Take 5 with NTU President

HEY! asks NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson what these university rankings mean for Singapore students

1) NTU has risen to become the top 13th university in the world. Were you surprised at the results?

NTU has been on an upward trajectory since 2011, and we have been working very hard, but the big jump of 26 places did take us by some surprise. We have improved our scores significantly in research citations, academic reputation and student-to-faculty ratio.

2) Why did QS make changes to their research excellence indicator this year?

They wanted to balance the biases in different subject areas to level the playing field for better comparisons amongst universities. But even without this change, QS said that NTU would still have jumped by more than 10 places this year.

3) What does this new ranking mean for NTU and Singapore?

With two Singapore universities in the Top 15, young Singaporeans can have a top-notch education right here without leaving home. For our students and alumni, the value of their NTU degree is enhanced, and this is important in a globalised workplace.

4) Some sceptics say NTU’s rise is because we know how to “game” it. Your comments?

Rankings do not shape our strategies. We focus on our fundamentals – to create a world-class environment for learning, teaching and research. We will continue to attract the best professors and bright students, and this is something we have been very successful in. We will also continue to collaborate with top industry players and academic partners and keep up with the impactful global research we have been doing. All these are done so that we can nurture each NTU student to reach the highest potential and benefit Singapore and mankind. The rankings only show that we are on the right track.

5) So how should we look at university rankings?

Rankings allow young universities like NTU to be benchmarked with the best in the world and to visualise our progress. In the days before rankings, it was all about old perceptions.

Each ranking is a measurement system with common parameters that are used to gauge the universities’ performance in these areas. But different rankings should not be compared as their methodologies are not the same.

So the QS, Times Higher Education and Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings should not be compared. The Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking, for example, is more of a research ranking rather than a university ranking as it places high weightage on the number of Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals won by a university’s alumni and faculty. That in itself is a bias against young universities.