In Jun, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings released its annual university rankings showing that National University of Singapore (NUS) continues to hold its top spot in Asia. Overall in the world, NUS ranked 11th, just after University College London. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) was ranked 2nd in Asia and 13th in the world.

The top 15 universities ranked by QS World University Rankings:

  1. MIT, United States
  2. Stanford University, United States
  3. Harvard University, United States
  4. Caltech, United States
  5. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  6. ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  7. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  8. Imperial College London, United Kingdom
  9. University of Chicago, United States
  10. University College London, United Kingdom
  11. NUS, Singapore
  12. Princeton University, United States
  13. NTU, Singapore
  14. EPFL, Switzerland
  15. Tsinghua University, China

Top university in US and UK was MIT and University of Oxford respectively. Singapore did well for having 2 of its universities ranked in the top-15, considering its small population size compared with those of US and UK.

Mr Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said, “The (Singapore) local universities have contributed to such extraordinary achievement by boosting the innovation capability of the city state and by educating a large proportion of its highly skilled workforce.”

“NUS continues to lead nationally and regionally, followed closely by NTU. The latter, despite a small drop, continues to improve in our research impact indicator, rising 11 places year on year,” said Mr Sowter. He added that the ranking is dynamic and extremely competitive. This is especially true of universities in the top echelon.

QS uses six indicators to compile the ranking, including research impact, faculty-student ratio and how the university is regarded by other academics and employers, as well as proportion of international students and faculty.

No Indian universities among top 100

Meanwhile, after the release of QS World Rankings, the Indian media lamented that none of the Indian universities have made it to the top-100 in the rankings. Indian media is asking what India has done wrong with its university education (‘No Indian institute among top 100 in QS World University Rankings 2021: What is India doing wrong?‘, 11 Jun).

India Today wrote, “India’s performance wasn’t all that good. No Indian institute secured a position among the top 100 universities of the world.”

Only a total of 21 Indian institutes made it to the top 1,000 in the QS World Rankings. Do note that India has over 1000 universities in the country.

The top 3 Indian universities did rank in the top-200 of QS World Rankings:

  • 172 – IIT Bombay (dropped 20 spots from last year’s 152)
  • 185 – IISC Bengaluru (dropped 1 spot from last year’s 184)
  • 193 – IIT Delhi (dropped 11 spots from last year’s 182)

“IITs and Indian universities seem to have scored poorly in these QS Ranking parameters – Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, International Faculty, and International Students,” explains TG Sitharaman, Director at IIT Guwahati.

Vice-chairman of University Grants Commission of India (UGC) Bhushan Patwardhan attributed the drop in rankings of Indian institutes to the quality of education and research. “We need to focus on quality and relevance over quantity and degrees. Even the central government’s centre of excellence initiative did not salvage the institutes in the ranking. A more detailed study is needed to know what happened to centres of excellence,” he said.

UGC is a statutory body under India’s Ministry of Education, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education in India.

Replying to Indian media, Mr Sowter from QS attributed the overall ranking drop in Indian universities to also other universities in the world making efforts to improve themselves. He said, “Though India’s universities have dropped as a group this year, this is because of other universities across the world making increasingly intense efforts to enhance their educational offerings.”

Companies prefer to hire Indian nationals

Despite the poorer rankings of Indian universities, many companies in Singapore appear to prefer to hire Indian nationals, on doubt mostly were graduates from their universities. This is especially so for firms in the financial and professional services.

Early last month (5 Aug), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that another 47 companies with suspected discriminatory hiring practices have been placed on its Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist (‘MOM places firms with “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities” in FCF watchlist‘).

This is on top of the 1,000 firms in the watchlist as announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament earlier this year – an increase of about 400 more firms than what was on the watchlist a year ago.

The latest announcement came after the recent General Election which saw the ruling PAP government lose another GRC and perform worse than it had anticipated.

Of the said 47 companies, 30 are in the financial and professional service sectors. They include banks, fund management firms, management consulting companies, as well as firms that provide project management and engineering services.

MOM said that all the 30 firms have had a “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities”. In one financial institution, almost three-quarters of their PMETs are of the same nationality and in another bank, almost two-thirds of the PMETs are also of the same nationality, MOM revealed.

MOM did not name the companies nor the “single nationalities” involved but on social media, most netizens are pointing to Indian nationals. Even PAP MP Ang Wei Neng recently commented in Parliament that he felt like a foreigner in his own country when he visited the Changi Business Park, a place dominated by Indian nationals working there (‘MP Ang Wei Neng takes 9 yrs to feel like a foreigner in own country when visiting Changi Business Park‘).

In their defence, some of the the firms accused of engaging in discriminatory hiring practices said that Singaporeans lacked the “global exposure” necessary to function effectively across the multiple countries that they operate in.


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