Letters

Published: Monday April 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday April 25, 2013 MYT 11:38:54 PM

Build university cities

UNIVERSITY cities are cities that are built around universities. The environment is mainly academic and the survival of the city depends on students who are the major driving force.

Oxford serves as a great example. The whole city exudes an academic atmosphere.

Oxford is a city, but the city itself is like a university.

The academic environment is evident through the people everywhere carrying books, coffee shops filled with student in discussions, bookshops selling mainly academic textbooks, and a casual morning stroll would not be complete without someone stopping you to ask something like: We’re running a survey for our research, would you mind participating?

Then there is Boston which houses Harvard University.

The area around Harvard is filled with shops that are built by students, for students. The Harvard Coop is essentially a student cooperative, like the student co-op we have here in Malaysian universities, except that they sell everything and operate like a shopping mall.

The university also acts as a catalyst for NGOs. For example, ‘Partners in Health’ and ‘Health Leads’ which both provide healthcare to the poorest of the poor was founded by Harvard students and is largely driven by university student volunteers.

Many of the waiters and people behind the counters are university students.

Because the shops in university cities cater for students, their working hours are very flexible and tailored towards their class schedules.

The whole city is a communion between the university and the community.

In Malaysia, we have UKM in Bangi. But Bangi is not a university city.

Outside the UKM compound, Bangi is just like another city in Malaysia.

The students do not play a large role in the survival of the city.

Same goes for Gombak which houses Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA).

Universiti Malaya is situated in the middle of the city. However, everybody knows that Kuala Lumpur can always stand on its own without UM.

Almost all the major universities in Malaysia are given autonomy by the Government. Perhaps prior to being given autonomy, universities are not given the independence to expand and assimilate university entities into the city, like turning the co-op into a shopping mall, starting a business for students, or even allowing businesses to operate inside university compounds with students being the driving force.

Many think that universities can be self-sufficient and generate income through research and patents.

However, this takes a lot of time, trial and error, and risks. Many researches in the end do not generate income for the university.

Yes, profits should not be a priority, but for a research centre to flourish, they need a lot of financial support.

Universities can no longer solely depend on the government for financial support.

It might be good that in Malaysia’s economic development plan, cities for students are developed rather than just for business investors. The results wouldn’t be immediate, but over time.

We should look at universities not as mechanical structures where lessons are taught but as a medium for sparking change driven by knowledge.

LUTFI FADIL LOKMAN

Hospitals Beyond Boundaries

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Tags / Keywords: Letters, Opinion, Education, Government, let's have universiti cities

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