Misguided obsession with university rankings

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In this day and age when everyone is obsessed with climbing up rankings – in everything from global tennis to human development status – it is no surprise that universities and colleges have jumped into the fray.

Some interesting articles about US college rankings — by US News and World Report — can be found in Inside Higher Ed such as the one here.

Another article ‘Using Foucault to Deconstruct Rankings’ suggests that rankings could be forcing deans to focus on the wrong things. Universities may be rejecting good ideas on improving the quality of education in favour of other activities that could bump up their rankings.

This is referred to as “gaming” the rankings system.

What has this got to do with Malaysia?

Well, local universities have got into the act; look at their obsession now in trying to climb the THES ranking. The talk is that at least one local university may have hired a consultant to see how it can improve its ranking.

Other local universities many be looking into this as well – in exactly the same way as covered in the Insider Higher Ed piece — that is, trying to “game” the items used to score the rankings.

Instead of focusing on real improvements in quality of research and staffing, these universities seem to be trying to master the art of rankings gamesmanship to rise up the charts.

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Ranking

University ranking is an important indicator of prestige and academic reputation.

SamG

Why the bashing of IPTA (Public) only? The quality of IPTS (Private) in Malaysia is even worse! IPTS enrols SPM 3rd graders and dishes out degrees thru’ twining programs. With a Grade Point Average of 1.33 in STPM, I know a guy does Medicine in a PRIVATE university in Malaysia.
Shoplots are used by Local Colleges to churn out MBA Grads in 12 months!
For a Non-Bumi the standards to enter IPTA is not an easy task. Furthermore STPM is rated as one of the mos difficult University entrance exams!

Dr.Hamid Ibrahim

I AM JUST BACK FROM ATTENDING A CONFERENCE ON CRIMINOLOGY IN BANGALORE – IT WAS VERY INFORMATIVE AND INTERESTING WITH FACTS AND FIGURES ON CRIME IN INDIA INDIAN UNIVERSITIES HAVE INTRODUCED ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’ AS A SUBJECT IN THE DEGREE COURSE FOR LL.B. IT IS TIME THAT WE INTRODUCE HR FOR LLB HERE TOO. IN ADDITION, A SCHOOL SHOULD BE OPENED FOR 1. JUDGES 2. POLICE OFFICERS 3. TEACHERS. 4. SOCIAL WELFARE OFFICERS 5. PRISON OFFICERS SO THAT THESE PERSONS UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HUMAN RIGHT; THIS IS ALSO TIME FOR SOME NGOS TO COME OUT WITH A TEXT BOOK FOR THE… Read more »

Maz

And another thing I would like to add is garbage in, garbage out.

The rot starts in our primary and secondary education. Our education system heavily spoon feed students and produce students who are unable to think for themselves.

When they enter university, they carry this “feed-me” mentality. They’re simply incapable of critical thinking.

If we are serious about improving our universities, we must start addressing the root of the problem. Our entire education system seriously needs revamping.

Maz

The problem with universities in Malaysia is that there is too much political meddling. Policies dictated by MOHE gives little room for universities to decide on the direction they want to go. What do politicians sitting in Putrajaya know about how to run universities? To give just one example, quite recently a directive from MOHE dictates that in order to qualify for “research university” status, masters programs should be consist of 70% research element and only 30% taught courses. How did they come up with the percentage? Who was the “genius” who proposed this? Does this structure support industrial needs… Read more »

wira

Our local universities can never get high ranking simply because those universities are fighting with half strength through the omission of (many) non-Malays in their academic staffing and the admission of 2nd grade students through racial selection.

Let’s be honest about this.

mmtan

If we dont have the natural resources to hold on, your guess is as good as mine.

Nutmeg

This is a good point. Actually, university rankings, especially among Americans and Brits, have all been the raged in their societies for years. Ever heard of elitism tied to the universities you go to?

int

A fair point of view, but a statement like this: ‘Instead of focusing on real improvements in quality of research and staffing…’ … is pretty nebulous without anything else to substantiate it. Academia is rife with this kind of thing. Even research rankings (e.g. journal impact factors etc) are often criticized as being more a detriment than a help to the advancement of knowledge. Nevertheless, we do need some tangible means to measure performance, so we are stuck with THES, ISI impact factors, etc… until someone has a better idea. For what it’s worth, I am a junior researcher in… Read more »

Loh Yeow Boo - Penang

the quality of universities in malaysia is really really bad….it is downright rotten from lecturers to students to facilities. singapore has managed to attract all the best lecturers in the world while we are getting the bottom of the lot. nanyang university of singapore where i graduated is now one of the top in the world, even though it was recently revamped in the 1980s/1990s to be a full fledged uni. UNIVERSITIES ARE REFLECTION OF THE PEOPLE AND LEADERSHIP OF THE COUNTRY OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY ROUND?