University rankings & foreign faculty/students?


Should higher education community take  QS rankings seriously?

I refer to the article “NTU, NUS ranked top two universities in Asia” (Straits Times, Oct 18).

It states that “QS said both universities are extremely well regarded by employers and attract a high proportion of international faculty, as illustrated by the perfect scores achieved in these two indicators.”

100% score for international faculty

I understand that in last year’s rankings – NUS scored 100% on the QS rankings for international faculty because only 37.3 per cent of the faculty in the university are Singaporeans.

62.7% foreign faculty?

There were 3,174 international faculty out of the total faculty of 5,062.

– see

Is this percentage the highest of the universities in Asia?

As to “NTU also achieved a perfect score for the quality-research indicator as well as for the proportion of international students, while NUS achieved the top score for its reputation among the academic community” – I understand that the estimated percentage of non-Singaporean students in one of our public universities is about a third of the total enrollment.
Is this percentage the highest of the universities in Asia?
With regard to “It also scored higher than NTU for having more staff with PhD degrees” – I attended a talk recently at one of the tertiary institutions – and one of the speakers said that one of the criteria used in decisions on approving funding for new projects, is whether it would contribute to the university’s rankings.
In the interest of encouraging a more discerning perspective on the numerous university rankings in the world – the following are some extracts from Philip G. Altbach’s article “The State of the Rankings” (Inside High Ed, Nov 11, 2010):-

“The investments made in higher education by China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore in the past several decades have resulted in the dramatic improvement of those countries’ top universities.

Where Is Teaching in InternationalRankings?

In a word — nowhere. One of the main functions of any university is largely ignored in all of the rankings. Why?

Institutions in Hong Kong and Singapore have the advantage of financial resources, English as the language of teaching and research, and a policy of employing research-active international staff.

Comment: Are our tuition fees for citizens the highest in Asia?

The QS World University Rankings are the most problematic. Between 2004 and 2009, these ranking were published with Times Higher Education. After that link was dropped, Times Higher Education began publishing its own rankings. From the beginning, QS has relied on reputational indicators for a large part of the analysis. Most experts are highly critical of the reliability of simply asking a rather unrandom group of educators and others involved with the academic enterprise for their opinions. In addition, QS queries the views of employers, introducing even more variability and unreliability into the mix.

Some argue that reputation should play no role at all in ranking, while others say it has a role but a minor one. Forty percent of the QS rankings are based on a reputational survey. This probably accounts for the significant variability in the QS rankings over the years. Whether the QS rankings should be taken seriously by the higher education community is questionable.”

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.