UNIVERSITY of Malaya (UM) has made it to the top 50 of the 2018 Asia University Rankings released by Times Higher Education (THE) on Feb 7.

It has climbed up to the 46th position, after making its debut at number 59 last year.

Eight other Malaysian universities also made the list in the rankings this year with Universiti Tuanku Abdul Rahman reaching 99th position from last year’s 111-120 bracket and Universiti Teknologi Petronas sharing the 114th position, up from the 141-150 bracket.

However, most of Malaysia’s lower ranked universities have declined in position.

According to THE, Malaysia’s leading institution improved in all five areas underpinning the ranking — teaching, research, citation impact, industry income and international outlook.

THE editorial director of global rankings, Phil Baty, said: “It is great news that the UM has joined the top 50 of this prestigious ranking; it now overtakes leading institutions such as the University of Macau, Kyushu University, National Chiao Tung University and Qatar University.”

Malaysia’s universities generally have a strong international outlook and achieve quite high levels of industry income.

The country’s weakest area is citation impact but this was an area of improvement this year. “Malaysia also picked up points for research productivity. However, the country’s scores for its proportion of international students, student-staff ratio and income per staff all declined,” he added.

“Malaysia is among the Asian nations with the greatest higher education potential, largely thanks to its rapid growth in research productivity and high levels of income. It now needs to improve its research quality to stand out among the heavy competition in the world’s largest continent.”

Moey Yoke Lai

In a separate statement, UM vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Hashim said the improvement in rankings is an affirmation of the university’s strategic plan as it continues to strive to be an internationally renowned institution of higher learning in teaching, research, publication and innovation.

UM’s rise in rankings is also a testament that the investments and initiatives, which were undertaken over several years to improve the performance of the university, are on track, he added.

Abdul Rahim reiterated that UM is not pursuing rankings but its participation in the ranking systems is to benchmark it against other institutions of higher learning to gauge the present state and status of the university and to plan for further improvement.

He also mentioned that over the years UM has improved on building on its fundamentals but it is also pertinent for it to continue to improve in the area of graduate employability, networking and collaboration with industries and international strategic partnerships.

The main trend of this year’s THE Asia University Rankings is the continued rise of China. The People’s Republic now claims almost one in five places in the rankings and several of its institutions have made strong gains, not least Tsinghua University, which is now the country’s top ranked institution.

The National University of Singapore holds onto the overall number one spot after improving its scores in almost all areas. But many Asian nations are feeling the competition.

While India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey have all increased their representation, several of their universities have fallen down the list. These countries will need to work hard to stand out among the heavy competition in the world’s largest continent.

On Southeast Asia as a whole, Baty said: “The Southeast Asian region has increased its standing in the 2018 THE Asia University Rankings. Alongside the region’s stand out higher education nation Singapore, which claims first and joint fifth place in the table, 10 Thai universities, nine Malaysian universities, four Indonesian universities (up from two last year), and the Philippines’ national flagship institution all make the table.

“In particular, not only has UM joined the top 50 of the table for the first time, after making its debut in the list last year, but Indonesia has doubled its representation for the second year in a row too. It is also a fantastic achievement that the University of the Philippines has jumped to joint 156th place from the 201-250 band.

“But not all nations in Southeast Asia are soaring. Thailand has suffered declines this year as the country grapples with an ageing population and over-supply of higher education. But, the rankings show that the Southeast Asian region is beginning to stand out, despite heavy competition from other nations in the world’s largest continent.”

The 2018 ranking has expanded to include 359 universities, up from 298 last year.

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