UTM: Groomer of top graduates

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Prof Dato Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang
Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang

In the past three years, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has increased the output of its academic activities such as publications, international collaborations and research ten-fold. Today, the university is among the largest  “producers” of graduate students in the world, and perhaps the greatest in terms of graduate-undergraduate student ratio. Inside Investor spoke with Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang, UTM’s former vice-chancellor and now Secretary-General II in Malaysia’s Education Ministry, about how UTM’s strategy has kept it so competitive.

Q: As a key supportive pillar of technology and innovation in Malaysia, how does UTM mesh with the 10th Malaysia Plan and other developmental plans?

A: The role of UTM is different now, as it is no longer just producing graduates. Its task now is also to enhance capacity building of the nation by producing high-level graduates at the Master’s and PhD levels. This is because in the past, engineering graduates or those of other disciplines, for example, were sent abroad, but now they can be groomed them at UTM. Every year, UTM files 400 intellectual property patents following research that have been sponsored by the likes of Proton and MISC, a shipping company owned by Petronas. UTM is now going abroad as well, and has entered a collaborative project with Stanford in the US, and it has registered 24 patents together with the Stanford Research Institute. UTM has also established a collaboration with Oxford University, for which it also has already identified two projects.

Q: UTM recently revealed a solar house. Can you expound on this project?

A: This is a large collaboration, and more than just a few companies are involved. All are providers of solar products and are engaged in eco-buildings, providing materials such as solar panels, insulation, materials for flooring and others. UTM is now working with 24 companies to develop this house, which will be a one-story home with three bedrooms. The challenge is that UTM wants to limit spending to $100,000, making the project a truly viably and cost-efficient eco-solution.

Q: What other major research projects has UTM recently kicked off and through which centres of learning?

A: UTM has about 32 research centres and institutions that are spread out into 10 broad strategy areas, with biotech product development being among the most active.

Q: With which major companies has UTM conducted research projects?

A: Proton, Petronas and almost all the major companies in Malaysia have participated with UTM. The university is also very closely associated with Khazanah and Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), large investment arms of the government. Intel of the US and US-French oilfield service company Schlumberger have also cooperated with UTM. In fact, Schlumberger exclusively takes UTM graduates as employees from Malaysia.

UTM imageQ: UTM students do well in academic contests. How does it continue attracting such competent students?

A: UTM is blessed with good facilities, a sound and continuously improving set of programmes, and it also offers financial aid to attract top students. For the highest-performing students, it offers scholarships that are worth four times the institution’s annual fees. For undergraduate admission, UTM only accepts 7 per cent of the applications, so out of the 35,000 students that apply to UTM every year, it only takes 2,200.

Q: How many students and faculties does UTM have and how does this compare to your overall graduate student ratio?

A: UTM currently has 24,000 enrolled students and 2,000 faculty members; out of 24,000 students, 12,800 are graduates, meaning that the majority of the student population is focused on higher-level research. As of 2012, the number of PhD students enrolled at UTM was 4,455. Indeed, UTM is among the top 10 in the world in terms of PhD enrollment. Qinghua University in China has the highest PhD student enrollment rate at 7,000, but their overall student population is 36,000, meaning that our graduate-to-undergraduate ratio is actually higher. In comparison, Tokyo University has 6,000 PhD students; Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford have about 5,000; and the National University of Singapore has about 4,300.

Q: How does UTM ensure that its graduates remain globally competent, especially since it is next to highly competitive Singapore?

A: From UTM, 3,400 students go abroad each year through the Global Outreach Programme. The most lucrative programme UTM offers is the one to study at Harvard’s summer programme for eight weeks, which UTM students can claim eight credits for. In UTM, 120 credits are needed for an undergraduate degree, and this programme would bring it to 128. Historically, UTM was the main supplier of graduate students to two Singaporean universities, but now it engages more on the research collaboration level, including a project on marine technology at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Q: What would you say is the most unique aspect of UTM?

A: UTM is perhaps the most important university in the region in terms of producing students at the graduate level, because its focus revolves around exploring graduate studies, co-supervising major projects and working together with private sector players. UTM recently received a visit by a professor from Harvard to further discuss collaboration on a project. In my view, UTM has undertaken a great journey, and the level of engagement is progressing rapidly. UTM’s academic activities, in terms of publications, international collaborations and research, have increased ten-fold in the past three years.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang

In the past three years, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has increased the output of its academic activities such as publications, international collaborations and research ten-fold. Today, the university is among the largest  “producers” of graduate students in the world, and perhaps the greatest in terms of graduate-undergraduate student ratio. Inside Investor spoke with Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang, UTM’s former vice-chancellor and now Secretary-General II in Malaysia’s Education Ministry, about how UTM’s strategy has kept it so competitive.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prof Dato Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang
Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang

In the past three years, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has increased the output of its academic activities such as publications, international collaborations and research ten-fold. Today, the university is among the largest  “producers” of graduate students in the world, and perhaps the greatest in terms of graduate-undergraduate student ratio. Inside Investor spoke with Prof Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang, UTM’s former vice-chancellor and now Secretary-General II in Malaysia’s Education Ministry, about how UTM’s strategy has kept it so competitive.

Q: As a key supportive pillar of technology and innovation in Malaysia, how does UTM mesh with the 10th Malaysia Plan and other developmental plans?

A: The role of UTM is different now, as it is no longer just producing graduates. Its task now is also to enhance capacity building of the nation by producing high-level graduates at the Master’s and PhD levels. This is because in the past, engineering graduates or those of other disciplines, for example, were sent abroad, but now they can be groomed them at UTM. Every year, UTM files 400 intellectual property patents following research that have been sponsored by the likes of Proton and MISC, a shipping company owned by Petronas. UTM is now going abroad as well, and has entered a collaborative project with Stanford in the US, and it has registered 24 patents together with the Stanford Research Institute. UTM has also established a collaboration with Oxford University, for which it also has already identified two projects.

Q: UTM recently revealed a solar house. Can you expound on this project?

A: This is a large collaboration, and more than just a few companies are involved. All are providers of solar products and are engaged in eco-buildings, providing materials such as solar panels, insulation, materials for flooring and others. UTM is now working with 24 companies to develop this house, which will be a one-story home with three bedrooms. The challenge is that UTM wants to limit spending to $100,000, making the project a truly viably and cost-efficient eco-solution.

Q: What other major research projects has UTM recently kicked off and through which centres of learning?

A: UTM has about 32 research centres and institutions that are spread out into 10 broad strategy areas, with biotech product development being among the most active.

Q: With which major companies has UTM conducted research projects?

A: Proton, Petronas and almost all the major companies in Malaysia have participated with UTM. The university is also very closely associated with Khazanah and Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), large investment arms of the government. Intel of the US and US-French oilfield service company Schlumberger have also cooperated with UTM. In fact, Schlumberger exclusively takes UTM graduates as employees from Malaysia.

UTM imageQ: UTM students do well in academic contests. How does it continue attracting such competent students?

A: UTM is blessed with good facilities, a sound and continuously improving set of programmes, and it also offers financial aid to attract top students. For the highest-performing students, it offers scholarships that are worth four times the institution’s annual fees. For undergraduate admission, UTM only accepts 7 per cent of the applications, so out of the 35,000 students that apply to UTM every year, it only takes 2,200.

Q: How many students and faculties does UTM have and how does this compare to your overall graduate student ratio?

A: UTM currently has 24,000 enrolled students and 2,000 faculty members; out of 24,000 students, 12,800 are graduates, meaning that the majority of the student population is focused on higher-level research. As of 2012, the number of PhD students enrolled at UTM was 4,455. Indeed, UTM is among the top 10 in the world in terms of PhD enrollment. Qinghua University in China has the highest PhD student enrollment rate at 7,000, but their overall student population is 36,000, meaning that our graduate-to-undergraduate ratio is actually higher. In comparison, Tokyo University has 6,000 PhD students; Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford have about 5,000; and the National University of Singapore has about 4,300.

Q: How does UTM ensure that its graduates remain globally competent, especially since it is next to highly competitive Singapore?

A: From UTM, 3,400 students go abroad each year through the Global Outreach Programme. The most lucrative programme UTM offers is the one to study at Harvard’s summer programme for eight weeks, which UTM students can claim eight credits for. In UTM, 120 credits are needed for an undergraduate degree, and this programme would bring it to 128. Historically, UTM was the main supplier of graduate students to two Singaporean universities, but now it engages more on the research collaboration level, including a project on marine technology at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Q: What would you say is the most unique aspect of UTM?

A: UTM is perhaps the most important university in the region in terms of producing students at the graduate level, because its focus revolves around exploring graduate studies, co-supervising major projects and working together with private sector players. UTM recently received a visit by a professor from Harvard to further discuss collaboration on a project. In my view, UTM has undertaken a great journey, and the level of engagement is progressing rapidly. UTM’s academic activities, in terms of publications, international collaborations and research, have increased ten-fold in the past three years.

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