University of Malaya's position in the THE world university rankings

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings is a ranking system developed in the UK.

I can still vividly remember the inaugural position of University of Malaya (UM) when the list was published in 2004 because I was in the campus. The result was very widely publicized and the celebratory banners were all over the place in the campus.

These reactions meant that the Vice Chancellor of the school, Professor Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob, gave a lot of fucks on this ranking system. He was taking the ranking very seriously and was using it as an absolute measure of the performance of his university.

However, when the 2005 list was announced, Dr Hashim was stunned and didn't actually know how to explain the result. Since the new result was not on Dr. Hashim's side, his attitude towards to THE ranking is reversed, and he switched to the don't-give-a-fuck mode.

The answer is actually very simple, THE made a mistake in 2004.

As suggested by Education in Malaysia, we can now conclude that UM was incorrectly positioned in the 89th place last year. To have the situation studied analytically, I decided to normalize the scores given to various universities and plot them against their ranks:
THES ranking of the University of Malaya
Assuming constant populations of foreign lecturers and students, and using the scores for international faculty and international students for the year 2005, it can be extrapolated that the correct position for UM in 2004 should be at about 250, instead of 89. If this is the case, UM was actually making a significant improvement by hopping from 250 to 169, when compared with our siamese twin, NUS, whose position remained relatively unchanged (#18 in 2004 and #22 in 2005).

As for the challenge put forward by the Najib Razak, it can be inferenced from the graph that it is not difficult to rise to #50 by 2020, assuming that THE is still doing the survey, since the rate of increase in the range between 50 and 200 is linear, which is approximately 100 gains in rank per 6 percent increase in normalized score.

The real challenge for UM, as it is clear from the graph, is to move up in the top 50 region, in which the rate of increase is factorial.


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