The Significance of University Rankings in Choosing a University in Malaysia

May 07, 2024


uni rankings

Selecting the best institution could be challenging in the modern world due to the countless options available. There are various parameters that you should consider when looking to pursue higher education abroad.

That's where university rankings come in, providing a structured way to evaluate and compare universities based on factors like research excellence, teaching quality, and graduate employability. 

University rankings are a great help to students who are looking to study overseas but unsure about which institutions are reputable.

University rankings are typically determined by evaluating various criteria that reflect academic quality, research output, international reputation, and student experience. 

While university rankings provide a valuable starting point, students must consider other factors such as program offerings, faculty expertise, campus culture, and career opportunities.

Which university ranking systems are helpful for choosing a university in Malaysia?

When deciding which university to enroll in, it's helpful to refer to university rankings for additional information about the institution.

However, it's important to remember that university rankings are not the sole factor in decision-making, as each ranking system has its own set of criteria. Nevertheless, these ranking systems can assist you in making a more informed decision. 

Here are some university ranking systems you can explore to find information about the ratings and rankings of the universities.


SETARA (Malaysian Higher Education Institutions Integrated Rating) is a rating system utilized by the Ministry of Higher Education to evaluate universities and colleges in Malaysia.

This system assesses higher education institutions in Malaysia based on their teaching and learning quality, research and innovation, as well as their services to the community and industry. 

Its primary objective is to ensure the maintenance of quality assurance and standards in Malaysian higher education institutions.

Previously, SETARA used a star rating system ranging from 1 to 6 stars. A rating of 1 star indicated that an institution did not meet the minimum criteria, while a rating of 6 stars indicated that the institution was at an excellent level and demonstrated international competitiveness.

However, in the 2022 session, evaluations were categorized into two groups, which are COMPETITIVE and VIABLE. While institutions in both categories meet the basic criteria for operation, the COMPETITIVE category indicates a higher level of performance and potential to compete internationally.

Meanwhile the VIABLE category indicates that an institution has the potential for development and improvement.

In 2022, several institutions received SETARA ratings under the COMPETITIVE category, such as Multimedia University, SEGi University, Taylor's University, and Sunway University.

2. MyQuest

Another university ranking system that can assist you in making decisions about university selection is MyQUEST (Malaysian Quality Evaluation System for Private Colleges). As the name suggests, this system is a tool created by the Malaysian Ministry of Education to assess the performance of private colleges in the country.

MyQUEST places significant emphasis on various quality criteria such as student profile, program recognition, graduate recognition, quality of resources, and the effectiveness of management systems (governance).

So, how are these criteria evaluated?

Private colleges in Malaysia are required to complete a self-evaluation using a web-based pro forma. Once this evaluation is completed, auditors appointed by the Ministry of Education conduct a site visit to gather supporting evidence to verify the self-evaluation. 

This site visit ensures the accuracy of the evaluation and provides students with reliable information to help them decide which university to enroll in. 

The final rating is then re-evaluated based on the strength of the evidence collected during the audit process.

MyQUEST is beneficial not only for local students in Malaysia but also for international students wishing to study in Malaysia.

For international students intending to pursue tertiary education at colleges in Malaysia, it is important to consider the International Students Readiness Rating. 

This rating indicates whether an institution is prepared to accept international students for study. Therefore, it is based on various indicators such as student accommodation, management systems, safety, and security.

The MyQUEST assessment is similar to SETARA, as it uses the COMPETITIVENESS and VIABLE categories. 

Several colleges have received COMPETITIVENESS recognition, including Advance Tertiary College (ATC), UOW Malaysia KDU College, INTEC Education College, Taylor's College, UCSI College, and many more.

What criteria are considered in university rankings?

University rankings are a popular tool for students navigating the vast landscape of higher education. 

But what exactly goes into these rankings?  

While specific criteria can vary between ranking systems, here's a breakdown of some common factors:

1. Academic reputation

One of the crucial metrics used in university ranking systems is academic reputation. This metric serves as an indicator of a university's research and teaching excellence and is based on the perception of academics worldwide. 

Surveys are conducted to gather the opinions of professors and researchers across different fields. A strong academic reputation reflects a university's status as a leading institution in knowledge creation and dissemination.

The academic reputation of a university is vital as it indicates how the institution is perceived within the academic community. Universities with a strong academic reputation are often considered prestigious and attract top faculty and researchers. 

Additionally, a high academic reputation can positively impact a university's ability to attract research funding and form partnerships with other institutions.

Furthermore, a university's academic reputation can influence the quality of education it provides and the opportunities available to its students. Students may benefit from access to renowned faculty members, cutting-edge research facilities, and a vibrant academic community. 

Also read: We Shortlisted 14 Universities in Malaysia for International Students

2. Research output

Another crucial factor influencing a university's ranking is the quality and quantity of its research output. 

Various metrics are used to assess research performance, including the number of research publications, the citations received by those publications, and the presence of faculty members with prestigious awards.

But how do these factors impact the university's ranking?

First of all, you must understand that research publications are a key indicator of a university's contribution to the advancement of knowledge. 

The number of publications, particularly in high-impact journals, reflects the institution's research productivity and influence within the academic community. Additionally, the number of citations received by these publications indicates the impact and relevance of the research conducted by the university.

Moreover, the presence of faculty members who have received prestigious awards and honors further enhances a university's research reputation. 

Universities that excel in research often attract top faculty and researchers, as well as research funding and collaborations. 

A strong research profile not only enhances a university's ranking but also contributes to its academic reputation and ability to attract talented students and faculty.

3. Internationalization

Universities that attract a diverse student body and faculty from around the world are seen as fostering a more enriching learning environment. 

This commitment to internationalization enhances cultural exchange, global perspectives and collaborations, and cross-cultural understanding among students and faculty.

The presence of international students and faculty members is considered an important factor in some university ranking systems. 

Institutions with a high proportion of international students and faculty are often perceived as more globally engaged and culturally diverse.

Furthermore, internationalization promotes collaboration and partnerships with institutions worldwide, enriching research, teaching, and learning experiences. Students benefit from exposure to different cultures, languages, and perspectives, preparing them for success in an increasingly interconnected world.

4. Resources and facilities

The quality of a university's infrastructure, libraries, laboratories, and other learning resources significantly contributes to student success. 

This demonstrates the university's investment in its resources and facilities, reflecting its dedication to providing students with the tools and environment they need to succeed academically and professionally.

Well-equipped facilities are seen as an indicator of the university's commitment to providing a comprehensive learning experience. Modern laboratories and libraries, offering access to a wide range of academic resources, as well as modern learning spaces, create an environment conducive to academic excellence.

Other than academic facilities, amenities for extracurricular activities, sports, and recreation are also important as they contribute to the holistic development of students and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Moreover, the availability of resources such as research centers, technology hubs, and student support services enhances the overall learning experience and fosters innovation and collaboration among students and faculty.

What are the limitations of relying solely on university rankings?

The impact of university rankings on student experience is undeniably paramount as it gives a quick check about the reputation of the universities.

 While university rankings provide valuable insights, there are some limitations of university rankings that warrant cautious consideration. Let’s talk about why you should never solely rely on university rankings;

1. Regional variations

Global rankings may not accurately reflect the minute details of Malaysia's higher education system or the specific needs and preferences of local students. For example, rankings that heavily emphasize metrics adopted by Western institutions may not precisely reflect the cultural context or educational priorities prevalent in Malaysia.

2. Limited scope

Rankings often prioritize research output and global reputation, neglecting other crucial factors such as quality instruction, student support services, and community engagement. For instance, a university that is well-known for its research capabilities might not necessarily excel in offering excellent instruction or strong student support services.

3. Subjectivity

The methodologies used to compile rankings can be subjective and may not align with individual priorities or values. While some rankings prioritize metrics aligned with personal objectives, others may diverge significantly. This subjectivity can lead to disparities in rankings, further complicating the decision-making process for prospective students.

How can students balance university rankings with other factors when choosing a university?

Are you solely relying on university rankings to make your decision? Remember, achieving the perfect balance between rankings and other crucial factors is key to finding your ideal university fit.

While university rankings offer valuable insights, they should not be the sole determinant of your educational journey. There are some factors beyond rankings that you should never ignore.

Here are some other factors that you must consider alongside university ranking;

1. Program Fit

When evaluating universities based on program fit, it's crucial for you to consider more than just the availability of programs. You should also assess how well these programs align with your academic interests and career goals.

Look for institutions that offer a diverse range of programs, including specialized tracks or interdisciplinary options tailored to your specific interests and goals. Additionally, consider whether the university provides programs that match your academic passions and career aspirations. 

Explore the expertise and research interests of faculty members within your chosen field of study. A university with knowledgeable and experienced faculty members can significantly enhance your learning experience and provide valuable mentorship opportunities.

2. Facilities and campus life

When evaluating potential universities to apply to, you must consider various factors and not just academic programs.

For instance, explore the facilities and amenities available, as well as the quality of student housing and dining options. These aspects significantly contribute to your overall comfort and well-being during your time at university.

Additionally, research the extracurricular opportunities offered by each university. 

Look into student clubs, sports teams, and cultural events, as they can greatly enrich your college experience and provide valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth. 

Participating in extracurricular activities allows you to pursue your interests, develop new skills, and build friendships outside the classroom.

3. Financial considerations

Funding and scholarships are crucial considerations when choosing a university. Established institutions typically have access to more funding and offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid opportunities to students. 

This access to financial support is invaluable for many students and can significantly alleviate the financial strain of their education. 

By offering a wide range of scholarships and financial aid options, these institutions make higher education more accessible to a broader range of students, regardless of their financial background. 

Many students may lean towards these universities precisely because of the availability of such resources, as they provide essential support throughout their academic journey. 

Whether it's merit-based scholarships, need-based grants, or work-study programs, these institutions strive to ensure that financial constraints do not hinder students from pursuing their academic aspirations.

In conclusion, finding the ideal institution to pursue your higher education is like trying to find your way through a dense network of options and factors. 

Although university rankings provide a potential window into the academic environment, it is only one aspect of the decision-making process. Prospective students who wish to pursue higher education in Malaysia must understand the multifaceted nature of this venture. 

Remember that the ultimate measure of a university's worth lies not in its ranking but in its ability to support your academic and personal development, build relationships, and promote progress. 

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