University rankings lack a key metric - teaching quality

When Nanyang Technological University (NTU) first broke into the top 20 list of the world's leading universities ("NUS, NTU in top 13 of world ranking"; Sept 15, 2015), there was much euphoria.

It was interesting that the breakthrough was due to a change in the ranking system by London-based education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Prior to the change, it was ranked 39th.

This year, NTU has repeated the feat ("NUS, NTU in top 20 of university list again"; Tuesday).

What raised eyebrows was the fact that NTU raced ahead of traditional Ivy League universities such as Yale, Cornell, Columbia and Brown.

The QS rankings use six indicators - academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international students and international faculty.

It is important to note that the QS rankings do not measure teaching quality, a metric that any prospective student of a university would be interested to know.

As an NTU alumnus, I would encourage the university to develop its own measurement of what a quality education is all about, and teaching quality should feature as one of the key metrics.

To get feedback about teaching quality, one only needs to survey the graduating class and check if the score is improving each year.

Policymakers should be making resource allocation to improve this metric.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'University rankings lack a key metric - teaching quality'. Print Edition | Subscribe