AFTER emerging as the country’s largest education group early last year, SEG International Bhd set its sights on consolidating its collaborations with various partner universities for a bigger slice of the education market.
In a recent visit to five of SEGi’s Australian partner universities, Star Education discovered that there’s more to overseas collaborations than meets the eye – networking in education, like any other business, goes a long way.
SEGi chief executive officer Clement Hii says he has been working with some of the universities for over 10 years and in that time has developed a very friendly working relationship with the people there.
“The world of education is really quite small. Once you earn a name as a good partner, more institutions will want to work with you,” he says, adding that the relationship works both ways.
“They feel secure working with us while we too feel assured that our students are getting a quality qualification at the end of the day,” he says.
As reiterated in the many meetings with the universities – Queensland University of Technology (QUT), University of Southern Queensland (USQ), University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), James Cook University (JCU) and University of Newcastle (UoN) – the priority is to maintain a reputable name in the industry.
“Whatever it is, quality has to be maintained. I cannot stress enough that the same standards are met at SEGi colleges as they are at our campus,” JCU Vice-Chancellor Prof Bernard Moulden says.
Despite a hectic four-day visit to five universities, the trip proved to be a good eye-opener. The common adage “seeing is believing” held true in the case of the newer and lesser known universities as they were impressive – be it a stunning campus or innovative courses.
University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia’s newest public university, USC opened its doors to its first batch of 455 students in 1996. Since then, it has earned a good name for itself as a provider of “innovative programmes” engineered towards providing students with a multi-faceted degree.
“For example, we are now working on developing a degree that combines tourism and environmental science for students interested in conservation of tourism environments,” says Assoc Prof Dr Harold Richins, head of tourism at USC’s Faculty of Business.
If there is one thing visitors will remember about the university, it is the campus’ eye-catching modern architecture. The buildings are bright and come in all shapes and sizes.
“Most of our rooms here don’t even have air-conditioning as the buildings have been designed to circulate the air efficiently enough to keep the inside cool in summer,” explains David Park, co-ordinator of USC’s financial planning programme, during a tour of the campus.
In terms of courses, USC continues to innovate. Its Master of Business programme has strong links with local businesses and USC has one of the highest number of PhD-qualified staff among Australian universities.
SEGi’s collaboration with the university is for the MBA and Master of Financial Planning programmes, where the university provides online delivery support for SEGi students.
“The MBA programme is a 12-course programme comprising 10 core courses and two elective courses. Student materials are available online and can be downloaded onto your hard drive so you can study anywhere, anytime you want,” adds Park.
Assessments vary from course to course and can be completed from home, even the examinations.
“There is no on-campus requirement for this programme so it would be attractive to foreign students,” he says.
Hii adds that the benefit of working with a new university like USC is the ability to “grow with a new partner”.
“SEGi too was once new in education but our partners worked with us and we have grown with them,” he says.
The MBA and MFP programmes are, according to Hii, unique in the sense that students can participate in workshops at SEGi colleges, in addition to the online support they receive from USC.
“Our target market here are corporate clients and students who wish to do independent study,” he says.
However, after a brief visit to the university, it must be said that students should seize the opportunity to spend some time at the university itself, which is located in the vibrant Sunshine Coast.
The popular holiday spot located just two hours away from Brisbane is a very popular destination among Australians who tend to shy away from the tourist-infested Gold Coast a short drive down south.
“The quality of life here is great. I even have time to go for a swim every morning before heading off to work,” Park says.
Queensland University of Technology
In the heart of Brisbane is the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), an institution reputed as a “university for the real world” for its career-centred courses and research that solves real problems for the industry and community.
With a student population of about 40,000, QUT has enjoyed steady growth over the past decade with around 20% of students enrolled in post-graduate courses.
“In fact, we have over 3,500 students from 80 countries taking our courses,” QUT’s senior marketing officer Swee-Mee Thean says.
“We are located in a beautiful city where a diversity of cultures work and live,” she adds.
QUT is spread across three campuses in Brisbane. The Gardens Point is located in the central business district and shares the city’s beautiful botanical gardens. It houses the faculties of Built Environment and Engineering, Business, Information Technology, Law and Science.
The Kelvin Grove campus is located on a hilltop some 2km away from the city centre and is home to the faculties of Creative Industries, Education and Health, and the School of Justice Studies. The newly-set up QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation is also located here.
In the fast-growing northern corridor of Brisbane is the Carseldine campus where the schools of Humanities and Human Services, and Psychology and Counselling are located.
Caboolture is QUT’s new multi-partner community campus, where QUT, North Point Institute of Tafe and Caboolture Shire Council share a campus. The university’s Bachelor of Business Information Management is offered at the campus.
Although spread throughout the city, accessibility between the campuses is relatively easy thanks to a bus service provided by the city.
The university itself has had a long history with SEGi and, as Hii says, both parties have enjoyed “a healthy working relationship” and hope to enhance ties and offer more courses in Malaysia.
Hii adds: “With Queensland University of Technology, we basically want to further enhance our collaboration under an umbrella agreement to work together on more niche courses, such as childhood education, among others.”
At present, two educational institutions under the SEGi umbrella have arrangements with QUT. Its IBMS Training & Development Centre has a 2+2 Bachelor of Law arrangement with the university, while media, art and design students at MSC International College can transfer to QUT to obtain a degree.
University of Newcastle
Established in 1965, the University of Newcastle (UoN) now serves a student population of over 20,000. It has earned a name for itself in research and an international reputation for expertise in innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
Located in scenic Newcastle in New South Wales, the university enables students to enjoy both a quiet student life on campus, and the happening sights and sounds of Sydney, which is a mere two-hour drive away.
In an agreement signed with the university during the trip, SEGi was appointed sole representative to recruit and provide local support for UoN’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme.
Hii expects a huge market for its DBA as the MBA and graduate market has increased. Newcastle’s DBA is a combination of self-study, intensive seminars, course work, online support and research thesis.
“Each student will be allocated a primary supervisor who will be an experienced and research-trained staff from UoN. SEGi, meanwhile, will appoint a local adjunct supervisor to assist the primary supervisor in the discharge of the thesis,” he explains.
The first intake will commence in July although enrolment will begin in March.
“SEGi is proud to be honoured with the contract with UoN which spells the confidence UoN has in our ability to provide a pool of qualified local adjunct supervisors. We expect to tap into the resources available in local universities.”
SEGi expects to enrol at least 100 DBA students in its centres nationwide this year alone. The two-year course for graduates with working experience will cost around RM45,000. Those with a good bachelor degree can sign-up to do the same course in three years.
James Cook University
With two wonders of the natural world in its backyard – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest – it comes as no surprise that JCU has firmly established itself as a leader in environmental and ecological research.
Located in a sprawling campus that it shares with literally hundreds of kangaroos and other Australian native animals, JCU is really a fun-filled campus with a host of courses spanning the arts, business, creative arts, education, engineering, law, medicine and health sciences, social sciences and pure sciences.
Its newly accredited medical school is one of only 11 in Australia, and is the first to specialise in rural, indigenous and tropical medicine.
JCU recently signed an agreement with SEGi, allowing Malaysian students to obtain a JCU Bachelor of Business degree and in the future, an MBA.
The executive dean of JCU’s Faculty of Law, Business and the Creative Arts, Prof Roger Layton, says the new initiative has substantial benefits for Malaysian students.
“In keeping with its research reputation, the Business School offers a competitive range of programmes designed to help students prepare for the modern world,” he said.
The new programmes are expected to commence at SEGi centres from this year.
Hii says SEGi would seize the opportunity to venture into research with the university.
“I look forward to tying up with the university to explore areas of research,” he says.
“SEGi and JCU have also reached an understanding to jointly explore overseas markets, such as Indonesia and China. We already have a presence in those countries but now can tie up with partners there to award JCU degrees, with SEGi being responsible for the academic content for the first and second years of study,” Hii explains.
SEGi diplomas are now accepted for advanced standing in the final year of JCU’s Bachelor of Business programme.
University of Southern Queensland
Located in Queensland’s garden city Towoomba is the University of Southern Queensland – a university where students get to study what they want, where they want and when they want.
“It’s our philosophy of flexible learning,” explains Brian Cook, executive director of USQ International.
Students can choose to study on-campus or via distance learning, and in some cases complete part of their degree on-campus and the remainder in their home country.
The university’s five faculties – Art, Business, Education, Engineering and Surveying, and Science – offer students a whole range of courses at all levels, from certificate to doctorate.
With SEGi, USQ has collaborated in offering the Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management, Administrative Management, Marketing, IT Management or Tourism Management), Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting or Finance), Bachelor of Engineering (Civil, Mechanical or Electrical) and Master of Business Administration.
Under the arrangement, students need only complete 12 USQ subjects, either in Malaysia or at USQ itself, provided they are armed with an appropriate diploma or equivalent from a SEGi college.
Hii says SEGi has produced 500 graduates with USQ qualifications over the years, while 1,000 are currently taking up the university’s courses at various SEGi centres.
He adds: “Our visit this time around is basically to better familiarise some of my people with the university and its courses.
“We have agreed to upgrade our academic content now to meet the changing needs of the market and students.
“This is our way of providing even better service and support for the USQ students in Malaysia.”