NUMEROUS awards line the walls of a room at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology near where its president’s office is found.
“We don’t have to enter competitions, but we do it anyway. If you don’t enter, you wouldn’t know how good you are. And I want to make sure that we are among the best,” said founder and president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.
“There is a downside to competing – you may lose. But our students don’t like losing. Whatever they do, they are there to win. It drives them to be the best,” he said.
“It’s doing what you know that will make a difference. If your heart is in the right place, you will do the right things.”
Responsible for globalising Malaysian education, the university boasts of students from 165 countries in 13 campuses found on three continents.
Lim is renowned as an educationist, but not many may know that he has worked with five Malaysian prime ministers.
“I was in advertising at the time. Somebody came in and said that we need someone to design an exhibition, and your name was proposed,” Lim said.
The exhibition was aimed at delivering key features of the New Economic Policy to the man on the street.
“They called it Pesta Pembangunan (Development Festival). It was the biggest exhibition in the country. It was seen as a major milestone in the country’s development,” recalled Lim.
Since working with Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, the prime minister of Malaysia at the time, Lim has been involved in projects and campaigns that would inadvertently contribute to nation building.
“I’m past 70 years old now. When I look back, it’s such a short journey, but so much has been done,” he said as he fondly recalled past projects that he was involved in like the Rakan Muda programme, Malaysia Boleh theme, Tak Nak anti-smoking campaign, Harimau Malaya jersey design, KLIA’s wayfinding and signage system as well as the Be Smart cyber crime awareness campaign in collaboration with the police.
“This is way beyond a university. Students work on real projects -- that is why they have a lot of confidence,” said Lim, lighting up every time he talks about his students.
“When we go to Africa, they will tell you that our graduates are the best. To me, education is not reading and writing.
“A happy person who has a lot of self-respect and self-esteem – to me that is education,” Lim said.
When Lim started the university, he said that he always had the vision for a place where people could be free to express themselves.
“There must be enough faith in our young people.
“We give them the freedom to be themselves. Unless you are allowed to be yourself, you cannot be at your best.”
Lim said the university plans to open four more campuses in Africa, namely Uganda, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.
The first Limkokwing campus opened its doors to Africa in 2007, following a meeting with Lim and African leaders during the Langkawi International Dialogue in 2005, which subsequently saw an invitation by the Botswana government to set up a campus in the country itself.
Lesotho is the university’s second branch in Africa, opening in 2008. The first campus was opened in Botswana in 2007 with another in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) in 2011 and the most recent in Sierra Leone, which was officially launched last year.
Africa holds a special place in Lim’s heart.
“I was in Africa 25 years ago with the late Nelson Mandela when he requested for Malaysia’s help to prepare the African National Congress for South Africa’s first free elections.
“There’s a saying of the Africans: The Malaysians came, fought our battle and returned home. But not a word on television and newspapers. That’s why they are very happy with us. We do things and don’t take any credit,” he explained.
“We started the campuses there and they are very popular because the skills we offer were not available in Africa.
“We go where we are invited. Once we are invited, you know that they are keen and they have confidence in the programmes we deliver. And the setting up and commissioning becomes very quick,” Lim added.
Lim also credits the fact that people generally like and trust Malaysians.
“I merely use my experience to keep going. And I see my students blossoming. It’s just incredible. Here, they also celebrate each other’s countries. You can see students carrying flags of countries that are not of their own,” he added.
Lim said that this is a different way of thinking and will have long term impact.
“When these people go back and get into leadership positions, they will promote compassion and love for each other.
“Over the years, we will have many graduates spread over the world with that kind of message.”