A top flight technical varsity


BY KAREN CHAPMAN

NEW kid on the block, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) joins the list of 16 public and 21 private universities, including foreign university branch campuses, in the country. 

Although it was set up in June last year, its faculties – as it is calling Mara institutions such as the Malaysia France Institute (MFI) and the British-Malaysian Institute (BMI) – have been offering education in specialised areas for several years. 

UniKL chief executive officer and president Prof Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad says the university has modelled itself after the University of London in Britain. 

“The University of London is a federation of various separately incorporated and self-governing colleges, such as the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and African Studies. It does not matter which college you are studying at as the degree you get in the end is from the University of London,” he says. 

Explaining further, Dr Ibrahim says UniKL is an integration of various Mara institutes – the German Malaysian Institute (GMI), Malaysian Spanish Institute (MSI), Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology (MIAT), MFI and BMI. 

SKILL AND PRECISION: MIAT students overhauling the engine of a Cessna 150 under the guidance of instructor Mohd Hanafiah Nordin (middle).

“As an example, a student takes up a Bachelor of Engineering Technology majoring in air-conditioning and industrial refrigeration or industrial automation and robotics at MFI but gets his degree from UniKL instead of MFI,” he adds. 

UniKL is managed by Universiti Teknikal Mara, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mara. It aims to produce graduates who specialise in engineering and technology. 

Says Dr Ibrahim: “We are proud of being a technical university as we believe in striking a balance between theory and practical and at the same time giving students the opportunity to work on real things such a brand new Citroen and a Boeing 747. 

“This can be done because of our faculties’ ties with various countries. As an example, some of our students at MFI are able to work on Citroen engines because of the institute’s ties with France, while at MIAT we work with well-known Northrop Rice in the United States in aircraft maintenance,” he says. 

The composition of the university’s programmes differs from those offered at other institutions, as at least 60% of the programme is devoted to hands-on and practical work, and the rest to theory. 

EXPERTISE: Students have the intricate task of making sure that every part of an aircraft is in place.

“Although our emphasis is more on the practical side, this does not mean our graduates will be less qualified than those graduating from the more traditional institutions. We are like the fachhochshule, or universities of applied science in Germany, which are more practical-based. In a fachhochshule, students also spend a few semesters doing practical training,” says Dr Ibrahim.  

This is a big advantage as graduates do not have to be retrained when they join the workforce, he adds. “We worked on our curriculum with the industry’s needs in mind as we want graduates to be able to join the workforce tomorrow and start working.” 

Dr Ibrahim says another advantage of UniKL is that students have the opportunity to study in stages. They can obtain a certificate at one of Mara’s vocational centres (Giatmara) first before moving onto a diploma at a Mara’s institute, like MFI, and after that, work on obtaining a degree awarded by UniKL. In between stages, students can opt to join the workforce for experience before continuing their education. 

Unique campus 

UniKL’s chancellery is in Kuala Lumpur while its faculties remain where they are. 

STUDY IN CONCENTRATION: A Malaysia France Institute student dons protective goggles to do plasma-cutting for metal fabrication.

Says Dr Ibrahim: “We are not like other universities as we focus on providing technical education. As a result, it is not practical for us to move our faculties to one campus. As an example, MIAT offers courses in aircraft maintenance, while MFI has technical courses related to industry. Most people think a university is not complete if its faculties are not together.” 

However, he is determined to change people’s mindset, saying that it is just not practical for the university to build a hangar in the middle of Kuala Lumpur where land is so expensive.  

“Why do we need to be at the same place? We should be like the University of London with schools and colleges all over the country. It is better for the faculties to remain where they are as their facilities are already in place,” he says. 

Dr Ibrahim, who was a professor of education at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia before his entry into politics, says UniKL is also planning to set up a faculty of marine engineering technology in Lumut. The university is offering both diplomas and bachelor degree programmes.  

For the diploma in engineering technology, students can choose from five majors – chemical, bioprocess, environmental, food, as well as rubber and polymer. 

Those wanting to major in air-conditioning and industrial refrigeration, tool and die, automation and robotics or mechatronics can do so at MFI and GMI, while electrical or electronics engineering is at BMI, chemical, food, bioprocess, rubber and polymer and environmental engineering is at UniKL’s campus in Malacca, and aeronautical studies at MIAT. 

Dr Ibrahim says the university now has 71 students from its pioneer batch last year.  

“We want students who have completed diplomas at various Mara institutes to be able to continue onto a degree if they want to,” he adds. 

However, he is quick to add that the university is open to all, not just to those from the Mara institutes but to other diploma holders as well. 

“We cannot accept school-leavers though, as they would not have any background in the technical field,” he says 

UniKL is recruiting students for its July intake. Students can apply for loans from Mara or the National Higher Education Fund Corporation. 

For enquiries, contact the university’s office of admissions and records at Menara TH Perdana, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, tel: 03-2698 9895, fax 03- 2698 9896, e-mail enquiries@unikl.com or naseron@unikl.com or visit its temporary website at http://www.freewebs.com/unikl  

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