THE sun never sets on education and for the Sunway group, the launch of the Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah Foundation next month is a new corporate responsibility iniatitive in quality education development.
“As a dynamic property, construction and education group, Sunway upholds the ideals and vision to promote Malaysia as a hub for quality higher education to one day become the Harvard of the East. The objective is to raise the quality of education to offer top class education to Malaysian students at more affordable rates,” Sunway founder and chairman Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah tells StarBizWeek in an interview.
Cheah has always believed in the power of education to raise people’s living standards and quality of life. Through the Sunway Education Trust Fund set up in 1997, more than RM43mil in scholarships have been awarded to date.
Converted from the trust fund, the foundation will have an initial size of RM50mil. It seeks to receive and administer funds for educational, scientific, medical and charitable purposes, including scholarships based on merit and to students in need of financial assistance.
Cheah has on board dedicated and devoted top executives of Sunway to plan and drive the vision and mission of the foundation.
Plans are underway to appoint six prominent public figures with distinguished track record in doing public service to the board of trustees to oversee and formulate policies for the development and management of the foundation.
Driven by his sincere passion to “plant the seeds of wisdom and knowledge” among young Malaysians, Cheah says all profits from Sunway’s education arm will be ploughed back for scholarships and upgrading of facilities in the two universities under the group – Sunway University College and Monash University Sunway Campus.
“While we realise that Harvard is already 360 years and Sunway Education is only 23 years, our initial target is to lift Sunway universities to the ranks of top institutions worldwide. There is much to be done and the foundation is a good start,” Cheah adds.
Although a number of merchant bankers have proposed listing the education arm, “we are not keen as we want to maintain the operation as a not-for-profit organisation,” he says.
“Had we floated the education business, the exercise would have raised up to RM800mil as the market for the education business remains bouyant. We believe we will be able to achieve more as a not-for-profit entity. The Sunway education group recorded a revenue of RM250mil last year and for this year, the figure is expected to increase to RM300mil,” Cheah notes.
He also feels there will be multiple benefits from having a recognised and trusted name driving the initiative. These include securing the trust and confidence of donors.
Meanwhile, Sunway Education and Healthcare chief executive officer Lee Weng Keng says expansion plans are underway for the building of another four apartment blocks to add 3,000 beds to the existing 2,600 beds for student accommodation.
“Two blocks are expected to be completed next year,” he adds.
Located on more than 40 acres, the Sunway campus is home to Sunway University College and Monash University Sunway Campus and an international school. It has a total student enrolment of 12,000, of which 30% are international students from more than 60 countries.
The expansion plan for the Monash University Sunway Campus involves space for academic, students’ support services, sports facilities and car parks. It will add another 400,000 to 500,000 sq ft of space and increase student capacity by 3,000 to at least 8,000.
For the Sunway University College campus, the construction of an academic block extension to provide another 20 classrooms and service space is currently underway. Also in the pipeline is another academic block of about 300,000 sq ft to accommodate another 3,000 students. Upon completion in three to five years, the Sunway campus will have about 20,000 students.
“In the last few years, the two universities have been operating with a surplus of RM5mil to RM10mil each a year. As at end-2008, Sunway University College had a capital reserve of more than RM50mil and Monash University Sunway Campus about RM40mil,” Lee adds.