In the research forefront


BY ZECH PHARAMOND

STRETCHING as far as the eye can see, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) can claim to be among the country's foremost academic and research institutions.  

Its Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zohadie Bardaie astutely points out that in the last decade UPM has consistently been awarded the largest grants from the IRPA (Intensification in Research for Priority Areas) programme. Under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, the university saw a total of RM167mil in research grants being awarded to its various projects.  

“Universities have so much to contribute to the growth of a nation. Take the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology for instance – a study by the Bank of Boston revealed that MIT graduates had gone on to establish 4,000 companies that employed 1.1 million people. Altogether, those companies raked in US$232bil (RM881.6) in revenue in 1994 alone,” Prof Zohadie says.  

UPM vice-chancellor Prof Zohadie says the university will continue to be a strong forcein the field of research.

Unsurprisingly, the university’s mission statement is that knowledge be productively used. This has been evident right from the university’s humble beginnings as a School of Agriculture in 1931 when it’s purpose was to provide private planters with the appropriate education to successfully produce better crops.  

After training agriculture officers for 11 years, the school was upgraded to college status and later absorbed as a faculty in Universiti Malaya in 1960 before it finally matured into a separate entity – Universiti Pertanian Malaysia in 1971.  

In the early 1980s, the field of Science and Technology started making an impact at the university and the university was renamed Universiti Putra Malaysia in 1997 as a consequence.  

What does your university have to offer students? 

Beyond mere certification that proves our students are competent, we strongly believe in life-long learning through which students can maintain and extend their competitive edge.  

We also have established ourself as a research university. In the last year we received 111 applications for patents, 74 patents pending while 32 projects are in the midst of application for patents. Four of our research effortshave already been patented.  

What are the strengths of your university? 

UPM has been around for over 30 years and throughout that time we have gone through many changes. And, we will continue to embrace new things to enhance our reputation.  

For example, during a restructuring exercise in 1991, we realised the importance of becoming a borderless campus and encouraged a culture that promoted ICT through the concept of an e-university.  

Our location is adjacent to Putrajaya and Cyberjaya which means we are a university town within the Multimedia Super Corridor.  

What are the current popular courses? 

Our Science related courses are the most popular. However, our Graduate School of Management was recently honoured as offering the best Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme in the country by Asia Inc, a regional business monthly for Asian executives and we have many students opting for this programme.  

Professors and PhD holders with more than 15 years of experience in related fields teach a variety of post graduate programmes here such as the Master of Management in Information Technology and Educational Management and the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.  

What are the university’s niche areas? 

One niche area UPM is developing is called Agricultural Biotechnology, where agriculture and scientific work come together in exciting ways. Agro-Bio Science, as it is known in short, is principally being developed as a promising avenue to ensure food security for the country. Also, under the Third National Agricultural Policy (NAP3), biotechnology products have been identified as one of the new sources of growth to emerge in the agriculture sector.  

What programmes/areas of study would you like to introduce and promote in your university? 

If we want to reach Vision 2020, our academics must realise the vision first. We are the ones who will produce the nation’s new thinkers and movers. So our role and the impact we have on national development is very important. 

As an international university, UPM is renowned for our Agro-bio products. But we have plans to build on our reputation for being an all rounded university, like Kyoto University in Japan that excels in many different fields. 

This Japanese university has produced research that has had an impact on the rest of the world. For instance, their research on primate stem cells has been proven to reverse Parkinson’s disease in humans.  

This is the direction we want to go – to lead and influence and excel academically.  

Where do you see your university going in the next ten years? 

We have outlined eight objectives that we want to achieve between 2001 and 2010. Primarily, they concern elevating the position of UPM as a Centre for Professional Development Services and Advanced Education. Right now, we’re working hard to produce a quality management system that is effective and efficient, transparent and client-friendly. 

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