University rankings and underemployment are illusions




IN response to the letter “Ranking is not a clear indicator of the quality of the university” published on June 16 (The Star, online at bit.ly/star_ranking), I would like to share here my experience as a postgraduate student at a public university.

After working for 10 years, I decided to take a sabbatical and came back from overseas to be close to home. Knowing that this public university had recently reached new heights in world rankings, I gave it a try. Lo and behold, the quality of its speakers is astounding – not in a good way.

Two in three professors are closed-minded, reluctant to impart knowledge, have not bothered to update their course content which has been recycled for decades, and sometimes seem not to. want to be in the classroom (Microsoft Teams course because everything is online).

A university is supposed to provide a dynamic knowledge exchange environment that stimulates our thoughts and inspires us to learn, but most of the time I just feel stifled.

Another alarming thing is the quality of the students, both local and international. Their fluency in the English language, in-depth knowledge, analytical skills, curiosity – things that are expected of people in a higher education institution – are all lacking. It makes me wonder, how did they graduate and get into this postgraduate program in the first place?

This brings me to the issue of skill-related underemployment. According to the Malaysia Department of Statistics Labor Force Survey 2020 report, skill-related underemployment in Malaysia has increased from 27.2% in 2010 to 38% in 2020. Underemployment is defined like someone who accepts a job for which they are overqualified. But is this really the case in the case of Malaysia?

When universities produce graduates who do not have the knowledge or skills equivalent to their degree, how can employers hire them for the positions in engineering, biotechnology, finance, etc., for which they claim to be? qualified? When graduates find themselves in semi-skilled or low-skilled jobs and unable to repay their National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN) loans, whose fault is it?

We are producing a record number of graduates each year, but no one has stopped to verify the quality of these students and, most importantly, the quality of the universities that produce them. If an institution sometimes dubbed the crown jewel of higher education in Malaysia has questionable teaching quality, what about the rest?

I think it’s high time we were honest with ourselves. Stop sending unqualified students to universities and wasting their time and money. Whether they enter TVET (technical and vocational education and training) or directly enter the labor market. Universities, stop chasing rankings. Invest the money in applied research and hire top-notch speakers who want to impart their knowledge. Practice meritocracy. Only high quality universities can produce a quality workforce. At the moment, we don’t have one.

POST-GRADUATE STUDENT, Kuala Lumpur



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