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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Top 5 Reasons Why University of Malaya Can Only Be The Best in Malaysia, But Not In The World

Top 5 Reasons Why University of Malaya Can Only Be The Best in Malaysia, But Not In The World

Guest post by Chin Yi Xuan (Share your opinions with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

University of Malaya (UM)
In year 2016, Malaysia has established 20 public universities, 34 polytechnics and 94 community colleges all around the country, which is a huge leap in the numbers compared to the 1960's. In early 2016, University of Malaya (UM), being the leading university in Malaysia, is ranked 27th in Asia by QS ranking.

But the question remains: Despite all the statistics and results in paper, are we really that good?
Universiti of Malaya (UM)

Before I proceed it is necessary to inform you on how a university is being ranked by the QS ranking:
  1. Academic Reputation - 40%
  2. Citation per faculty - 20%
  3. Student to faculty ratio - 20%
  4. Employer Reputation - 10%
  5. International faculty ratio - 5%
  6. International student ratio - 5%
(Source: http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings-articles/world-university-rankings/qs-world-university-rankings-methodology)

Disclaimer: This article is not written to cause any kind of personal insults to any students, lecturers, or the management of the university, but rather a healthy food of thought to you that are reading this article. With this in mind, lets proceed.

#5 Exposure - We Are Lack of It!

2 years in University of Malaya, involving in big and small events in the campus, I have come to realize that the students in UM have very limited exposure to the outside world.

In other word, we are way too comfortable staying in UM, and while we thought we are the best in the country but we forgot to look onto the outside world. We take pride for the way we organize activities and events, we take glory for our culture (MHS, Cheers etc etc) and we are the best breed of students because we are studying in UM.

However, the truth is, looking out from the books and our annual events, we are actually not that good. It's easy to test how well exposed a student is: just ask them something about the real world, be it a company's name or what's the new stuff happening around the country. I have come across a peer of the same faculty as me do not know who is Tan Sri Zeti (ex BNM Governor), and some peers in the business/accounting/finance faculty that do not know what a start-up is.

Events organized by respective societies have also bottle-necked, with little content value and breakthrough in terms of takeaway value for the participants and committees. With all due respect we have several societies that are really good event organizers, great multech and logistics, but we are lacking behind in terms of the content of the events held. Everything we've learnt and passed down are from the seniors and it becomes a culture as times goes by and we tend to forget to ask: Why Are We Doing This? What Is The Purpose of This Event?

While we are busy passing down 'cultures' we forget to look out there and when we realize how events out there excel not only in terms of organization but content, we are way too late.

#4 Finance - Why So Many Undergraduates Face Bankruptcy and Debts Nowadays

While our ministers claim that our education system is one of the best, if not among the finest in the world, our system has produced a society of young undergraduate full of debts. To make thing even worse, they are unable to pay off the debt, leading to serious bankruptcy issues among young people aged 18 - 35. (source: http://www.malaysiandigest.com/opinion/488936-debts-among-us-young-malaysians-are-going-bankrupt.html)

Yes, we are going up the rank in the region and world, because QS Ranking do not include the level of financial education in the ranking criteria! A very wrong perspective of UM students is to think that it is normal to have little to no knowledge about personal financial management and financial knowledge just because you are not from the economics/finance/business/accounting background. Oh my, this is the reason why Malaysia youngsters are getting into financial trouble.
Junior: "Yi Xuan, I have no idea about financial management and investment at all even I'm an economics student."

A reply from a junior when I asked about her knowledge in personal finance and investment.
From the above conversation, even an Economics student do not know about investment and personal finance management, because we are not taught about them! We are taught about the theories of economics and of course basic finance, we are taught on how to score an A in the 14 weeks of lecture, but we are not taught on how to generate income in real life using the knowledge and manage our own money even as an economics student.

As cruel as it might be, the best university in the country is producing what is considered the best slaves to money, working the heck out of our life to pay off debts due to lack of financial knowledge.

#3 Usage of Tech - We Are In Ice Age

How I wish QR Rankings set a usage of technology as one of the ranking criteria. Being the leading university in the country, UM is way behind in terms of usage of technology. One significant example is the usage of Microsoft Powerpoint during lectures and tutorials. May I ask, why is this ice age software still being used in the best university in Malaysia? In renown universities in UK such as Imperial College London, software such as Microsoft Sway has been taking over PPT as the primary presentation tool, making presentation much more interactive and lively. Why are lecture recordings being uploaded in NTU while in UM we are still struggling to use our phone to record what our lecturers say?

Not only the university is slow in bringing in the latest tech to enhance teaching and learning experience, students are pretty slow in getting update in tech as well. Very little people will know what is virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) - these are technologies that can help improve and enhance learning experience in near future.

This is worrying, because with university bringing in technologies way too slow, and students' knowledge in technology way too little, our teaching and learning process will forever stick in, well, the ice age.

Oh, did I forget to mention about WiFi in the campus?

#2 Language - English Level Is Average At Best

Initially I thought this is only an issue for the students from the arts background, but after 2 years studying in UM, I come to a conclusion: There are a lot of room of improvement for the English proficiency of UM students.

While it is acceptable that UM students come from different background and places around the country and hence differs in English proficiency, it is NOT acceptable that UM students not trying to improve themselves in English.

But sadly this is what exactly happening right now: UM students can write to near perfection, but when it comes to speaking and communicating, we are way behind competitions out there. The irony is, UM students take too little effort to brush up their communication and English presentation skills, there are too many events to be joined out there that speaks on our native tongue and we comfortably forget that if we do not speak good English, we are just a person with knowledge and ability but cannot convey ideas properly.

To make things even worse, UM's English programs are bad enough and in need of urgent refinement and restructuring. 3 hours of English class a week is a terrible arrangement and long hours of class makes it awfully boring (my important electives are only 2 hours OMG), and classes such as Presentation at Workplace and Technical Writing have outdated modules, with presentation classes that asked us to randomly pick on a topic and present on it rather than training students on effective idea pitching in workplace (which is way more relevant), and writing classes still teaching us on how to write a letter (I thought letter is a tech of the Barbarian era?) instead of focusing on teaching us how to write a proper and effective email.

In short, UM students needs to realize the importance of English, and work the heart out to improve on it, because without proper English, we can't even talk about competency at workplace (unless you work for government *pun intended*.

#1 Culture - The Bad Ones

UM has one of the best culture among the universities in Malaysia. We are allowed to dress freely as long as it is appropriate (unlike certain universities in the north), we have really good campus life with lots of different events and societies to join, you name it, we have it. We are at the center of the country, which in return offers various opportunities that other universities do not provide.

However, several unhealthy cultures are bringing us down, and it will be costly for the future. First, being the most important of all, is the interaction between races in the campus. UM has by far the most diversified races and culture that contain different ethnics of students all over Malaysia, but interracial interaction is still a challenge to be overcome in the campus. The common sight you will see is that Malays will still be sticking with Malays, Chinese with Chinese and so on. This is worrying, while we have a well balanced race diversification in UM, we do not have a strong interracial bonding in the campus, which can be reflective on the community that we will be living in the near future, which this can be easily manipulated by politicians in the future elections.

Lack of reading, albeit seems unimportant, it is the core of knowledge learning for a person, and UM students have serious issue in general knowledge. Students are too focused on their events, and are taught to finish up tutorials and assignments and before we even realize, mid-terms are around the corner. In the midst of all the madness, UM students tend to forget to equip themselves with knowledge through reading. Learn all the soft skills that you can through events, but without constant improvement in knowledge, one's growth will be stunted at a certain stage in life.


So there you have it, the top 5 reasons why UM can only be the best in Malaysia, but not in the world. What I've mentioned above are more on the issues that really affect the competency of UM students in their future workplace through my observation and interaction with different students from different ethnics and faculties throughout my 2 years involving in various big and small activities in UM.

While we are studying in the best university in the country, but let us not forget that there are much more better talents and institutions out there that are constantly evolving day by day, and we cannot stop improving ourselves.

To end, dear friends, please remember: the day we stop learning and improving, is the day we die.

Cheers for staying with me throughout this article! Do comment below if you have any other inputs or opinions!

Chin Yi Xuan
This post was first posted at Yi Xuan's blog.

Chin Yi Xuan is an economics student studying in University of Malaya (UM). He held the position as the President of UM Economics Society (PEKUMA) during his second year, and was a Junior Executive of AIESEC during his first year. He is a backpacker, food lover, casual photographer, Ping-Pong guy and of all, a rookie writer.
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  1. This is an very thoughtful piece on the state of UM. I would like to offer a more current perspective how things are improving albeit slowly at UM.

    5) Exposure: it really depends on the student, if he/she is willing to join activities and events (both organized at UM and in Klang Valley) and proactively mingle with others, there is a lot of exposure. If you expect exposure to come to the student, wake up! It's always the other way round.

    4) Financial literacy: there is this student club called Bursa Investor Club or something like sponsored by Bursa Malaysia, established a few years ago, offering lots of general financial education talks and even visit to the Bursa Malaysia building. Again it is really up to the students to proactively join events and activities on and off campus. If you expect the lecturers to spoon feed students with up-to-date financial education, good luck! A few years ago I joined a Asas Keusahawanan (the compulsory subject) class as a visitor and was caught by pleasant surprise: the lecturer actually invited industry speaker from the tech startup scene to speak on business canvas, idea validation etc and the group assignment was for the student to come out with a business idea on problem and solution and revenue plan etc and do pitching on the last day. This is in fact the closest thing you can get in terms on latest trend or syllabus on entrepreneurship.

    3) Usage of edu tech: actually some students do use Prezi to do presentations at UM. And there are students using Facebook, YouTube, Google Docs, Dropbox etc for group projects and assignments.

    2) English proficiency: Malays speak Malay, Chinese speak Chinese ... ALL THE TIME unless they are English educated/speak English at home and these groups of people stick to themselves (language barrier?).

    1) Bad culture: what to do if the student mentality does not change? To be fair, UM lecturers always force a rule for group projects that group members must consist of different races... still the result is so so. Again it is up to the students to mingle around. I'm a Chinese but I made good friends with other races for example I was invited to puasa with Malay friends (frankly I fasted for one day only just to experience it) and buka puasa together at the dorm, invited to an open house of a Malay friend etc etc.

  2. There is also one issue I would like to bring up regarding academic reputation or more particularly UM staffs professionalism. My friends and I had encountered issues on system error which leads to lowering down our GPA as well as CGPA. We have compared the result with most of our coursemates but the result we got is irrelevant. We refer such issue back to our lecturer but the response was slow and the lecturer tend to ignore this issue. Is this the way UM staffs show their professionalism? We even request for a recheck but it seems that there are no changes at all. Isn't this indirectly lowers the academic reputation of UM? I highly recommend that UM improve on their marking system and recertify the qualification of employers in UM especially lecturers.

  3. Hi there
    I am foreigner (western) here may be it is not my business but as I have been in um for three years I think I can give my opinion
    Its nice article but I have few comments
    Point 5 is really not related to university reputation nor ranking as it is the student responsibility to stay updated with what is going on out of the campus and country and to be frank with you here people are little bit lazy compared with other nations and to make point more clear do not blame UM go and pick up any high school or secondary school student and ask him where is Romania or Costa Rica or something like this they do not know this is basic thing and FYI world map did not change if someone learn geography will never forget it this can be learned in school or at home , my parents teach me a lot of stuff believe university or school will give you 60% of knowledge only the rest depends on you and your willingness ( take this advise from someone who visited many universities in different countries )

    For the debts 90% of students around the world have debts (study debts) and do you know why Malaysia do this too ? Because Malaysia was colonised by UK so they fellow UK system in everything plus they want to make money from education which is totally wrong in my point of view only look at Germany , France ....Etc study is for free from primary school till you get doctorate degree those countries they decide to get quality not money as they have other resources to get money from that is why since centuries till now France doctors are the BEST in world and German engineer are the best in world

    And I agree with you about the English level
    I am not native speaker English is my second language but I can see overall (in general )people do not speak good English in the whole country (Malaysia) but Singaporean do

    One point I want to highlight to you and it is not mentioned in your article is to be best or leading university government have to show the attention and support by giving big money for scientific research ( if your university does not find something big like discovery or something like this how can people recignised it as one of the best universities in word ?) To do research and innovation need money to pay student and researchers and to buy equipments and staff like this , here in Malaysia UM has the biggest research Grant in the country but actually the money is not good enough example you find good professor in um has 1-3 million ringgit for research and innovation in same level same position and capabilities you find professor in Australia for example has 50-150million ringgit do you see the difference ? Almost budget of one professor oversea is almost equal to the whole um research budget
    ( All this information about grants can be found online it is release for public even um release it )
    One last point , how many Nobel price um got ? How many nobel Malaysia has ?
    This kind of price are very important for university and country reputation in terms of education and research

    I wish all the best to u and to um


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