World Bank: M’sian varsities a poor show
Malaysia spends a lot on tertiary education, but its universities are not as good as others in Asia and many of its graduates are not equipped for the job market.
Malaysian universities lag behind many counterparts in Asia, including those located in neighbouring countries like Thailand and Singapore, according to a World Bank report released today.
“While Malaysia spends slightly more than most countries on its university students, leading Malaysian universities perform relatively poorly in global rankings,” said the report, entitled Malaysia Economic Monitor: Smart Cities.
Citing the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2010, it noted that Universiti Malaya (UM) was ranked 207th worldwide and 29th in Asia.
It also quoted a US News and World 2011 report on the World’s Best Universities, which put UM, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia at 167th, 279th, 335th and 358th place respectively.
Even more worrying, the World Bank report observed, was the “increasing gap” between Malaysia’s and Singapore’s universities.
It compared UM with the National University of Singapore (NUS), which QS cited as the leading university in Southeast Asia.
“The gap between UM and NUS has been high and generally increasing, especially in the sciences,” the report said.
According to the report, UM and NUS were on par when it came to science and technology in 2005. However, UM has lost out to NUS over the past six years.
The report also said many of Malaysia’s university graduates did not seem to have the skills that would help them get employment.
Lack of R&D
It said that 18% of university graduates were reported to be unemployed 18 months after graduation.
“There is substantial evidence of mismatches between the skills produced by Malaysia’s universities and the skills demanded by the labour markets.”
It appeared that graduates lacked proficiency not only in technical and professional areas, but also in information technology and the English language.
Research and development, the World Bank said, also did not seem to play a big role in Malaysia’s universities.
Not even added funds for R&D under the 2007 National Higher Education Plan and “sophisticated programmes” seemed to have helped.
“For many years, Malaysia pursued a policy favouring commercialisation and applied research over fundamental research and development,” the report said. “Results of the reforms have yet to show in data.”
It said Malaysia’s gross expenditure on R&D was only 0.64% of GDP in 2010, compared to Singapore’s 2.52%.
Malaysia had 372 researchers and 44 technicians per million of its population, much fewer than Singapore’s 6,088 and 529, it added.