Higher Education Year in Review: Soaring Upwards "Part 1"

USM international students during a cultural event.


The year began on a high note, in ironically troubled waters.

We saw the Ministry of Education’s post-flood relief efforts (#opspascabanjir) bring together more than 50,000 of the higher education community to volunteer their time and skills in our flood-affected states. It was the largest volunteer-mobilization effort in the Ministry’s history.  

Organizations such as 1M4U and Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa (YSS) were also imperative in managing supplies and mobilizing volunteers to more than 165 schools in Kelantan, 67 in Pahang and 7 in Perak.

These unsung heroes worked tirelessly to enable the schools to reopen and for their younger siblings to have the opportunity to learn. Among their efforts:

Community College students sewed 5000 school uniforms to be donated to the victims;
Polytechnic students repaired electrical wiring in flood affected homes;
Universiti Malaya (UM) and UiTM doctors, specialists and nurses provided medical care and aid.
Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) seniors were seen carrying their juniors’ belongings in waist-deep water to higher grounds; and
Students and staff from various local higher learning institutions helped clear mud and debris from flood affected schools;

Before and After. Student volunteers moving in study tables at SMK Kg Laut, Kelantan.

It was indeed inspiring to see the higher education students utilize their classroom skills in real life settings. This coming together of so many selfless individuals heralded a blessed start to the year.


Malaysia is truly an amazing education destination. Currently 113,752 international students call Malaysia home, out of which about 32,000 are pursuing postgraduate degrees (Master’s and PhDs) – many here with their family and children. By 2020, international student enrolment is expected to increase to 200,000, with the international students contributing some RM15.6 billion to the Malaysian economy.

Part of the Malaysia’s attraction is the presence of renowned international universities which have set up branch campuses in Malaysia. These include Monash, Reading, Newcastle, Nottingham, Swinburne, Curtin and Southampton.
On 12 February 2015, Malaysia added a 9th renowned institution to that list - UK institution Heriot-Watt University. The university is well-known for its business programmes but also offers courses in finance, accounting, actuarial science, construction and renewable energy – all key areas required for Malaysia’s growth.

The presence of these institutions not only allows for more competition, but also provides greater choice for parents and students alike.


April and May were big months.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) aka the Higher Education Blueprint was launched on 7 April, to replace the National Higher Education Strategic Plan (2007-2015) which had run its course.

The launched marked the culmination of a 3 year effort, involving collaborative and consultative engagements with over 100 stakeholder groups, 2300 focus groups, 10,000+ stakeholders, and global education experts and organisations such as the World Bank, Scopus and OECD.

The Higher Education Blueprint outlines 10 Shifts that will guide our nation’s higher education landscape for the next 11 years. The 10 Shifts address key performance issues in our Higher Learning Institutions including a focus on outcomes for students in academic and TVET pathways, the academic community and the institutionalizing of lifelong learning. (Link to Higher Education Blueprint: http://hes.mohe.gov.my/event/pppm-pt/)


Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Razak launching the Higher Education Blueprint on 7 April 2015.

There was also the launch of the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) – Samsung Internet of Things (IoT) Academy. Having committed up to USD100 million for IoT related initiatives worldwide, Samsung chose UTeM for its one of a kind teaching academy where Malaysian students will be exposed to the latest Android software and Samsung hardware to propel IoT’s development. This academic-industry collaboration is truly one to be proud of and to look out for in the future.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh at the UTeM-Samsung Internet of Things Academy Launch.

End April – early May, the annual QS World University Rankings by Subject. The rankings highlight the world’s top universities in 36 individual subjects, based on academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact.

I am proud that Malaysian universities now have 2 subjects ranked in the world’s Top 50 – namely Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) for Environmental Science at No. 31 and Universiti Malaya (UM) for Development Studies at No. 32.

Additionally, another 5 of our local universities have subjects ranked in the world’s Top 100. UM, USM and UTM all stand strong in their architecture, built environment and engineering subjects while Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) rose 9 spots to rank 45th in the world in Agriculture and Forestry. UKM also features in the world’s Top 100 in Linguistics and Development Studies.

The CEO @ Faculty Programme was kick started by Dato’ Seri Syed Zainal to about 30,000 UiTM students. The former Proton CEO shared that “hard work, discipline, knowledge, no short cuts and never giving up” were the factors that contributed to his success.


Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar of Khazanah delivering a lecture as part of the CEO@Faculty Programme.

Dato Seri Syed Zainal is one of the 22 CEOs that have committed to the CEO @ Faculty Programme, which aims to enhance public-private partnerships. These CEOs will be appointed as Adjunct Professors at Public Universities.

Since this inaugural lecture, 13 other CEOs have started teaching in our local university students, these include Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar (Khazanah), Dr Richard Parker (a Director at Rolls Royce), Michaela Dinboeck (Novartis), Dato’ Farid Alias (Maybank), YM Tengku Dato’ Zafrul (CIMB) and Abraham Liu (Huawei).

Dr Richard Parker (left) with Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh (right) and British Higher Commission to Malaysia Vicky Treadall (centre).

Having committed 20-30 hours of their time to teaching students, advising the universities and guiding the universities in terms of curriculum design and course offerings, this programme bodes well for the future of academic-industry collaboration.

I’ve also written about the programme and industry collaboration earlier in the yaer: www.thestar.com.my/opinion/online-exclusive/whats-your-status/2015/06/18/marrying-education-and-industry/

Part 1 Conclusion

Volunteerism, international education expansion, strategic direction, rankings, and industry collaboration. These are some of the key highlights of the first six months of 2015. It must be said that the civil servants and academic community had worked hard to enable these achievements and I am in full of praise of them.

The next piece will look at the 2nd half of 2015 – made even more interesting because the Ministry of Higher Education was re-established following the Cabinet reshuffle in July.  

How has the higher education year been for you? Do share your views.

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Year end , Education

Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at danialrahman0330@gmail.com.


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