Local unis not among top 100

UNIVERSITI Malaya is the highest-ranked Malaysian institution in the 2014 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings although it is not listed within the top 100.

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings which was released on Thursday, officially ranks the world’s top 100 institutions by their academic reputation alone.

According to Times Higher Education Rankings editor Phil Baty, UM was one of three Malaysian institutions included in the study that ranked below the 160th position. Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia are the other two institutions.

“While these (Malaysian) institutions have witnessed some movements, both upwards and downwards, at the lower end of the tables the institutions are very tightly bunched together, so fluctuations can be caused very easily by the slightest movements from other institutions in the list,” he adds.

UM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin says he was surprised to learn that the institution was ranked in the reputation rankings as it was previously announced that UM would not take part in the Times Higher Education rankings until after 2017 to build up its citation count.

(Research paper citations refers to how much each institution is contributing to the global body of knowledge, how much each is producing new ideas and discoveries, through publishing research that is picked up and shared by other academics, all over the world.)

Prof Mohd Amin says he was happy to note that the efforts taken to transform the university has begun to show result.

“However there is still plenty of room for us to improve further,” he adds.

Baty says the results of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, which is an annual reputation rankings and complements the World University Rankings, is based on the world’s largest survey of academic opinion.

“This is because Times Higher Education considers that there is no one better to judge a university’s reputation than academics themselves,” he says in an interview.

The 2014 rankings are based on 10,536 responses from 133 countries to the survey distributed from March to May 2013.

The survey is available in 10 languages and is distributed based on United Nations data to ensure that it accurately reflects the global distribution of scholars.

Times Higher Education, he adds, does not allow volunteers to take part in the survey and more importantly, accepts no nominations from institutions or any third party.

“The poll asks academics to nominate no more than 15 of the institutions that they consider to be the best in their narrow field of expertise, based on their experience and knowledge, making it a rigorous global measure of academic prestige,” he says.

There was, he adds, no significant change in the proportion of respondents that selected Malaysian universities compared to last year.

The survey is carried out by Ipsos MediaCT for Thomson Reuters, data supplier to the Times Higher Education rankings.

“A strong global reputation is essential to a university’s success, allowing institutions to attract staff, students, business investment, research partners and benefactions in a highly competitive world market,” he explains.

Harvard University tops the rankings this year followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, Yale University, California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Recipe for success

On what Malaysian institutions can do to be included in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, Baty says that there is no simple, single recipe for success when it comes to improving reputation, but there are several factors that are bound to help.

“Firstly, increased investment ensures that the best faculty is attracted to a university, and allows for the provision of facilities to attract the best students.

“It also permits the proliferation of world-class research papers. All this will not go unnoticed by the academic community,” he says.

Embracing internationalisation is also a key factor when it comes to improving reputation.

“Greater international research collaboration and networks, and greater recruitment of international faculty and students helps to show the rest of the academic community the great works a university is undertaking,” he adds.

On whether there is a time frame for this to happen, Baty says it is not something that he could comment on as the survey is based purely on academic opinion.

“However, what I would say is that the survey is done every year, and while a university’s reputation will not change overnight, we are able to observe significant movement in the reputation rankings over a relatively short space of time. “In an information rich age, good and bad news can travel fast around the world, and both positive and negative developments in universities will be recognised relatively quickly,” he says.

Although it has reputation survey data on several hundred institutions around the world, Baty says the survey can in theory include any institution in the world.

“However, we only rank 100 universities in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings as the reputation data thins out quickly and we only want to rank institutions based on a statistically sound number of survey responses,” he says.

Universities from 20 countries were ranked this year.

For more information, visit http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/.

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