ITB: Excellence in oil & gas engineering

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Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman
Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei.

Inside Investor sat down with Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB), to hear the latest news on its new degree programmes, specifically Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. Dr Hajah emphasised ITB’s goal of becoming the number 1 oil and gas engineering university in Brunei and, eventually, in the ASEAN region.

Q: How has ITB progressed since 2008, when it became a full-fledged university?

A: I think that it has progressed steadily, as it has incorporated degree programmes instead of just diploma programmes. The first-degree programme began with the Queen’s Belfast University in Ireland. Later on, in 2009, ITB incorporated Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. These programmes have progressed steadily since ITB became a full-fledged university.

Q: What did ITB offer originally if these new programmes were only started in 2008?

A: Before 2008, ITB started with engineering, business and IT, and actually we currently still focus on these three areas.

Q: There is a high demand for national manpower. How are you getting this message across to students to awake their interest in petroleum engineering?

A: Oil and gas is going to be a big part of Brunei for many years to come, which is the main reason why we need to produce many engineers. I think they have figured out that about 800+ are needed for the oil and gas industry. As an institute, ITB is committed to producing engineers, and we will continue to do so by attracting students through engaging them with the industries that they will be working for in the near future.

Q: Where do you find your professors? In Brunei or in other areas?

A: We don’t have professors only from Brunei at the moment, we try to get 60 per cent locals and 40 per cent expatriates.  We are actually still recruiting professors from overseas for areas that we cannot fill in with locals. We have mostly recruited academic staff from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but we are trying to recruit more from places like the UK, Australia and others as well. We are currently trying to migrate to a new salary scheme, and this would give us the ability to attract more quality academics from overseas.

Q: You are currently one of nineteen universities that specialise on engineering in ASEAN. In which programmes can ITB work together with other universities?

A: I believe petroleum engineering is our strongest programme. We still don’t want to expand away from oil and gas related engineering programmes, not only for the sake of Brunei but also because oil and gas is such an important factor within the ASEAN network. We know it will always be relevant.

Q: Are you modeling ITB programmes based on any other internationally recognised universities?

A: We will be working with the University of New South Wales, Australia, among others, because they have been our partner for the training programme in petroleum engineering and chemical engineering. We are currently in a 1+3 arrangement, meaning that students spend one year in Brunei and three years in Australia. Eventually we will move towards a 2+2 programme and in the end we would like to move to have all four years of the programme at ITB in Brunei.  The reason why we are currently applying this 1+3 arrangement is because we do not have enough staff to teach our students, therefore we are still dependent on the expertise that the university in Australia has. However, this arrangement will only last up to five years.

Q: Do you have a lot of local oil companies coming in and lecturing to your students?

A: We have Total and Shell, which are members of our council, and from time to time we ask for their help. We have asked some executives to become professors, as their experience from the industry is an added value to our students.

Q: Where do you see ITB in 10 years from now?

A: In ten years I hope ITB to be a ranked the number one university in oil and gas engineering, maybe not all over the world but definitely in ASEAN. Engineering is something we are really hoping to develop because we have an advantage over other universities in Brunei. We were actually the first to offer an engineering programme in Brunei since 1985.

Q: Are you targeting students from the ASEAN region?

A: Yes, we are currently targeting them through our graduate degrees. This is one of our focus areas, because if we don’t have good students we will not be able to develop research. We think it is necessary to have a specific number of graduate students doing research.

Q: What is ITB’s graduation rate?

A: It is actually very low, it is about 100+ per year and they mostly come from the diploma programme not so much from the degree programme, because the latter just started.

Q: How long does the average student stay at ITB?

A: They have a choice to do a foundation degree for just two years, a diploma for two years or a degree programme of four years.

Q: As you are aiming at making ITB the main university in engineering in the ASEAN region in 10 years time, what are the steps to achieve this?

A: Firstly, I would like to see the change in mindset of ITB staff. Secondly, we need to introduce more relevant programmes. Thirdly, our research has to be very competitive and will be able to attract a greater number of good students. I need also to request for more funding not only for research but also for research student scholarships. I will concentrate on these three topics, as well as to see where we have a competitive advantage in our research.

Q: What about collaboration with universities in other countries?

A: We will have strategic partnerships, however, we don’t want to partner with just anyone. We really want to partner with well-known institutions like Olin in the US, for example, to make ourselves visible. I would like to see an exchange of students especially students from other Universities coming to ITB to take courses. We also offer quality education and we have an advantage among ASEAN countries as we are teaching in English, so students from other countries would be easily accommodated.

 

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei.

Inside Investor sat down with Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB), to hear the latest news on its new degree programmes, specifically Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. Dr Hajah emphasised ITB’s goal of becoming the number 1 oil and gas engineering university in Brunei and, eventually, in the ASEAN region.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman
Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei.

Inside Investor sat down with Associate Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman, Active Acting Vice Chancellor of Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB), to hear the latest news on its new degree programmes, specifically Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. Dr Hajah emphasised ITB’s goal of becoming the number 1 oil and gas engineering university in Brunei and, eventually, in the ASEAN region.

Q: How has ITB progressed since 2008, when it became a full-fledged university?

A: I think that it has progressed steadily, as it has incorporated degree programmes instead of just diploma programmes. The first-degree programme began with the Queen’s Belfast University in Ireland. Later on, in 2009, ITB incorporated Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. These programmes have progressed steadily since ITB became a full-fledged university.

Q: What did ITB offer originally if these new programmes were only started in 2008?

A: Before 2008, ITB started with engineering, business and IT, and actually we currently still focus on these three areas.

Q: There is a high demand for national manpower. How are you getting this message across to students to awake their interest in petroleum engineering?

A: Oil and gas is going to be a big part of Brunei for many years to come, which is the main reason why we need to produce many engineers. I think they have figured out that about 800+ are needed for the oil and gas industry. As an institute, ITB is committed to producing engineers, and we will continue to do so by attracting students through engaging them with the industries that they will be working for in the near future.

Q: Where do you find your professors? In Brunei or in other areas?

A: We don’t have professors only from Brunei at the moment, we try to get 60 per cent locals and 40 per cent expatriates.  We are actually still recruiting professors from overseas for areas that we cannot fill in with locals. We have mostly recruited academic staff from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but we are trying to recruit more from places like the UK, Australia and others as well. We are currently trying to migrate to a new salary scheme, and this would give us the ability to attract more quality academics from overseas.

Q: You are currently one of nineteen universities that specialise on engineering in ASEAN. In which programmes can ITB work together with other universities?

A: I believe petroleum engineering is our strongest programme. We still don’t want to expand away from oil and gas related engineering programmes, not only for the sake of Brunei but also because oil and gas is such an important factor within the ASEAN network. We know it will always be relevant.

Q: Are you modeling ITB programmes based on any other internationally recognised universities?

A: We will be working with the University of New South Wales, Australia, among others, because they have been our partner for the training programme in petroleum engineering and chemical engineering. We are currently in a 1+3 arrangement, meaning that students spend one year in Brunei and three years in Australia. Eventually we will move towards a 2+2 programme and in the end we would like to move to have all four years of the programme at ITB in Brunei.  The reason why we are currently applying this 1+3 arrangement is because we do not have enough staff to teach our students, therefore we are still dependent on the expertise that the university in Australia has. However, this arrangement will only last up to five years.

Q: Do you have a lot of local oil companies coming in and lecturing to your students?

A: We have Total and Shell, which are members of our council, and from time to time we ask for their help. We have asked some executives to become professors, as their experience from the industry is an added value to our students.

Q: Where do you see ITB in 10 years from now?

A: In ten years I hope ITB to be a ranked the number one university in oil and gas engineering, maybe not all over the world but definitely in ASEAN. Engineering is something we are really hoping to develop because we have an advantage over other universities in Brunei. We were actually the first to offer an engineering programme in Brunei since 1985.

Q: Are you targeting students from the ASEAN region?

A: Yes, we are currently targeting them through our graduate degrees. This is one of our focus areas, because if we don’t have good students we will not be able to develop research. We think it is necessary to have a specific number of graduate students doing research.

Q: What is ITB’s graduation rate?

A: It is actually very low, it is about 100+ per year and they mostly come from the diploma programme not so much from the degree programme, because the latter just started.

Q: How long does the average student stay at ITB?

A: They have a choice to do a foundation degree for just two years, a diploma for two years or a degree programme of four years.

Q: As you are aiming at making ITB the main university in engineering in the ASEAN region in 10 years time, what are the steps to achieve this?

A: Firstly, I would like to see the change in mindset of ITB staff. Secondly, we need to introduce more relevant programmes. Thirdly, our research has to be very competitive and will be able to attract a greater number of good students. I need also to request for more funding not only for research but also for research student scholarships. I will concentrate on these three topics, as well as to see where we have a competitive advantage in our research.

Q: What about collaboration with universities in other countries?

A: We will have strategic partnerships, however, we don’t want to partner with just anyone. We really want to partner with well-known institutions like Olin in the US, for example, to make ourselves visible. I would like to see an exchange of students especially students from other Universities coming to ITB to take courses. We also offer quality education and we have an advantage among ASEAN countries as we are teaching in English, so students from other countries would be easily accommodated.

 

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