Secretary, “Idris Jusoh continued to dig trenches to defend his fantastic claim”.

He noted that the Education Minister II continued to defend local universities’ “world class” status by citing the various overall and subject rankings produced by British firm, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), over the years.

Among the biggest critics of the QS rankings is Professor Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, he pointed out.

Marginson, according to him, described the QS World University Rankings as having “a lot of dark spaces and problems the way they go about it”, adding that 40-50 per cent of the ranking was based on reputational surveys.

“They have got a ranking process which they have done very cheaply … and that’s a loss leader for a lot of other business activities,” suggesting a conflict of interest between their ranking table and their provision of various consulting services to universities.

Without even taking into consideration the quality of QS’s work, all other widely cited University Rankings Tables in the world do not rank any Malaysian institution of higher learning anywhere near the top 200, stressed Pua.

Not a single Malaysian university made it into the Top 400 list of institutions of the The Times Higher Education (THE) Supplement World University Rankings for 2014.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities produced by Shanghai JiaoTung University placed UM in the #301-400 category in 2014.

For the US News “Best Global Universities” listing, UM again was the only Malaysian institution that made it into the Top 500 at #423.

In the Ranking Web of Universities compiled by Webometrics, UPM was best ranked at 420, followed by Universiti Sains Malaysia (480), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (552) and UM (646).

Ministry of Education only selectively interested in the QS Rankings.

Firstly, said Pua, assuming that the QS World Ranking Table is a reliable measure of quality, there is absolutely nothing “world class” about UM being ranked 151st in the world.

“None of the other 19 local public universities, 36 private universities and 30 university colleges ranked within the top 250 in the world,” said Pua. “Even if Malaysia chooses to define the 151st ranking as being ‘world class’, one swallow certainly does not make a summer.”

Secondly, he said, while all ranking methodologies are imperfect, why did Idris Jusoh choose to cite only the QS rankings out of several reputable global university rankings tables out there?

“In fact, of the handful of rankings tables, QS is perhaps the most criticised for its lack of rigour and consistency in its methodology.”

“Let me emphasize here again that no ranking system is perfect,” said Pua. “Such tables do however provide indicative relative quality rankings between global universities.”

The question to ask is therefore, why is the Ministry of Education selectively interested in the QS Rankings, and why did it fail to cite any of the other studies?

Is it because all of the other studies rank Malaysian universities very badly?

Between 2004 and 2009, QS had produced their university rankings in partnership with The Times Higher Education (THE) Supplement, the leading publication on higher education in the United Kingdom. However, that partnership ended when THE rejected QS and its much criticized methodology, resulting in THE creating its own separate rankings.


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