Top universities fall in world rankings

Top universities fall in world rankings

Lack of professors cited as key fault

Thailand's top universities have dropped in the rankings on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) list of top tertiary educational institutions worldwide compared to last year.

The results have sparked predictions among students that quality could carry on declining until graduates have problems finding work. In the latest QS World University Rankings released yesterday, Chulalongkorn University (CU) retained the top spot among the Thai universities at No.253 on the list, down 10 places from last year.

Mahidol University is rated at 295, down from 257 a year ago and Chiang Mai University is between 551 and 600, down from 501-550 in 2014. Universities at the lower end of the list are ranked in ranges due to the high number of schools with similar scores.

Another five Thai universities retained last year's rankings: Thammasat University, a range between 601 and 650; Kasetsart University, 651-700; Khon Kaen University, 701+; King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, 701+; and Prince of Songkla University, 701+.

Deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Higher Education Commission (Ohec), Suphat Champatong, said the performance of Thai universities in the latest QS ranking is a reflection of a lack of academic research papers in English and a shortage of highly qualified lecturers, especially those with academic ranks.

Mr Suphat said only one-third of Thai university lecturers have the qualifications to be an assistant professor, associate professor or professor, compared with almost 100% at leading universities in the world.

"If Thai universities want to feature in the world's top rankings, they need to publish more research papers in English and also produce more lecturers with academic ranks, which tends to enhance their status," Mr Suphat said.

The annual rankings were judged by 76,798 academics and over 44,000 employers from 82 countries. The QS world ranking assesses institutions on six criteria, comprising 40% for academic reputation, 20% citations per faculty, and the rest employer reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, international student ratio, and international faculty ratio.

"You can see that 60% of the evaluation weighs on lecturers' academic ranks and research papers, so if Thai universities still cannot improve these two criteria, they may perform worse next year," he said.

Ohec has set out a 10-year plan to try and help the country's top six universities gain better rankings. The six leading universities will receive more funds from Ohec to use in improving their research.

Peerapong Triyacharoen, acting vice-president for Quality Assurance at Kasetsart University, said many Chinese and Russian universities have tried hard to climb up the QS rankings in the past few years, so there are more education establishments vying for places.

"There is a link between investment and results in higher education. China, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia have invested consistently in their higher education. If Thai universities want to compete with them, we need to invest more," Mr Peerapong said.

Nattida Sapipat, or Am, 21, a journalism senior at Siam University, said the poor international performance of Thai universities is bad news for her and Thai students in general as the Asean Economic Community will open up Thailand to competition from more skilled labour.

"Thai students might have to compete with graduates from neighbouring countries, so if our university rankings continue to drop, Thai university graduates may end up with worse skills than other countries. In that case I'm afraid Thai students might face difficulties finding a job," Ms Nattida said.

However, top universities in neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia performed better than last year, especially the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

NUS made it into the world's top 15 for the first time after it climbed 10 spots from last year to 12th and it is ranked the best university in Asia. NTU was 38th, one notch below its ranking of 39th a year ago. Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya (UM) in Malaysia made it into the top 150. UM went up five spots to 146th place this year and remains Malaysia's top public university, while Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) jumped up 20 places to make it into the top 300 in 289th place.

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