DAP leader questions QS rankings as benchmark for Malaysian universities

Ong-Kian-MingPETALING JAYA: Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming today slammed the higher education ministry for using the QS World University Rankings as a benchmark for Malaysian universities.

In a statement today, the DAP leader called the decision “short-sighted” and “faulty”, pointing out that the QS rankings do not put much emphasis on the criteria of research output.

According to the QS World University Rankings for 2018, released on June 8, five Malaysian varsities were ranked in the top 300, with Universiti Malaya (UM) occupying 114th position.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) was ranked 229th, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was ranked 230th, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) came in 253rd and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) came in 264th.

However, Ong pointed to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2018, which he said painted Malaysian universities in a different light.

According to the THE rankings, which were released earlier this week, none of Malaysia’s universities made it into the top 300.

UM was the highest ranked Malaysian institution at the 351-400 range. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) was the next highest at the 501-600 range.

UKM, UPM, USM and UTM were ranked in the 601-800 range.

Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UniTEN) was in the 801-1,000 range while Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) was in the 1,001+ range.

Ong said other global university rankings also placed Malaysian varsities outside the top 300, with the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2017 putting UM and USM in the 401-500 range, UKM and UPM in the 501-600 range and UTM in the 701-800 range.

The US News and World Report’s Best Global University Rankings for 2017 meanwhile saw UM as the highest ranked Malaysian varsity at 356, followed by USM (576), UTM (639), UPM (670) and UKM (783).

Ong said the differences in ranking could be because the QS ranking only allocates 20% of its overall score to research and citation methods, or the publication output of a university.

In comparison, he said, 60% of the THE, 70% of the Shanghai ARWU and 75% of the US News rankings are allocated to research and citation measures.

Under the QS rankings, meanwhile, 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,” Ong said.

“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%).”

Ong added that 10% of the overall QS rankings score depends on the percentage of international academics and students within a university.

“Discerning universities which want to improve their QS rankings can increase these figures without necessarily increasing the quality of teaching, of academic research or of student quality,” he said.

Ong said the higher education ministry was only fooling itself along with the Malaysian public if it continued to use the scores of Malaysian universities in the QS rankings as proof that they were improving, especially on the research front.

Instead of being “obsessed” with the ranking game, he added, the ministry should work to improve the existing academic indicators and measures which have been developed locally by the ministry and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency to assess the quality of local public and private universities


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