Coming of age for Malaysian universities

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WITH reference to the comments by Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Rod Smith about the New Colombo Plan, it is incredibly encouraging in the second year of the launch of this programme, it has seen close to a 200 per cent jump in the number of Australian students coming to Malaysia for a semester abroad.

This is an indication of not only the appeal of Malaysia as a location of choice for Australian youth who want an international flavour to their higher education but also a testament to the quality of higher education in Malaysia.

It was just over 40 years ago Prof Johari Surin, who is now the director of the Centre for Research at Taylor’s University, received a Colombo Plan scholarship from the Australian government. The scholarship funded him to study at the University of Queensland, and set him on an academic career path which has since seen him become a highly cited Malaysian scholar in infectious diseases and parasitology.

In the early1970s, Malaysia did not have the number of academic institutions it now has. Those original Colombo Plan scholarships offered a helping hand to aspiring young Malaysian academics. Today, as a testament to how well the country has developed its higher education sector, Australia is now sending students to study in Malaysia under its New Colombo Plan scholarship scheme.

For Malaysia, as one of the countries involved in the original Colombo Plan award programme, this full circle indicates our institutions are on par with that of the partner universities in Australia. This movement will also lend an international flavour to the host universities, which include Taylor’s University, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

As one of the private universities involved, we are happy to host two of our New Colombo Plan scholars from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, who would spend approximately six months studying primary education in the School of Education as well as in the Taylor’s Business School.

In addition to these scholars, we have been welcoming mobility students from international universities such as Mahidol University, Thailand, Shizuoka University, Japan, University of Sussex, UK, University of Technology Sydney, Australia and University of Birmingham, UK as part of our efforts to provide an international edge to not only these students from our partner universities, but also our own students.

In today’s globalised world, universities have the responsibility of equipping their students with the necessary skills and qualities they need to positively impact their future workplace. This is achieved by providing them the best atmosphere to glean information and also giving them the opportunities to broaden their world view.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh launched Taylor’s University Global Strategic Plan last year. This ambitious plan not only supports the recruitment of international students to study full-time in Malaysia but also to increase the range of opportunities for Malaysian students to do an exchange semester or an internship overseas. Taylor’s University has over 125 international exchange partners, and these student exchanges help to further increase the diversity of students in Malaysia — as many of these exchange students come from countries such as the UK, Germany, Finland, France and Australia. It also opens up new opportunities for Malaysians to study abroad.

While Malaysia is already recognised as one of the leading education hubs in Asia along with Hong Kong and Singapore, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 will help Malaysia to move ahead of the pack.

Turning Malaysia into an “education hub” seemed like a pipe-dream 40 years ago, but successive government policies have supported the sector and its development. Malaysia now has a vibrant education sector, with a mix of home-grown public and private universities — along with a significant numbers of international branch campuses, including the first ever overseas Chinese university branch campus. Malaysia is also well on its way to meeting its target of having 200,000 international students studying in the country.

In the recent university ranking released by global higher education analysts Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Malaysian universities are making headway globally as the quality of education offered at both public and private universities is improving year on year. Taylor’s University made it to the list of the top 200 universities in Asia, at No. 179.

I believe local universities like ours will be able to provide their international students an unforgettable experience not just in terms of the rich culture but also through the forward-thinking approach to education available within our walls. I look forward to Malaysia being the location of choice of more and more Australians through the New Colombo Plan.