PENANG, 15 December 2014 – Based on the QS-WUR Ranking, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) is recognised among the top 150 universities in the world in Engineering Studies. Chemical Engineering for instance is frequently listed in the "Top 100" since 2011 and ranked at 38 in the world for 2013.In 2014, there were 2 engineering lecturers listed in The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014 and one of them won the Merdeka Award recently.
According to USM Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dato' Dr. Omar Osman, in general, all USM engineering schools are listed in the QS-WUR subject ranking. Engineering studies is also listed in the Shanghai Jiao Tong ARWU in 2014. ARWU Ranking used a different methodology which was much tougher compared to QS-WUR, where only two universities in Malaysia were listed in this ranking with USM listed among the Top 150 (101-150) in Engineering and UKM Top 200 (151-200) in Mathematics.
He added that based on these achievements, it is clear that the issues raised on the subject of the construction of two integrated laboratories in the USM Engineering Campus does not hinder USM’s efforts to participate and compete on the world stage at the highest level.
He told this to the reporters in response to an article published on the front page of an English newspaper today, titled "USM Falls Short" and "USM not living up to status".
The report claimed that USM is not living up to its expectations when existing infrastructure in the Engineering Campus was not functioning properly and fully utilised, referring to the two incomplete laboratories and another laboratory that is barely being utilised.
One of the laboratories was the Science and Engineering Research Centre (SERC). It was built in 2008 and completed in 2011 with RM12 million worth of equipment mostly contributed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) which were purchased in phases.
SERC provides common laboratories that are shared among the schools in the Engineering Campus besides providing services to the industry and other users in an effort to generate income for the university on a long term basis.Until 2014, SERC has generated a total of RM104,000 with 20 to 30 users per month apart from being utilised by students, postgraduates and researchers.
Also present were the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International Affairs) Professor Dato' Dr. Ahmad Shukri Mustapa Kamal, the Director of Engineering Campus who is also SERC Director Professor Dr. Zainal Ariffin Mohd. Ishak, the Director of USM Institutional Development Division, Professor Dr. Rozman Din and the Director of USM Development Department, Ir. Abdul Aziz Che Jusoh.
Responding to the reporters, Zainal Ariffin believed that the usage of laboratories should not be an issue since it has just been audited by the National Audit Department and they were satisfied with the level of usage of the lab equipments.
"The laboratories are fully utilised by the students as well as the industry; furthermore several companies have indicated their interest to add more equipments to the laboratory," said Zainal Ariffin.
He added that USM Engineering Campus will further strengthen its future research efforts in the areas of membrane, catalyst, water resources, composite and waste management.
In responding to another laboratory issue, where construction work on the RM14.29 million Integrated Research Centre which began construction in 2010 and supposed to have completed in 2012 as well as termination of the appointed contractor due to delay in completion during the assessment year, the Vice-Chancellor explained that USM was also disappointed with the outcome. However, the university opened up a new tender and the selection was done in accordance with the legal process and practice. Based on the available information, the selected contractor was registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) until 2016 and indeed, it was a class A contractor. The construction started in 2013 and it was expected to be fully completed by end of this month.
"We were only being informed by CIDB on 8th December 2014 that the contractor’s license has been revoked with the fact that the building was 97% ready to be equipped with the necessary equipment and of course this is beyond the control of the university," said Omar.
He added that USM always plan well towards the development of education and research; the laboratories will be fully equipped with the necessary equipment once completed including through contributions from the industry in strengthening the existing relationship and for the advancement of research.
One of the laboratories to be located here is the River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDEC) which is a Ministry of Education Centre of Excellence for Research.
These laboratories are built as a cost saving measure to enable all the engineering schools to share the available equipment and facilities in an effort to elevate USM engineering studies to a higher level in the future in which the impact is expected to be seen in a few years time.
"The Accelerated Programme for Excellence - APEX entrusted to USM in 2008, is a long journey and exploration to change the existing attitudes and practices that are associated with higher education, which stresses on the change of mindset for all parties especially those in campus in order to work together, to share the existing facilities, to think creatively and innovatively in problem solving and make the best use of the limited resources to carry out this mandate," stressed Omar.
Therefore, he said, USM is making the best of whatever that was given by the government to ensure that its aspiration can be achieved which is now increasingly visible through the achievements of USM Engineering Campus, the ranking according to discipline that shows USM is ranked number 28 in Environmental Science as well as other achievements which have been and currently taking place in USM Health Campus.
When asked about the allocation of funds, Omar said that it is not a big issue. In fact, it provides a challenge to USM to achieve what was intended through various available methods especially through the close collaborations with outside parties.
"What is more important now is that USM is collaborating with over 120 universities around the world to expand its existing collaboration network, particularly through its involvement in various organisations," said Omar.
He also hopes that all parties will support the efforts made by USM so that these efforts will bring much success in the future. - Translation: Siti Faizah Abd Halim & Tan Ewe Hoe/Text: Mohamad Abdullah/Photo: Mohd Kamil Ashar & Mohamad Danial Shahri.