On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, SHARMILLA GANESAN speaks to UCSI’s vice-chancellor on the university college’s past, present and future.
UCSI president and vice-chancellor Peter Ng was only 24 when he started the institution in 1986 that would evolve into the University College Sedaya International (UCSI) we know today. Returning from Canada after obtaining his degree and working as a teaching assistant, Ng had been exposed to the education line and developed a keen interest in it.
Thus, he set up the Canadian Institute of Computer Science (CICS), to tutor adults on computer applications. His main aim then was to be free of the confines of a nine-to-five job and be able to do other things in his life. Little did he guess what lay ahead for him!
From this humble beginning as a computer-based training centre in Petaling Jaya, UCSI is now a sprawling campus, complete with accommodation and modern facilities. What’s more, with its recent 20th anniversary celebrations, the university college looks set to go full steam ahead.
“So much has happened in the last 20 years!” says Ng. “We started very small, with only four computers and a few students. Everything came one step at a time, and I never had a grand vision of what the future would be like.”
Ng credits his and the institution’s success to God’s grace. “Sometimes things just fall into place, and I see myself and my team as facilitators of what has been provided.”
Ng says CICS soon expanded into offering twinning programmes, which received good response, particularly the music courses.
In 1990, the institute came to be known as Sedaya College, which relocated to Cheras in 1997 due to a growing student enrolment.
It was at this point that the college started offering niche programmes such as pharmacy and food science. Shortly after being accorded its university college status in 2003, UCSI moved into its own 14-acre campus at UCSI Heights, Cheras, and further expanded its courses.
Ng and UCSI are known to be bold, as far as private higher education institutions go. After all, not many university colleges offer such a varied portfolio of courses, which include medicine, applied sciences and nursing.
Rather than sticking to “safe” courses, UCSI offers programmes that are in line with society’s demands and needs today.
“Contrary to what most people think, I don’t just take risks. I put a lot of thought into my next move, so it is a calculated risk.
“For example, people are not aware that we have been rejected many times when we applied for approval for the medical programme. It took a lot of determination to finally get it off the ground,” says Ng.
He says he knew the courses he brought in would do well, and this has been proven by the ever-increasing demand for courses such as biotechnology.
“Of course, the resources for running these courses are high, but I feel that the investment is worth it.
“These are areas that our society requires in the future and Malaysia should not be left behind,” he adds.
UCSI’s medical programme is one that is on the rise. Headed by Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Roslani Abdul Majid, who is the former founding dean of Universiti Sains Malaysia's (USM) School of Medical Sciences and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Pathology Department, UCSI’s medical school saw a first intake last year of 35, which increased to 50 this year. Ng is expecting the number to swell to 100 next year.
With their new medical campus in Terengganu set to open in May next year, the programme in UCSI looks set to provide top-notch facilities for medical education.
“We have quality science labs at the campus in Kuala Lumpur, so the students spend the first two years of the programme here. From the third year onwards, they need to have ahospital, which is available at the Terengganu campus,” says Ng.
UCSI is also setting up a 100-acre campus in Seremban, which will house many of the university college’s research facilities. The first phase of construction for the campus will begin in February.
”We want to bring in applied science programmes, such as microbiology and chemistry, which will require research bases. The Seremban campus will be ideal,” says Ng.
He adds that the institution will also be setting up an Advanced Research Institute for the International Chinese Association at the Seremban campus.
Another innovative plan for the new campus is the establishment of a tropical flower nursery and research centre where UCSI plans to hold annual events. The Seremban campus will be connected to the KL campus by feeder buses and the commuter train.
UCSI also plans to build five-star hotel in KL. This is another initiative the university college is working on, as part of its efforts to be involved in the community.
“We receive many guests and visiting government officials from abroad, who come for training programmes. In line with their demand for five-star facilities, and also as a complement to travel-related courses, we’ve submitted a plan to the Government to build a five-star hotel near the UCSI campus,” says Ng, adding that pending approval, the hotel will begin construction next year.
Ng says the community around the campus already uses the institution’s facilities for functions and events and therefore, is confident that the hotel will be well received.
Students, too, can make use of the facilities to hold functions.
“It is not just for the sake of running a hotel; it will be complimentary and supplementary to UCSI activities. The hotel will also make us truly a university college for the community,” says Ng.
With such achievements and more on the pipeline, it is undeniable that UCSI is set to face the future by continuing its tradition of academic excellence and ground-breaking ideas.