SERDANG: Malaysia has saved about RM2 billion by establishing Research Universities locally that have allowed PhD students to get a placement in local universities instead of going abroad, said Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh. "It was foreign exchange savings that we benefited from when our local PhD candidates had options in Malaysia to pursue their areas of research instead of going overseas," he said. From 2007 to 2012, he said, local Research Universities produced 3,897 PhD graduates who pursued their education in Malaysia, and have contributed to their respective areas of research. Speaking to reporters at the Successful Five Research Universities Exhibition' in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) today, Idris said: "For every PhD student that chooses our local universities instead of going abroad, we save anywhere between RM500,000 and RM1 million per individual," he said. Five Research Universities, namely Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), have created opportunities for local students here. "There are more than 2,200 professors in Malaysia with more than 1,200 of them working and contributing in our Research Universities. Out of this, in 2012, Malaysia produced more research publications than our neighbouring countries, Singapore and Thailand," he said. Meanwhile, Idris dismissed claims that the decline of Malaysian universities in the global ranking was a reflection of the standard or quality of higher education in Malaysia. "We cannot be chasing rankings; (instead we) should focus on the learning and teaching process. Also, we have to be realistic: most of the higher learning institutions in Malaysia are 'young'; some have not even been around longer than 10 years," he said. He said this in response to the failure of local public universities to make the list in the annual Times Higher Education (THE) Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.