The Tempinis diaries

June 29, 2008

Setting Up an International Academic Advisory Panel for Higher Education in Malaysia

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 11:58 am

Malaysia should seriously consider setting up an academic advisory panel for higher education. Singapore set up one in 1997. Take a look at the composition of its members here. Singapore panel’s is really impressive in its diversity and the quality of the people on board. Besides the obvious benefit of tapping into these talented people’s expertise, it would be easier to forge collaborations with the foreign universities in question if their Vice Chancellor or President is on the advisory panel.

For an example of how an advisory panel may benefit Malaysia, see the story below of the panel’s recommendation on how Singapore should go about setting up a fourth university. Singapore’s careful approach has prevented the problem of low quality institutions, like what happened in Malaysia, when governments rushed into opening universities without proper consideration. Singapore Management University took three years of planning before it was launched.


June 28, 2008

Big Plans at Surrey University

Filed under: Uncategorized — toru @ 1:22 pm

I confess I have not heard much of Surrey University. But the story below sketches out a pretty impressive and ambitious picture. Malaysian universities should take note and study some of these initiatives in this story.


Surrey University’s new China institute will help to put it on the international map

By Lucy Hodges
Thursday, 26 June 2008

Going places: students taking a study break at the Guildford campus

At which university did Led Zeppelin perform their first gig in 1968, the year that the university was establishing a 74-acre campus on the outskirts of a prosperous south-eastern town in the shadow of a great red-brick cathedral?


June 23, 2008

Paris-Sorbonne Opens in Abu Dhabi

Filed under: Uncategorized — toru @ 2:02 pm

There are many reputable institutions opening up in the Middle East these days. I just found out Paris-Sorbonne is opening a branch campus in Abu Dhabi.

June 22, 2008

Studying in Taiwan Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — toru @ 3:08 pm

A very interesting insider’s perspective of studying in Taiwan here.

June 18, 2008

Why Foundation Programmes are Usually a Bad Decision

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:58 pm

A commentator of this post, Chiyee, asked me for my views about giving up his or her A-levels course to take up a foundation programme instead.  My view is that taking any kind of foundation programme is usually a bad idea.  Why do I say this?  First, foundation programmes are not recognised by most leading universities.  That means if you take a particular foundation programme, you are locked into that particular college and degree programme.  You can also kiss the chances of getting into top US, UK, Singapore universities goodbye since they do not recognise these programmes.  Also, most universities that offer foundation programmes are not exactly very good universities.  You can read Tony and Kian Ming’s post here.   Second, foundation programmes do not offer flexibility.  For example, if you take a foundation programme in business, it is highly unlikely that you can switch to engineering, medicine, law, science etc in university.  In contrast, if you take a combination of biology, maths and chemistry in A-levels or STPM, you can take any of these courses in university.

So the upshot is:  never ever take a foundation programme unless you are absolutely, 100 % positive that you want to take a particular course at a particular university.  But then again at 16 years old – how can you ever be sure of something like this?  It would be far wiser to take A-levels or STPM.


The postcript to this post is this: it doesn’t mean you will do badly if you take a foundation programme.  I am sure there are many people who have done these programmes, gone on to do well in university and have forged successful careers.  I just think that it is not as flexible as STPM or A-levels.

June 17, 2008

Foreign Students: Raising the Bar

Filed under: education, singapore, studying in Singapore — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:59 pm

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (“NTU”) recently won an Asian debating contest. The interesting thing is that the debaters from the winning NTU team were all Indian nationals. While there is the perennial debate raging in Singapore about the necessity of foreign talent in Singapore and how they marginalize the locals, the undeniable fact is that these foreign students in Singaporean universities do, in general, raise the bar and competition for local students.


They’re Asia’s best debaters

Loh Chee Kong
WITH three teams in the semi-finals this year, there was no better chance for a Singapore university to be crowned Asia’s king of varsity debate after an eight-year hiatus.

And so it proved, with a classic David versus Goliath battle no less: The team from Nanyang Technological University — comprising relatively inexperienced debaters — stunned seven-time regional champions, the Philippines’ Ateneo de Manila University, in the 4th Asian Universities Debating Championship (AUDC) two weeks ago.

Squad captain Madhav Janakiraman, 20, who was part of the three-member team in the finals, said: “We were quite nervous. We knew we were the underdogs. But we prepared very strategically, trying to assess what the other team’s weaknesses were and how to take them on.”


June 16, 2008

Studying in Taiwan

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:15 pm

An interesting story below on studying in Taiwan. This could be an option for students who have strong Chinese capabilities. It might be difficult to get a job back in Malaysia with a Taiwanese degree. But if a graduate has a strong technical degree such as Engineering, I don’t foresee much difficulty in getting a job in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong or Singapore.


Sunday April 15, 2007

Good place to network


Looking for a place where you can learn and grow at an affordable price? Check out Taiwan.

AS a student in Taiwan, one of the things that struck Teoh Seok Ai most was the openness of its society.

“I was surprised when I heard my classmates speak so openly about the political situation in Taiwan. I had not expected to see young people so passionate about politics in their country,” says Teoh, who studied psychology in the central part of Chia-yi County in Taiwan five years ago.

“They are not afraid to bring up an issue if they have valid reasons for doing so. It could be about anything, from accommodation to the university’s facilities or lecturers,” she adds.

The international students of Yuan Ze University in Taoyuan county seen here are among the 13,000 studying in Taiwan. – Pic courtesy of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia


NYU Opening a Campus in Abu Dhabi

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 2:07 am

Apart from education initiatives like Kaust in Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Education City, UAE seems to be also shaking up the Middle Eastern education sector in a big way.  NYU is opening a campus in Abu Dhabi.  See their website here.  If Malaysia doesn’t buck up, it is going to lag far behind these Middle Eastern countries.

June 13, 2008

A Recent Restatement of Singapore’s Education Policy

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:18 pm

The new Education Minister, Ng Eng Hen, set out Singapore’s education policy in a speech recently. His full speech can be found here. I have excerpted the parts on Universities below. In a nutshell, it seems that Singapore’s plan is diversification of institutions, research collaboration with reputable foreign universities and developing extensive global exchange programmes for local undergraduate students. All very sound and sensible moves.

The Malaysian Education Ministry and Vice Chancellors of universities in Malaysia should study some of these initiatives carefully with a view to emulating them.



27We have three publicly funded local universities: the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU). NUS and NTU have established themselves as world-class research universities, ranked amongst the top 100 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings in 2007. SMU, though young, has quickly established a reputation for producing high-quality graduates who are confident, street-smart and articulate.

28To add value to their students, our universities must maintain high standards of admission and performance. They must also act as strategic engines for Singapore’s long term economic advancement. Thus, our universities have developed programmes to nurture and groom top talents.

29Take for example, NTU’s C N Yang Scholars Programme. This is an undergraduate programme designed for top science and engineering students. C N Yang Scholars are assigned faculty mentors who guide their entire academic programme. The programme provides a strong and broad foundation in the basics of science and mathematics, and empowers students to delve deeper into any discipline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to develop an interest in forefront research.

30There is also the University Scholars Programme (USP) in NUS. Graduates from this programme participate in interdisciplinary modules on a range of topics, from Human Relations and Ethics, and the Environment. Part of the programme involves student interaction with top universities around the world, such as Waseda University in Japan.


June 12, 2008

Qatar’s Education City

Filed under: Uncategorized — toru @ 5:22 am

Even Qatar seems to be overtaking Malaysia in the education stakes nowadays.

Campus in the sand
Keen to develop its higher education, Qatar has enticed US universities to set up stall in its capital city. Ian Wylie reports
Tuesday May 27, 2008

Even by the surreal standards of Doha, this ceremony took some beating. A convocation event for 122 graduating students serenaded with arias by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli – flown in at a reported cost of £1m – and our own Royal Philharmonic concert orchestra, interrupted only by the evening call to prayer. In attendance, the emir and his wife, the sheikh of neighbouring Dubai … oh, and South African president Thabo Mbeki, who just happened to be passing through.The campus of palm trees and plastic grass in the Qatari capital is home to Education City, a collection of (so far) American universities lured to the Gulf by Qatar’s petrodollars and an opportunity to engage in some overseas expansion after post-9/11 visa restrictions stemmed the flow of foreign students to the US. And these students, mostly young Qataris, were the first cohort to graduate from Education City.

The world’s third biggest source of natural gas, Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world bar Luxembourg, plus zero income tax rates. It is home to al-Jazeera and the US’s regional central command military bases. Still, Qatar labours in the shadow of the neighbouring emirates and Saudi Arabia, but, like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the city of Doha wakes and sleeps to the sound of pneumatic drills. Skyscrapers rise from the sand almost overnight, built by low-paid workers from the Indian subcontinent. The economy is growing at more than 30% per annum, but like its larger rivals, this small desert peninsula is seeking to diversify out of fossil fuels and invest its billions in more sustainable sectors.

Qatar has its own sovereign wealth fund – the Qatar Investment Authority – which has bought London’s Chelsea Barracks and has been building stakes in Sainsbury’s and the London Stock Exchange.

But the Qatar Foundation is a sovereign wealth fund of a very different kind. Chaired by the emir’s wife, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al-Missned, the non-profit foundation exists primarily to overhaul education within the state and prepare its small indigenous population for life beyond oil and gas-dependency.

It’s a huge job. Around 80% of Qatar’s 900,000 people are foreign workers with temporary residence status, with nine out of 10 young Qataris seemingly content to push paper in the country’s heavily bureaucratic public sector.

Higher education is a hot topic around the Gulf. In Abu Dhabi, New York University is bringing an entire campus to town. North of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, the Saudis have just begun hiring academics for Kaust, their version of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

In contrast, Qatar has adopted a multi-billion-dollar pick-and-mix approach. Virginia Commonwealth University brought its design courses, Georgetown its liberal arts programme, Texas A&M its engineering courses, Carnegie Mellon its business and computer science, and Weill Cornell its pre-med and MD programmes.

Typically, the universities have signed a contract to run their campuses for 10 years. But the cost of running each campus – estimated at around £10m a year – is met by the foundation. The salaries paid to academics teaching in Qatar are comparable with the US, but bonuses and housing allowances can push earnings well into six figures.

It could have been a very costly white elephant. But the arrival to this 2,500-acre site of Ivy League Cornell and, from September, the well-regarded schools of journalism and communication from Northwestern, are encouraging. And Oxbridge is in the sights of Dr Abdulla Ali al-Thani, vice-chair of the Qatar Foundation and the man charged with finding new partners. “We would like a law programme,” said Thani, who holds an engineering doctorate from Southampton University. “Northwestern and Georgetown both have strong law programmes, and we have a strong relationship with Duke University. Discussions with Oxford and Cambridge are ongoing, but whether that will flourish or not, I don’t know. Dealings with European institutions happen more slowly, but we would very much like a European institution to be here.”

The foundation came close to signing up Insead in 2006, but pulled the plug when it discovered the French business school was also chatting up authorities in Abu Dhabi. Carnegie Mellon, which currently offers a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship, might be one of a handful of business schools asked to offer MBAs and executive business education.

“We will invite different schools to provide different executive education modules, according to their strengths,” said Thani. “So Northwestern might teach media management, Wharton finance and Kellogg marketing. No single school could offer all those strengths, but we could, by providing a platform for all these schools to offer modules here in Qatar.”

The Education City limits take in an independent school, a leadership academy, learning centre for children with learning difficulties and, from next year, a music academy for the Qatar symphony orchestra. The city has a science and technology park, run by former Imperial College pro rector Dr Tidu Maini, where tenants include Shell and Microsoft. And 2010 sees the opening of a 350-bed medical care and research centre with a £4bn endowment.

But the flagship project is the university development of buildings designed by architects including Ibrahim Mohammed Jaidah and Arata Isozaki. And to ensure its sustainability beyond the emir’s beneficence, the foundation will operate several commercial interests, including a convention centre and a mobile phone licence.

In most cases, student selection is carried out by the universities’ admissions offices back in the US and according to the same selection criteria. Just over half of the current 1,130 students are Qataris – the aim says Thani is to increase that to 70% once the development is complete and the student population has reached 8,000. The remainder comprise another 46 nationalities: Egyptians, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Americans – and even four Brits.

Importing US campuses has helped to break down barriers to co-ed learning. The Texas A&M dean, Marck Weichold, says the percentage of women on its engineering courses in Doha is 38% – double the proportion on its Texas campus.

Typically, half the lectures at Education City are delivered by US-based lecturers, posted to Doha for between six months and three years, or by post-docs. But the other half have been hired specifically to work in Doha. Interior design assistant professor Liam Colquhoun, a graduate of Napier University in Edinburgh, was recruited to Qatar by Virginia Commonwealth in 2003. “When I arrived, the development of Education City was well under way, but it has changed so much since then, it is difficult to imagine what it might be like five years from now,” he says. “The curriculum strictly follows that of the home campus in Virginia. In the west, design students generally enter university with a little more experience of design, but I think working with students who have fewer preconceptions about the field can be a benefit. They haven’t been told what is ‘good design’ and so bring an original perspective to their work.”

Would he recommend academic life in Qatar? “Being here is not for everyone,” he says. “Like any developing country there are growing pains that can be frustrating, but the pros far outweigh the cons as far as I am concerned. Although a bacon sandwich would be nice from time to time.”


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