Ranking game not a priority, says education official

By Lee Wei Lian, The Malaysian Insider

Malaysia’s universities are not as highly ranked as other countries as the nation’s priorities do not match that of ranking agencies, said Higher Education Ministry deputy secretary general Datuk Rohani Abdullah today.

This comes after a World Bank report released recently claimed that standards at Universiti Malaya (UM) have fallen and the institution has been kept at a disadvantage because of race-based admission quotas and political interference in university management.

Rohani said that Malaysia was still struggling with providing access to higher education which made it a higher priority.

“Our priority is not to play the ranking game,” she said at a press conference following the launch of the Global Communication Association Conference here.

“Right now, the criteria used by ranking providers are limited and not in line with our national agenda. Ranking is a game and it is a business for ranking providers.”

She added however that Malaysian universities should try and benchmark themselves against highly-ranked institutions.

Rohani also said Malaysia was trying to attract some of the world’s best professors but it was difficult to match their euro or US dollar salaries with ringgit.

“It is hard to entice them,” she said, adding that hopefully those who want to contribute to a developing country would consider coming.

Industry observers have long complained that Malaysia was going for quantity over quality in terms of its education system.

They also said that education should be best left to experts and be free of political meddling.

The World Bank comparison between UM and NUS was authored by Hena Mukherjee, a former Universiti Malaya department head with a doctorate in education from Harvard University, and Poh Kam Wong, an NUS Business School professor.

According to the study, “at an early stage, the Singapore government realised the universities’ role in sustaining economic growth”.