PUTRAJAYA: Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has been granted apex status and hundreds of millions of ringgit in additional funding to transform it into Malaysia's first world-class university.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said that both quantitative and qualitative criteria were used to select USM under the accelerated programme for excellence (apex).
"The selection committee evaluated each university's state of readiness, transformation plan and preparedness for change.
"After a thorough evaluation, the committee decided that only one university truly met all the criteria, namely USM,'' said Khaled Wednesday in a press conference at his ministry. The Cabinet agreed to the decision at its meeting on Aug 27.
The university given apex status is one that has the greatest potential among Malaysian universities to be world-class, and as such, would be given additional assistance to compete with top-ranked global institutions, added Khaled.
With apex status, USM will be expected to move up the World University Rankings with a target of top 200 in five years' time and top 100, if not top 50, by 2020, he said.
In last year’s Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, Universiti Malaya (UM) was the highest ranked Malaysian university at 246, followed by USM at 307, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at 309 and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 364.
A selection committee headed by former Universiti Malaysia Sarawak vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamad Zawawi Ismail short-listed USM, UM, UKM and UPM.
USM's transformation plan, entitled Transforming Higher Education For A Sustainable Tomorrow focused, among other things, on diagnostics, medical biotechnology, waste management, pharmaceuticals, nano technology, carbon nanotube, membrane technology and vaccinology.
"I hope the apex status will spur other universities to strive for excellence too. It's not about selecting the oldest university but choosing one with a doable plan that can help us transform our higher education,'' said Khaled when asked why UM was not selected.
The other universities that applied for apex status were International Islamic University Malaysia, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Petronas and Universiti Tenaga Nasional.
Khaled said that two more apex institutions would be selected among centres of excellence and newer, more specialised universities.