Rankings are important when choosing a varsity

by Professor Beverley Webster
Vice President (Education), Monash University Malaysia

There is a lot of hype about rankings, and the real question is: "Are these rankings important and should you use these to choose your university?" Absolutely! They are important. Why? Because of the criteria used for ranking. These criteria include the student experience, the quality of staff and quality of graduates, the volume of research, and the campus community's internationalisation. More importantly, some new criteria include the impact of research on societies, health and the environment, the ethical and inclusion focus, and the institution's social responsibility.

You want to study at a university that produces the graduates who get great jobs, become future leaders and have the ability and opportunities to make a difference in local and wider communities. Look for a university which has an international and culturally rich environment. These experiences provide you with opportunities to develop that global outlook which is very much sought after by employers, especially those multinational companies. You want to go to a university that engages in and has a reputation for impactful and groundbreaking research. Look at the staff in your discipline of interest, who they are and what they have achieved. You want to be taught by the best. In addition, institutions that consider the health and well being of their students, who have programs focused on the personal and the social, are those to search for. Opportunities are plentiful when you graduate from a highly ranked and well-respected university.

Remember that these days, jobs are not necessarily for life. The average person changes their career between three and seven times. This could be within the same company or moving to another. Considering your career/s, it is important to find a course of study that matches your potential capabilities. However, it is equally, if not more important, to find a course of study that aligns with your interests. One that provides you with growth and development opportunities and one that excites and challenges you. It is possible to change your course of study should you decide on a different direction. That is not uncommon, nor is it a bad thing. A university that provides this type of flexibility and recognition of study completed is something to look out for.

A university that is committed to providing continuity of the educational experience of its students is a key consideration in choosing a university during these times. Are you able to start or continue your studies amidst restrictions on access to campus? Is the university investing in its staff and curriculum to ensure a comparable experience in the virtual and online environment? These are significant considerations. Flexibility is not to be underestimated. A university that provides you with opportunities to continue with an online or more flexible study should your circumstances require, could be what you are looking for. You may not be located close to your university but still wish to progress in your studies. The circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in universities rethinking how students will engage in the curriculum and the assessment. Many of the innovative solutions implemented by universities are very positive and may not be temporary.

Universities in Malaysia are regulated by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). Regulation includes a rigorous process whereby the university demonstrates and provides evidence that they are meeting minimum standards around issues of quality. This is all good news for students, graduates and employers. Focusing on the following areas means that higher education institutions who are registered are doing their job when it comes to the graduates they produce:

  • Quality of the course and the curriculum
  • Ensuring assessments are designed to enable students to demonstrate they meet the learning outcomes
  • Demonstrating that the grading criteria are reliable and valid and are at the appropriate level of learning for the degree
  • Support provided to students needs meets the needs around their learning
  • Developing 21st-century capabilities

MQA will interrogate the documentation for registration in addition to doing site visits to ensure an appropriate level of investment in infrastructure commensurate with the offering degrees. Whilst the notion of 'regulation' may not be palatable, it is an important signal for potential students that due diligence is conducted.