Home | News | Singapore academics criticised university rankings. Then their quotes disappeared.

Singapore academics criticised university rankings. Then their quotes disappeared.

Asian rankings darlings the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University are suffering internal tumult after 10 professors openly criticised them.

An article published in Singaporean newspaper Today detailed how several high profile academics in non-STEM fields left or were considering leaving the universities because of the universities’ rankings obsession.

They said this resulted in a narrow view of education, with an emphasis on hard sciences, and that it constrained academic freedom.

Headlined ‘Opaque policies, fixation with KPIs, rankings: why arts and humanities academics quit NUS, NTU’, the online article soon disappeared. Yet, like a magician’s vanishing trick, nothing on the internet is ever truly gone. Parts of it resurfaced on various websites.

Today explained that it was removed due to legal challenges. NUS was the source of one of these, as declared in a statement:

“The article in Today “fell significantly short of our expectations. It also did not adequately represent NUS’ position on the matter.

“Ranking is not a driver of change at NUS.

“[It] has unfairly affected the reputation and standing of NUS locally and internationally.

“Hence, NUS is seeking legal advice regarding these allegations.”

Five professors quoted in the article stand by it, as outlined in a Facebook post. “We believe that freedom of expression and active public debate are foundational to scholarly excellence…,” they wrote. “We are unaware of situations where media reporting responsibly on the opinions of faculty have been subject to legal challenges from a university.

“We are saddened by this apparent intolerance.”

While Westerners have lambasted it, until lately, there has been little local, public opposition to Singapore’s rankings-driven educational strategy. A 2017 op-ed by Singaporean economist (now Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan) Linda Lim, also one of the professors quoted in the Today article, and Pang Eng Fong, a Professor of Strategic Management at Singapore Management University, however, comprehensively critiqued it.

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