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Message-ID: <199805120754.DAA04412@access1.digex.net>
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 03:54:12 -0400
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Area schools (Asiaweek)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

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Secrets of Success

Asiaweek's second annual survey of the region's best schools focuses on research - and the ravages of the economic crisis

By Cesar Bacani, Asiaweek,
12 May 1998

THESE ARE NOT THE best of times for Asia's universities. "We're cutting salaries," says Soo Young Auh, vice president of South Korea's Ewha Woman's University. "We're looking at cost-control measures adapted from the corporate world." The region's economic crisis is hitting not only pocketbooks. Students at the University of Indonesia and other schools are staging increasingly assertive protests against the government of President Suharto, which they blame for the economy's meltdown. In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed threatened to issue shoot-to-kill orders as clashes between her student supporters and those of her rival, Khaleda Zia, injured 30 people. The University of Dhaka had to postpone final exams.

But Asia's founts of knowledge are a long way from running dry. Witness the May 4 centenary celebrations of Peking University, itself no stranger to budget cutbacks, ideological fights, and yes, campus violence. Ewha Woman's University is even older - it was established in 1886. University of Indonesia turned 48 in February. University of Dhaka is 77. "We are here to serve and protect the monarchy and the people," says Thienchay Kiranandana, president of Chulalongkorn University. "We start from the brain, the origin of thinking. We will endure." A hotbed of student activism in the 1970s, Thailand's oldest school was founded in 1916 by King Rama V. Farmers, merchants, monks and school children contributed 980,000 baht to start its first endowment fund.

To be sure, short-term turbulence affects schools. That is clear in this year's Asiaweek survey of the region's best universities. The depreciation of Southeast Asia's currencies helped push its institutions way down in the list. University of Malaya, for example, dropped from 11th place in 1997 to No. 33 this year. In purchasing-power parity (PPP) dollars, its total spending was slashed 33% - $140.8 million versus $209.4 million. The Malaysian ringgit fell by roughly the same percentage against the U.S. dollar from May 1997 to May 1998. For the survey, we converted local currencies into greenbacks, then calculated their equivalent in PPP. Purchasing-power parity takes into account price differences in each country, making financial figures of different universities comparable.

This year, we have a bigger universe. In our inaugural listing, we sent questionnaires to 78 schools. This time, 95 multi-disciplinary universities were nominated. In addition, we requested information from 41 science and technology institutes. (We decided to have two lists to avoid comparing apples with oranges - specialized schools have a narrower focus and typically accept fewer students than broad-spectrum institutions.) And strong universities that declined to participate or sent inadequate information in 1997 signed up this year, among them Japan's Tohoku University, Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University and Seoul National University. Many of the new entrants rated higher than ASEAN schools in almost all attributes.

Finally, we dropped value-for-money as a variable and replaced it with research output. The proposal won unanimous approval from presidents and vice chancellors we consulted, who said the amount of money students pay does not really have an impact on a university's academic excellence. Its research programs do. Unfortunately, expanding the frontiers of knowledge does not seem to be a priority of most Southeast Asian universities. One of our seven research attributes is the amount of money set aside for research. But, as another factor, we also derived the ratio of research articles published in local and international journals to the total number of faculty. Here again, Southeast Asian universities generally did not shine.

As in the last survey, we asked the nominated universities to rate their peers on a five-point scale, with 5 ("world-class") as the highest grade. The total score was divided by the number of schools that gave ratings - not everyone wanted to pass judgement. This subjective measurement of reputation was given a weighting of 20% (1997: 30%) in the final scoring. Student selectivity, measured among other things by the ratio of accepted students to the number of applicants, was worth 25%, up from 20% in 1997. Financial resources accounted for 10% (15% last year) while faculty resources retained a 25% weighting. The new attribute, research output, made up the remaining 20% of the final grade.

Predictably, the top 10 places in the multi-disciplinary list went to universities from the rich economies of Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia. (Peking University, No. 7 last year, was told by the Ministry of Education not to participate this time because some Taiwan schools in our list have the designation "national" in their names.) Still No. 1: University of Tokyo, which was awarded a "5" in academic reputation by nearly all of its peers. It also excels in research output - its teachers, on average, publish two research articles in international periodicals a year. We tracked this achievement through the Journal Citation Index, which monitors university publications in science and engineering, social sciences and the humanities.

The first-ranked specialized school, South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology, also comes from an advanced economy. But the next two slots went to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and its sister university in Madras. Also in the top 10: China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and Pakistan's Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering. That is proof that developing countries can build world-class universities if they put their minds to it. Cynics may say these schools were formed primarily to serve their country's defense industries. But while graduates may end up in nuclear-weapons programs, the schools themselves are not closed to outsiders. They hire foreign teachers, accept foreign students and publish research findings.

The truth is that universities from developing countries have the advantage in that most basic ingredient for excellence - their students. They have the choice of the best and the brightest from their vast populations. Take Indonesia's Gadjah Mada University (No. 49). Last year, it received 70,411 applications. The number of first-year places available: just 3,705. The school's acceptance rate of 5.3% is even more stringent than the 18.8% reported by 55th-ranked University of Indonesia, which accepted 66,407 of the 352,446 students who wanted to get in. (Two other reasons why Gadjah Mada ranks higher than UI: 23% of its teachers have doctorates compared with University of Indonesia's 16%, and its research funding at 16 billion rupiah is far higher than its rival's puny 1.2 billion rupiah.)

You can say the same thing about Chinese schools. "Their student body is drawn from a large population of very high-performing students," says University of New South Wales pro vice chancellor for development Jane Morrison, referring to Peking University and Fudan University in Shanghai. "The intellectual capacity these Chinese universities bring to research, teaching and scholarship is extraordinary." Sure, they have a long way to go in educational technology. But generous government funding and private-sector endowments can easily upgrade poor physical facilities and pay outstanding professors and researchers what they expect and deserve.

And China has a new ace in affluent Hong Kong, which was reunited with the mainland last year. "We have become an institution that serves all of what I call the Hong Kong Bay area, which includes Guangzhou," says Woo Chia-wei, president of 12th-ranked Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "We're setting up programs with Peking University. We have also signed an agreement to set up a research academy in Shenzhen." Peking and Fudan have also joined Universitas 21, a grouping of the world's top research-intensive universities (see story page 55).

Can others in Asia keep pace? Only if they continue getting funding. The worst thing governments can do is to cut support for their universities. Schools themselves must focus on research. "We are one solution to the Asian crisis," argues Woo. "For Asia to move into the 21st century, we need to improve our technology and management base." Agrees Thienchay of 19th-ranked Chulalongkorn: "Producing graduates is not the sole duty of a university. The most important thing is the creation of knowledge." Exactly what the 15 schools in the following pages do best.

- With reporting by Anne Naham/Beijing, Julian Gearing/Bangkok and Hannah Beech/Hong Kong


Visible links:

6. The Top 10: http://www.pathfinder.com/@@k1M9DaEaJgEAQL6S/asiaweek/current/issue/cs2.html

7. Asia's Top 5 Research Institutions: http://www.pathfinder.com/@@k1M9DaEaJgEAQL6S/asiaweek/current/issue/cs3.html

8. Universitas 21: Building a Global University: http://www.pathfinder.com/@@k1M9DaEaJgEAQL6S/asiaweek/current/issue/cs4.html

9. The Best Schools in Asia: The Rankings http://www.pathfinder.com/@@k1M9DaEaJgEAQL6S/asiaweek/current/issue/cs5.html

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