(File pix) UiTM Eco-Sprint emerged the winner in the hydrogen fuel cell category (prototype) at the Eighth Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2017 in Singapore. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

WITH one week left before we bid goodbye to 2017, Higher Ed looks back at the past 12 months and highlights the success stories and achievements of not only the universities but also individuals in the country’s higher education scene.

Leading the way is University of Malaya (UM) which has steadily risen year on year in the QS World University Rankings. In the 2017/2018 rankings, it jumped from 133rd last year to 114th place this year.

The oldest university in Malaysia is ranked top in the nation for four indicators in the world rankings — academic reputation, employer reputation, student to faculty ratio and citations per faculty.

UM achieved its highest ever ranking among 425 universities from 17 Asian nations and moved from the 27th spot last year to 24th in the QS University Rankings: Asia 2018.

In the QS Subject Rankings, it continues to be the best performing institution with six subjects ranked in the top 50 worldwide.

The best ranked subject for a Malaysian university is 23rd in the world for electrical and electronic engineering, a position which UM shares with Carnegie Mellon University of the United States.

UM also scores impressively for development studies, for which it is placed 26th.

Three of UM’s engineering subjects which also make the top 50 rankings are mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing (33rd), engineering and technology (35th) and chemical engineering (38th, a position it shares with Universiti Sains Malaysia/USM).

For education, UM is ranked 41st worldwide, a position it shares with the University of Texas at Austin in the US.

As a new entrant to the TIMES Higher Education (THE) 2017 Asia University Rankings, UM is at the 59th spot after taking part for the first time this year.

The data shows that it has a particularly strong international outlook compared to other leading universities in the continent; it ranks 20th when measured on this indicator alone.

In the 2018 Best Global Universities Ranking by US News & World Report, UM is ranked at 10th position among 600 global universities as the world’s best universities for engineering.

The ranking looks into tertiary institutions which have shown strength in producing research related to a variety of engineering topics.

They include aerospace, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering.

In a statement, UM said its placement in this ranking shows that the research and development at the university, and the Engineering Faculty specifically, is of high quality and referred to for its expertise globally.

UNIVERSITIES SOAR IN RANKINGS

Strengthening fundamentals in teaching and learning as well as a keen focus on being more visible in the academic and industry circles are the key enabling factors for Malaysia’s five research universities to be placed in the top one per cent of QS World University Rankings 2017/2018 in June.

The strategy clearly paid off for UM, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and USM, which are all in the top 300 band of the global ranking system involving 26,000 universities across the world.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the achievement of the five research universities is proof that the decision to establish research universities 10 years ago to improve higher education through research, publication, citation and innovation has paid off.

The five research universities also did the country proud by making it to the top 50 of the QS University Rankings: Asia 2018, compared to only two universities last year.

Twenty-two Malaysian universities, both public and private, rank within Aisa’s top 300.

Malaysian universities continue to improve in their world university rankings based on 46 subjects.

According to the seventh edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject released in March by QS, local universities now rank in the top 30 for three subjects — electrical and electronic engineering, development studies, and hospitality and leisure management.

Taylor’s University is placed 29th in the world for hospitality and leisure management.

This recognition means that it is positioned as number one in Malaysia and top 30 in the world for hospitality and leisure management.

Malaysian universities also make the top 50 12 times; they were only ranked in the top 50 three times in the 2016 edition.

Seven Malaysian institutions are featured in THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings 2017 that list the prestigious universities in the Asia Pacific, and five of these are in the top 200.

The country is led by both UPM and UTM in the 121-130 band.

The third edition of the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2018 sees three Malaysian universities ranked among the world’s top 500 higher education institutions.

Leading the trio is UM, which ranks in the 201-250 band.

The other two universities are UTM and UKM, both of which rank in the 301-500 level.

UM and UKM, along with UTM, also make their way into the 300-400 band in the 2018 THE rankings of arts and humanities subjects.

This is the first year Malaysian universities are represented in the rankings.

For the first time, a local private university — Taylor’s University — has been ranked by subject among the top universities worldwide by QS World University Ranking by Subject.

TOP-NOTCH RESEARCHERS

This year, the number of Malaysians making the list of highly cited researchers has increased to eight from six last year according to Clarivate Analytics’ Highly Cited Researchers list released last month.

These citations provide a cognitive road map for those seeking to follow the progression of a given finding or advancement that can turn research in a new direction.

Out of eight researchers, three are from USM, two each from UM and UKM, and one from Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN).

The annual Highly Cited Researchers list identifies those whose papers have consistently won peer approval from international researchers in the form of high citation counts over the last decade.

This year, the three who are in the list for the first time are Professor Dr Teuku M. Indra Mahlia (UNITEN), Professor Dr Masjuki Hassan and Professor Dr Md. Abul Kalam, both from UM.

The other five are Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad (USM), Dr Abd Karim Alias (USM), Dr Bassim H. Hameed (USM), Dr Siti Kartom Kamarudin (UKM), and Datuk Dr Wan Ramli Wan Daud (UKM).

The list features more than 3,300 researchers in 21 fields in Clarivate’s Web of Science.

This premier web-based environment of scientific and scholarly research literature totals more than 33,000 journals.

Malaysian astrophysics doctoral student Nur Adlyka Ainul Annuar was among a group of astronomers who have discovered evidence of black holes in our cosmic backyard, the findings of which were presented at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas in January.

Nur Adlyka, who was pursuing doctoral studies at the Centre of Extragalactic Astronomy, Durham University, United Kingdom, was among British researchers who conducted analysis of the American space agency Nasa’s most recent X-ray telescope called Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

Her study on the topic Black Holes, Green Galaxies, Old Stars and NuSTARs revealed that the galaxy has a thick column of gas hiding the central black hole.

Researcher Dr Noor Liyana Yusof, 30, was on cloud nine when Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan highlighted her findings for her thesis — Vacuum Impregnation of Spinach Tissue: Metabolic Consequences and their Potential Industrial Applications.

Through her research, Noor Liyana, who earned her PhD in Food Technology from Lund University in Sweden in September, came up with a method to reduce the nitrate content in spinach by up to 70 per cent, making the vegetable safe to be consumed by young children, particularly infants.

Her method of using sugar and vacuum, stimulates the metabolic activity by which the leaves convert nitrate into proteins instead of toxic substances.

“The results of the research should benefit the public and be fully applied by the food industry to produce food that is safe and of high quality.

Knowledge is meant to be shared,” said Noor Liyana, now a senior lecturer at UPM.

YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR IN THE MAKING

One of the 10 shifts in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) is to produce holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced graduates.

It means creating opportunities for students and academic staff to acquire entrepreneurial skills and pursue their own enterprises through sabbaticals, industry secondments, business incubators and green lane policies that support student-owned business.

One example is Noorain Mohd Said, 24, who has made RM3.4 million in a year by selling her own organic waxing product online under the brand name Norah.

Noorain, a UM graduate, started the business in 2012 with only RM124, but she managed to secure orders from all over Malaysia.

Many of her customers were her fellow university students, who went on to become her distributors.

“The idea for the business came when I realised the beauty industry lacked skincare products for waxing.

“I researched into wax and my lecturer helped me to develop the

product at the university’s facilities,” she said.

Using organic ingredients to cater to every skin type, Norah is made of honey, sugar, concentrated lemon and tea tree oil. The brand has gained popularity in countries such as Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia, the Philippines and the US.

BIG WINS

The choir team from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Faculty of Music hits the right note again, this time in the mixed and female categories at the Second Kalamata International Choir Competition held in the Southern Greek city of Kalamata.

Under the direction of Dr Masashi Kishimoto, the UiTM Women’s Chorale won the grand prize while the UiTM Chamber Choir (UCC) received the gold diploma in the mixed category.

The UiTM Women’s Chorale team was represented by 16 female members of the 31-member UCC.

The Kalamata festival, which began on Oct 11, saw 52 choirs from 14 nations including Sweden, Norway, Russia, Italy and China participating in the competition.

Meanwhile at the Eighth Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2017 in Singapore, a team each from UiTM and UM emerged the winners in the hydrogen fuel category.

UiTM Eco-Sprint grabbed the first prize, while Eco-Voyager from UM won second prize.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is a competition for students from the region who are passionate about developing innovative mobility solutions to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient vehicle.

OUTSTANDING SCHOLARS

Malaysian student Adnan Zikri Jaafar at the University of Pennsylvania has been awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to pursue the Master’s in Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation programme, along with the Master’s in Financial Economics course at the University of Oxford.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Adnan is majoring in finance, statistics and international studies, and minoring in mathematics, economics and philosophy under the Huntsman Programme in International Studies in Business, which is offered through the university’s School of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School.

Elyn Kuan Yie Meng, a final-year Multimedia University student, did the country proud when she won the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) World Prize in Financial Management and the prestigious Howitt Prize for being the best student in the ICAEW ACA December 2016 examinations.

She accepted the World Prize and Howitt Prize in May at the Chartered Accountants’ Hall in London, the United Kingdom, where ICAEW hailed the world’s top-scoring chartered accountancy students as the “future of the profession”.

Twenty-three Malaysian students received Top in Malaysia awards in June at an event organised by the Cambridge International Examinations to recognise their outstanding achievements in the November 2016 examination.

Rachel Goh Mun Yee, a KDU University College student pursuing the Cambridge General Certificate of Education A levels, was recognised as the Top in the World recipient for Sociology for Cambridge International Advanced Subsidiary level.

A case study of Malaysia Airlines in a research on Factors Affecting Customer Loyalty towards the Airlines Industry won the judges’ hearts at the 15th Asia Pacific Council on Hotel, Restaurants and Institutional Education at Nusa Dua, Bali in Indonesia.

Deana Zafeira Ghazali, Nailah Norrizan and Maisarah Amzah, from Management and Science University School of Hospitality and Creative Arts, beat participants from Australia, China, Indonesia and Macau to win the Youth Conference Best Paper Award in August.

This year’s annual conference was themed Hospitality and Tourism Opportunity and Challenges among the Youth: A Highlight on Cultural Heritage Tourism.

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