Singapore Fooled AGAIN by Bogus University Rankings

Singapore Top Universities Embrace “Beauty Contest” Criteria for Academic Excellence

The most remarkable outcome in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) 2015 World University Rankings announced last month was the phenomenal rise of two (of the three) Singapore universities, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), to 12th and 13th place respectively. Both Singapore Universities are now ranked above Yale, Columbia, EPF Lausanne and King’s College London.

This remarkable achievement was attributed mostly to high scores for the reputation surveys, the number of international students and faculty, none of which of course have any validity or reliability as indicators or measures of excellence in learning and/or teaching.  

Together with significant changes in the research citations component, the other another important factors for the rise of NTU and NUS were their continuing remarkable performance in the academic and employer surveys. NUS is at the top ten in the world for academic reputation and employer reputation with a perfect score of 100 respectively. NTU is 52nd for the academic survey and 39th for employer with scores in the nineties for both. This should not be surprising since NUS and NTU provide nearly 95% of Singapore’s fresh university graduates.   

This time, the skeptics of Universities Rankings are further proven right. The 2015 World Universities Rankings had made so many strange and implausible ranking shifts resulting in many universities rising or falling by dozens and hundreds from their previous rank.  Truth is, THE had tweaked their “methodology”, as with the other major ranker Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, when it broke away with their data suppliers Thomson Reuters at the end of 2014 and announced the dawn of a new era of transparency and accountability. 

Readers should note that neither THE or QS have ever published the scientific basis of their “methodology”; especially the criterion factors selected as measures of “best” Universities, nor the population and samples of the respondents who participated in surveys purportedly conducted and whose “data” were used to compile the final annual rankings. 

The announcements of the 2015 World Universities Rankings therefore came like the results of a beauty contest with winners (those whose rankings have risen) congratulating themselves with much self-flattery, while the losers (those whose rankings have sank) are embarrassed into protesting only silently and wondering where indeed they have gone so wrong in the past 12 months.

For example, Cambridge and Oxford overtook and pushed Harvard into 6th place.  If THE were to be believed, it was all Harvard’s fault as she suffered a huge decline from 92.9 to 83.6 in THE’s composite teaching indicator (whatever this presumes to measure).  Whatever indeed happened in Harvard in 2014-2015 to “reduce” its teaching effectiveness and impact, according to THE indicators, by 10%?  Should Harvard students therefore demand such fee payback based on this information?

Overnight, or precisely in over just one year from 2014-2015, Asian universities suddenly became worse off, except the Chinese Universities. The University of Tokyo dropped from 23rd to 43rd place in 2015, as she saw her research citations indicator fell from 74.7 points to 60.9, together with her sister University of Kyoto who plunged from 59th to 88th in 2015 for similar reductions in the score for research citations.  For some strange unexplained reasons, the Professors of previous years in both top Japanese Universities could no longer produce the same sterling quality of well-cited research papers.

If THE Universities evaluation were continued to be believed, the top Korean Universities had also suddenly gone silly and stupid.  From the top, Seoul National University dropped 35 ranked positions and the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) 66 positions, due mostly to their significantly reduced scores for teaching and research. Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) also fell 50 places, losing points in all THE criteria, despite earning good income from industry which she served but this was deemed irrelevant for THE Rankings.

Can the same Methodology which had improved both NTU and NUS rankings so significantly be trusted to be robust, vigorous and sophisticated?

It should be increasingly obvious to any intelligent researcher that the 2015 World University Rankings have created its own rankings based on new, revised criteria such as to render it incomparable with all their previous 2009-2014 rankings.   

Specifically, if the Dutch University of Twente (ranked 149th by THE) deserved to be in the top 150 this year, then its 2014 ranking which placed Twente outside the top 200-225 could not possibly be valid.  And if KAIST should indeed fall 66 places from 2014, then either its 2015 rankings (148th) or its 2014’s (52th) were inaccurate, or they both were.  This conclusion applies equally to all the universities whose rankings may have ”improved”. 

Singapore Universities have devoted much time and resources since 2007 to satisfy the dubious criteria of bogus university excellence, including getting rid of distinguished and eminent local Professors to meet the World University Rankings preferential criteria for foreign faculty, as well as its preference for more foreign students which NTU and NUS attracted with hundreds of free scholarships (since the Criteria did not specify only paid students were counted). 

NTU and NUS managers and administrators, and their experts, should now carefully study the 2015 World University Rankings to discover what their critics and skeptics, many of whom included eminent University Professors, educators and the United Nations UNESCO, have been warning over the past years the Rankings were published – that the World University Rankings are bogus and misleading, since their indicators lack academic validity and have no scientifically-established construct and they utilize a highly questionable survey and data collection methodology to create information for dubious ranking results which could not survive due diligence or methodological and reliability scrutiny.    
Singapore universities should maintain our Integrity and be honestly professional, and reject using the spurious World University Rankings to position our great Institutions of Higher Learning because of their lack of validity and reliability in Methodology and questionable measures of learning and research excellence.

The 2015 World University Rankings is final and conclusive proof that claims by the rankers over the past 10 years that they have carefully calibrated indicators and a uniquely trusted and vigorous methodology are untrue and bogus at best. There is no reason why the Singapore government and Singapore university administrators and academic experts should continue to be fooled repeatedly by such scams and dubious products.

Singapore universities should no longer participate in any “World University Rankings” Fraud.  Singapore’s presence in the World University Rankings invariably lends our hard-earned Reputation for Authenticity and Honesty to mask their lack of credibility, validity and reliability. Our Universities must have the same high standards of integrity and authenticity as the rest of the Nation. 



Anonymous said...

"There is no reason why the Singapore government and Singapore university administrators and academic experts should continue to be fooled repeatedly by such scams and dubious products."
MIKOspace as quoted by RB

Just too bad lah, MIKOspace did not even contest the last election as a PAP candidate, let alone being appointed as education minister.

So I think his views are more or less as impactful as Dr Chee Soon Juan or RB's views.

agongkia said...

Can swim mean can swim.Never blame underwear too big.
真金不怕火。Genuine gold no scare fire .
Remind me of my colleague who always have that entitlement mentality.Must get Champions in every karaoke competition .To him , if not within 3rd position it must be due to the judges favouring certain contestant,
inexperience, bias,machiam machiam..
What is so important about position. Another teng ah gee on the loose.

Anonymous said...

What is go great about abusing your position to take advantage of mei meis?