NG PENG KEAT: While the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been ascending the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education rankings, the Shanghai Jiaotong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) tells a different story.
The ARWU relies on an objective assessment of research excellence.
Reportedly preferred by academics, it is also of significant interest to an increasingly savvy student population, postdoctoral fellows and new academic faculty seeking to build their careers.
Hence, it is disconcerting that NUS has stagnated within the 101-150 band since 2003.
Notably, its ranking in the field of medicine slipped to the 101-150 band this year, after spending several years in the 76-100 band.
This is despite the fact that NUS has two medical schools, several university-level research institutes, and a school of public health.
The overall lack of progress occurs even as NUS continues to march up the QS and Times rankings, which employ more subjective criteria.
It has often been said that the ARWU favours old universities. Indeed, many of the top positions are filled by more established universities in the US and Europe.
However, younger universities, including those in Asia such as the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, both of which are only slightly older than NUS, feature highly in the ARWU.
That being said, Singapore can rightly be proud of 33-year-old Nanyang Technological University (NTU). It has climbed the QS and Times rankings for a number of years. On the ARWU, it ranked in the 301-400 band until 2010, when it climbed steadily to reach the 151-200 band this year.
Keeping to this trajectory, NTU should catch up with NUS in the global rankings within a few years.
This letter was written by Ng Peng Keat.
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