Malaysia’s rise in global prominence as a centre of knowledge, research and development can be directly attributed to its excellent universities. Driving education and research countrywide is Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
), or The National University of Malaysia, which was established in 1970 as an icon for national identity, nation building and for the promotion of Malay as a language of knowledge.
With an international outlook, UKM has on its faculty people trained both at home and abroad in other Asian as well as Western nations, thus lending it a rich diversity and broader perspective. Students also hail from many countries. In the last academic year, there were over 2,500 overseas students enrolled, from nearly 60 countries, and academic collaborations also know no boundaries.
“Through the strategy of Global Partnership Mobility programmes we are now beginning to excite people in Europe, the West and the US,” explains Professor Tan Sri Dato' Wira Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin, vice-chancellor of UKM. “There are things they can learn from us. At the moment they think they can get whatever they want in their regions but we have to show that we do have something different to offer.”
This “something different” has been packaged in modules such as indigenous communities or sustainable tropical heritage. Indeed, UKM’s 100-acre on-campus permanent rainforest, complete with a herbarium and fernarium, coupled with its other facilities and proximity to centres of growth proves a major draw to many.
UKM offers more than 270 programmes in major disciplines and is renowned for its medical and engineering courses. In 2006, it was designated as one of four research universities in Malaysia, thereby attracting the Malaysia Genome Institute, the International Institute of Global Health and the United Nations University to set up on the UKM campus.
According to Dr Sharifah, UKM’s research lends itself to not only commercial applications but also to social wellbeing and the creation of a high level of human resources – research experience at UKM serves to capacitate students to then go out into the private sectors and innovate.
The percentage of the university’s research that does bear fruit, however, is put to very practical use in the form of start-ups. UKM has 33 companies, working in a variety of fields, including producing new and more nutrient-rich varieties of plants, growing skin, and developing solar energy and other energy-related technology at UKM’s new Green Technology Innovation Park.