“ACCORDING to the National Educational Blueprint, innovation, critical thinking, and digital learning are some of the key focus areas that will spur excellence in the higher education system. As such, creativity, technology and innovation will lead the way forward, ” said Dr David Tneh Cheng Eng.
“We need to embrace the creative digital economy as well as the 4th Industrial Revolution, ” he added.
As assistant professor and dean of the Faculty of Creative Industries (FCI) at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Tneh explained that while the education system separates sciences and arts subjects, the trend is heading towards a convergence of different fields.
Educators and students alike should learn how to integrate these and prepare for the next level forward.
The faculty offers an integrated approach that empowers its students to evolve in their choice of careers, thus developing a keen sense towards change and face upcoming trends head on.
FCI offers nine undergraduate programmes, but for this article, Tneh would like to focus on three: Bachelor of Media and Creative Studies (Hons), Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Journalism in Chinese Media and the Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Digital Animation.
Evolving to Industry Changes
The Media and Creative Studies programme focuses on producing students who not only are adaptable but are able to evolve with changes in the industry, especially with the convergence of media in the fields of advertising, media, design and communications.
“As these various fields tend to overlap in multiple areas, we produce students who are really good in tackling those changes.”
This programme is kept in sync with the progress in the creative industry and students learn to develop close ties with industry players in their final year projects. With such closeness, the faculty has links with important industries in Malaysia.
Students in this programme undertake challenging national and global issues such as welfare for the visually challenged, single mothers who need support from the state, global environmental issues and transformative social impact projects.
All of UTAR’s programmes are moderated for quality by a panel of external examiners, and for Media and Creative Studies, these examiners hail from the University of Adelaide.
Creating Ready Media Savvy Reporters
The Journalism in Chinese Media programme is the only bi-lingual journalism programme in the whole of Malaysia, where 70% of the course is conducted in Mandarin while the remaining 30% in English.
Graduates are highly employable in journalism, radio stations, content writers, mainstream media, publishing houses as well as social media strategist.
Journalism in Chinese Media students are also involved in the respective industries – for instance, they cut a 30-sec snippet every Thursday with 98.8FM and they also run a news portal at http://uclicknews.com – a special website for journalistic articles and podcasts.
These instances allows students to put into practice all they have learnt, going around as reporters covering pertinent stories within Sungai Long, and throughout Selangor.
The website has received about 8,000 likes from the whole of Selangor, which attests to the quality these students have, honing their internet journalism and digital reporting skills.
Developing Talents for the Animation Hub
The Digital Animation programme delves into 3D animation platform, although it also includes 2D, motion graphics, and compositing, with the aim of instructing students to become proficient digital animation programmers.
The programme is accredited by the Malaysian Board of Technologists (MBOT) and the animation industry strongly supported by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in order to further develop a vibrant creative, digital economy.
As the key driver in the animation industry, MDEC has encouraged the growth of gaming companies in Malaysia, such as WAU Animation, Les’ Copaque, Mischievous Studios, Lemonsky Studios, to name a few and UTAR’s students have been an excellent talent pool for these companies.
This is evident with an increase in locally produced animated programmes such as “Upin & Ipin” and movies such as “Ejen Ali”.
Tneh pointed out that the Faculty of Creative Industries has over 1,300 students. In addition to the three highlighted programmes above, the faculty also offers programmes such as Broadcasting, Graphic Design, Corporate Communication, Game Design, Game Development, and Early Childhood Education.
With the Ministry of Education move towards STREAM, which includes art and music as part of the technical scientific approach of STEM, future students will understand and come to make choices at an earlier age.
“When they come to UTAR for example, or to FCI, we will help them find their niche in pursuing their passion and interest as Malaysia move towards the digital economy, ” Tneh added.
All labs in UTAR are equipped with iMacs and MacPros, with softwares that are used in the industry; such as Final Cut Pro, Protools, Premier Pro, and Toon Boom Harmony.
Industrial Partnerships to Benefit Students
Like most tertiary institutions and private colleges and universities, UTAR goes beyond merely offering internships; it builds partnerships so that industry advisors, company owners and CEOs can provide constructive feedback to students for their final year projects.
“We forge a bond with them and we even invite professionals from industries to give talks in order to provide students a look of what is happening in the working world and the demands of the industry, ” explained Tneh.
UTAR students can also spend a semester or two abroad, doing internships internationally with UTAR’s over 350 MOU partners. In addition, Tneh pointed out UTAR provides quality education with excellent internship opportunities. Students are expected to be creative in their problem-solving, multi-tasking and people management.
“That's why we stress on creativity and digital technology, ” Tneh said. “Our courses are actually geared towards that - we also try our best to develop individuals with integrity and humility.”
As human development is a crucial component in any institution be it corporate or higher learning, the faculty is formed as a close-knit family, distinguished by the strong bond between academic staff and the students.
It has a faculty strength of 125 academic staff which enables smaller classes with a ratio of 1 instructor to 10 students, and that allows for better teacher-student interaction.
The UTAR graduate employability university-wide stands at around 95%, within six months after graduation and students who participated in internships overseas received good reviews from their employers. This shows the university and faculty are on the right track.
“We always focus on developing our staff as well as our students, ” Tneh concluded.
A Young University with a Global Reputation
UTAR has always been a home-grown institution that is impressively ranked second in Malaysia, in the distinguished Times World University Rankings 2020.
The university imparts important skills onto the students, through the live projects they complete, the close links forged with the creative industries, with the assurance from external examiners and visits from the industry leaders.
In order to equip its students for a creatively demanding job environment of the 21st century, UTAR equips its students with skills such as project management, effective communication, technology literacy, collaborative skills, and creative problem-solving.
For details on the programmes highlighted here, visit UTAR’s Faculty of Creative Industries webpage at http://fci.utar.edu.my/