A place for ranking systems

I READ with apprehension the "The darker side of university rankings" (Comment, June 9).

I share the writer's concerns of the long-term implications of turning public universities into cheap vocational schools and transforming them into commercial/business/corporate entities. Agreed: the budget cuts and the downgrading of social science subjects are likely to be disastrous on the quality of education and the political future of the country.

The sure way for closing Malaysian minds is not to educate them in humanities and social sciences. The best way to destroy the country is not to provide citizens with knowledge and skills to think for themselves.

Subjects like critical thinking, philosophy, classical studies, geography and history, among others, prepare students to deal with the rigours of daily life and living in a highly competitive global market place. Sadly, these thinking subjects are no longer in our curriculum.

You reap what you sow!

However, I take a different view of his observations on the flaky methodology used by ranking institutions to evaluate academic competence in universities. The ranking systems apply globally recognised criteria to capture academic competencies. Universities worldwide must have found their assessments very useful judging by their regular participation.

I find the writer's reference to Harvard and Princeton is out of place. Local universities should aspire to be in the same league.

There is nothing substantially flawed with the criteria used to rank the performance of universities. They are ranked for their academic productivity. The dearth of publications in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals by our academics has in no small way contributed to low ranking and reputation of our universities.

BA Hamzah