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Public and private institutions of higher learning will be ranked to improve the quality of education in the country and to promote healthy competition among them, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He said the Higher Education Ministry has been told to develop the ranking system.

“It is hoped that by ranking them, healthy competition between the institutions would be fostered, thereby motivating them to improve their quality of teaching and research,” he said at the opening of the Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology’s Malaysia Design Innovation Centre here yesterday.

The grand and colourful event was attended by close to 1,000 guests including ministers, deputy ministers, ambassadors and high commissioners, heads of colleges and universities, as well as CEOs of numerous companies.

Abdullah said he hoped information on ranking of public higher learning institutions would be available soon.

He added that private education institutions should be graded into appropriate categories - based on “transparent” criteria - to reflect the diversity of higher education institutions.

The prime minister proposed several categories of the exercise - universities and university colleges, technical colleges, technical training centres and tuition centres.

“This initiative will facilitate the monitoring of the quality and integrity of such institutions and the approval of courses,” he said.

He added that the grading would motivate the institutions to improve their quality of teaching and research in order to be “promoted” to a higher category.

Abdullah said the government encouraged the growth of private institutions of higher learning to meet the growing demand. The number of these institutions has increased ten-fold to 539 from 50 in 1986 when he was Education Minister.

He said the proliferation of such institutions had made quality tertiary education affordable.

“Currently, up to RM2bil flows out of the country annually when Malaysian students study abroad,” he added.