By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by Soong Phui Jee
Sin Chew Daily
A total of seven Malaysian universities have been ranked among the top 200 of the 2011 QS Asian University Rankings recently released by UK-based QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.
Universiti Malaya (UM) has been ranked at 39, followed by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at 53, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) at 54, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 57, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) at 76, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) at 161 and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) at 191.
Over the years, local universities seem to have fixed their eyes on world universities rankings and their moods change according to their rankings.
It should be noted that there are various kinds of the so-called world university rankings with their impartiality and objectivity widely questioned by scholars. If fact, the results vary since different agencies adopted different assessment criteria.
Malcolm Grant, president and provost of University College London (UCL), has sharply pointed out that: "There is no definition of the ideal university. How could rankings measure and reflect the social and cultural values of a university?"
In his view, it is not only about the question of transparency but more importantly, rankings should carry a correct orientation or it might cause data misreading.
Nevertheless, increasing rankings has become the common goal of all major universities in today's world. University rankings have also affected positioning and programme mapping, as well as prompted reforms of some universities.
Viewing it from a rational perspective, our universities should not abandon their unique characteristics and traditions just to fight for higher rankings. Neither should them ignore it and be blind to their statuses and contributes in the eyes of others.
Five local universities have been ranked higher in the recently released rankings compared to last year. It is indeed gratifying. However, we should also realise that we still have a long way to go for achieving world-class standard. And we are also distant from top Asian universities.
Take the 2011 QS Asian University Rankings as an example, the number of our universities ranked among the top 200 is far lesser than those of Japan (62), China (40), South Korea (35), Taiwan (16), India (11), Thailand (9) and even Indonesia (8).
In addition, although Hong Kong does not have many universities, it has seven universities ranked among the top 200. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and University of Hong Kong have even been ranked the first and second places.
Similar to Singapore, it has only a limited number of universities but two of them have been performed well. The National University of Singapore (NUS) has been ranked the third and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has been ranked 17 , which is far higher compared to the rankings of our top university, UM.
It is our common dream to make our universities the world's top universities. However, it is more important to clear the fog and ponder over the questions of "what is a university" and "what kind of university should be called the top university".