Solid education for the best in class

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Dato’ Prof Ir Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, Vice Chancellor, UiTM

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is Malaysia’s largest institution of higher learning in terms of size and population. It has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1956 and it is still growing. The university has expanded nationwide with 12 branch campuses, three satellite campuses, nine city campuses and 21 affiliated colleges. With this vast network and a workforce of 17,000, the university offers more than 300 academic programmes in a conducive and vibrant environment. It is also home to up to 200,000 students. Inside Investor caught up with Dato’ Prof Ir Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, Vice Chancellor, UiTM, to talk about the institution’s background and its position in the academic world.

Q: UiTM is the largest institution for higher learning Malaysia, and it successfully garnered a spot among the top 700 universities in the world, according to the 2011 QS World University rankings. What has been done to achieve this?

A: We continue to strive in research, we continue to put the university on the world map, and we have a lot of collaborations around the world. That probably triggered the presence of our university today. We have a very good academic system at a very high quality. What we do for quality checks is very strong. We put a lot of effort into ensuring that the graduates that come out are of high quality. That’s why we have 82 per cent of employability even after six months for them. I think that is one of the reasons why the university went up in the ranking.

Q: UiTM was established as a response to the country’s needs to increase the output of trained professionals especially among the Bumiputeras. What courses are you offering, what are the challenges to train these people?

A: The university has evolved. It started as a rope making institute for rural people within the cottage industry. From there, after independence, we got involved in training people in accounting and bookkeeping, which were very simple courses then. After that, it evolved into a college where we started to provide diplomas at a sub-professional level. Then, in 1967, it became an institute for professional training, for example for accounting clerks. The country needed these people at that time, there were not many. In the 1970s, we introduced engineering, and eventually in 1999, we became a university. More programmes and more research were added, and we made our way into becoming a university that drew attention to foreign institutes as well. Today, we are the largest recipient of student grants, and we have the largest number of postgraduate students too and the largest number of student researchers. The university also has a high output of products that have been commercialised. It all happened within these 13 years. Today, we have MoUs with MIT, with Oxford, Cambridge and most of the top universities in the world.

Q: What makes UiTM the preferred destination for higher learning? What are the differences in terms of its courses, facilities or expertise from other universities in the country?

A: Every year, almost 300,000 students apply, and we only offer 15,000 to 20,000 new places. I think it has become a preferred destination because of graduate employment opportunities. We produce sub-professionals and professionals, and we also have degree programmes. People get good jobs when they come out. If we look at the banking sector in Malaysia, in fact 90 per cent of the CEOs are our graduates. In the corporate sector, all higher divisions are headed by our graduates. It was not planned that way, it evolved to that extent. However, with such a large number of students, our facilities are limited, and I would not say it’s perfect here. We cannot provide sufficient parking; we cannot provide accommodation for all. These are things we have to sort out, and we are trying to find ways to solve these problems.

Q: What are the underlying principles that UiTM believes are the best for providing first-class training for its students?

A: 80 per cent of our lecturers are trained overseas, in the US, the UK, and Germany. We get about 500 scholarships for PhDs from all over the world. That puts us in a different position of quality regarding our teaching staff. And our basic principle is very simple: If you want to study, don’t say you don’t have money. Everyone who cannot afford to study should be given a chance. We have 500,000 alumni, and 80 per cent of them came from very poor families. This is the uniqueness of this university. I myself started a programme, where we went out and picked children from the street and put them into the university. In the last years, we have salvaged 11,200 of them, converted them, provided them with a degree and put them into the economic system. This was funded on our own, not by the government. We got the money from alumni, from zakat, from entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. 85 per cent of the children have succeeded in their jobs.

Q: How do you select students from the 300,000 applications every year?

A: We simply take only the best based on their grades. Our studies in economy, law, medicine, architecture, pharma, and engineering have a very high reputation and we only want to have the best. It’s already a kind of elite. But we still are open to those who are in need, as we have shown with the before mentioned programme.

Q: What is the student population at UiTM? What is the percentage of foreign students who are studying there? How many students from the Middle East do you cater to?

A: We have almost 200,000 students here. There are no special policies on foreign students, we can’t even take all of our own people. Regarding PhDs, we have MoUs with Qatar, Dubai, and the University of Medinah. If they want to exchange students, we do it within cooperation. We also have cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, which sends German students to us and we send students to them. Overall, our interests are not on international students, but on international collaborations, for example working together with foreign laboratories. In this respect, we have signed an MoU with an institute in Mumbai, one in France, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. We also look for venture capital in Germany to commercialise our research.

Q: In your opinion, what are the challenges faced when it comes to availability of skilled workers and expertise in the education industry? What can Malaysia do to overcome this problem?

A: In Malaysia, when someone undergoes higher education, he wants to accumulate even more skills and degrees instead of stopping at a certain level and integrate himself into the work process. Everybody wants to go further and further. Getting a paper certification is a disease in Malaysia. I think it is very important that specialised institutes and polytechnics have to be open for training high-level skills. Universities are not places for special skills training, they are meant for research and to produce professionals at a high level. If the universities would also be required to produce skills, then this defeats the purpose of having a university.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

[caption id="attachment_2250" align="alignleft" width="173" caption="Dato’ Prof Ir Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, Vice Chancellor, UiTM"][/caption] Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is Malaysia’s largest institution of higher learning in terms of size and population. It has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1956 and it is still growing. The university has expanded nationwide with 12 branch campuses, three satellite campuses, nine city campuses and 21 affiliated colleges. With this vast network and a workforce of 17,000, the university offers more than 300 academic programmes in a conducive and vibrant environment. It is also home to up to 200,000 students. Inside Investor...

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dato’ Prof Ir Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, Vice Chancellor, UiTM

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is Malaysia’s largest institution of higher learning in terms of size and population. It has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1956 and it is still growing. The university has expanded nationwide with 12 branch campuses, three satellite campuses, nine city campuses and 21 affiliated colleges. With this vast network and a workforce of 17,000, the university offers more than 300 academic programmes in a conducive and vibrant environment. It is also home to up to 200,000 students. Inside Investor caught up with Dato’ Prof Ir Dr Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, Vice Chancellor, UiTM, to talk about the institution’s background and its position in the academic world.

Q: UiTM is the largest institution for higher learning Malaysia, and it successfully garnered a spot among the top 700 universities in the world, according to the 2011 QS World University rankings. What has been done to achieve this?

A: We continue to strive in research, we continue to put the university on the world map, and we have a lot of collaborations around the world. That probably triggered the presence of our university today. We have a very good academic system at a very high quality. What we do for quality checks is very strong. We put a lot of effort into ensuring that the graduates that come out are of high quality. That’s why we have 82 per cent of employability even after six months for them. I think that is one of the reasons why the university went up in the ranking.

Q: UiTM was established as a response to the country’s needs to increase the output of trained professionals especially among the Bumiputeras. What courses are you offering, what are the challenges to train these people?

A: The university has evolved. It started as a rope making institute for rural people within the cottage industry. From there, after independence, we got involved in training people in accounting and bookkeeping, which were very simple courses then. After that, it evolved into a college where we started to provide diplomas at a sub-professional level. Then, in 1967, it became an institute for professional training, for example for accounting clerks. The country needed these people at that time, there were not many. In the 1970s, we introduced engineering, and eventually in 1999, we became a university. More programmes and more research were added, and we made our way into becoming a university that drew attention to foreign institutes as well. Today, we are the largest recipient of student grants, and we have the largest number of postgraduate students too and the largest number of student researchers. The university also has a high output of products that have been commercialised. It all happened within these 13 years. Today, we have MoUs with MIT, with Oxford, Cambridge and most of the top universities in the world.

Q: What makes UiTM the preferred destination for higher learning? What are the differences in terms of its courses, facilities or expertise from other universities in the country?

A: Every year, almost 300,000 students apply, and we only offer 15,000 to 20,000 new places. I think it has become a preferred destination because of graduate employment opportunities. We produce sub-professionals and professionals, and we also have degree programmes. People get good jobs when they come out. If we look at the banking sector in Malaysia, in fact 90 per cent of the CEOs are our graduates. In the corporate sector, all higher divisions are headed by our graduates. It was not planned that way, it evolved to that extent. However, with such a large number of students, our facilities are limited, and I would not say it’s perfect here. We cannot provide sufficient parking; we cannot provide accommodation for all. These are things we have to sort out, and we are trying to find ways to solve these problems.

Q: What are the underlying principles that UiTM believes are the best for providing first-class training for its students?

A: 80 per cent of our lecturers are trained overseas, in the US, the UK, and Germany. We get about 500 scholarships for PhDs from all over the world. That puts us in a different position of quality regarding our teaching staff. And our basic principle is very simple: If you want to study, don’t say you don’t have money. Everyone who cannot afford to study should be given a chance. We have 500,000 alumni, and 80 per cent of them came from very poor families. This is the uniqueness of this university. I myself started a programme, where we went out and picked children from the street and put them into the university. In the last years, we have salvaged 11,200 of them, converted them, provided them with a degree and put them into the economic system. This was funded on our own, not by the government. We got the money from alumni, from zakat, from entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. 85 per cent of the children have succeeded in their jobs.

Q: How do you select students from the 300,000 applications every year?

A: We simply take only the best based on their grades. Our studies in economy, law, medicine, architecture, pharma, and engineering have a very high reputation and we only want to have the best. It’s already a kind of elite. But we still are open to those who are in need, as we have shown with the before mentioned programme.

Q: What is the student population at UiTM? What is the percentage of foreign students who are studying there? How many students from the Middle East do you cater to?

A: We have almost 200,000 students here. There are no special policies on foreign students, we can’t even take all of our own people. Regarding PhDs, we have MoUs with Qatar, Dubai, and the University of Medinah. If they want to exchange students, we do it within cooperation. We also have cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, which sends German students to us and we send students to them. Overall, our interests are not on international students, but on international collaborations, for example working together with foreign laboratories. In this respect, we have signed an MoU with an institute in Mumbai, one in France, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. We also look for venture capital in Germany to commercialise our research.

Q: In your opinion, what are the challenges faced when it comes to availability of skilled workers and expertise in the education industry? What can Malaysia do to overcome this problem?

A: In Malaysia, when someone undergoes higher education, he wants to accumulate even more skills and degrees instead of stopping at a certain level and integrate himself into the work process. Everybody wants to go further and further. Getting a paper certification is a disease in Malaysia. I think it is very important that specialised institutes and polytechnics have to be open for training high-level skills. Universities are not places for special skills training, they are meant for research and to produce professionals at a high level. If the universities would also be required to produce skills, then this defeats the purpose of having a university.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid