to study the new-energy science and engineering course was the reason he decided to attend the new school, although the fact that it is located near his hometown was also a factor.
Before enrolling at XMUM, Ohg was offered a full scholarship by a prestigious university on the Chinese mainland, but he declined because the school didn’t offer his chosen major, which he described as “interesting and promising”.
Haw Choon Yian, an assistant professor of new-energy science and engineering at XMUM, said the traditional primary sources of energy — coal, natural gas and petroleum — are being depleted at a rapid rate, so the program promotes the discovery of better, new energy options.
It is “the first and only program of its kind to be launched at a Malaysian private or public university”, said the 30-year-old lecturer, who teaches several courses, including general physics laboratory experiments and techniques, physics and the corrosion and protection of materials.
“The combination of the job market, the rising demand for energy and the need to solve environmental problems, such as excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, means it is our most attractive course,” he said, adding that the program is an “eye-opener” for local students and is playing an important role in the growth of the new campus.
Half the battle
The campus has developed at a rapid pace since construction began in July 2014. The first phase, covering 260,000 sq m, is now operational, and is home to nearly 2,000 students. The Class of 2017, including 500 students from China, will enroll in September.
Zhang Jianlin, assistant president of Xiamen University, who has been working to facilitate the construction of the new campus since 2012, said XMUM has benefitted greatly from the support of the Chinese and Malaysian governments, as well as businesses and philanthropists in the two countries.
The second phase of construction began recently. By 2020, XMUM is expected to have at least 5,000 students, but the number will eventually reach a maximum of 10,000.
Most of the students will come from China, Malaysia, and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“As pioneers in setting up and running a campus overseas, we hope to build it as a model that other Chinese universities with similar plans will be able to follow,” said Zhang, who is also a professor of construction engineering at Xiamen University. “We would like to share our experiences, the ups and downs we have experienced in recent years.”
Zhu, president of Xiamen University, said such an undertaking is never easy because of barriers, challenges and even risks.
“You have to obey the laws and regulations of the other country, and understand, respect and adapt to the culture and the education system. Moreover, as construction funds are mainly raised via bank loans, the risks involved in raising funds and repaying loans should also be fully considered,” he said.
Zhang Ying, who has been dealing with administrative and teaching affairs on the campus since April last year, has experience of the potential pitfalls.
“A very simple example in terms of cultural differences is that more than half of Malaysia’s population is Muslim, and they need to pray five times a day. Xiamen University Malaysia has to follow other universities in the country and set up prayer rooms for staff and students,” she said.
“Details like these can pass unnoticed meaning relevant measures are only taken after arriving in the country.”
The recruitment of faculty members is also challenging, according to Zhang Ying. To offer top-quality education, the campus needs more highquality teaching staff, but salaries in Malaysia aren’t yet competitive enough to attract large numbers of qualified candidates, especially from developed countries.
However, Haw, the Malaysian assistant professor who has worked at the campus since it opened, said he has witnessed the administrators’ efforts to win greater recognition from local students and staff, and he has been impressed by the rapid development of the campus.
“We are only halfway through the battle to build the campus in Malaysia. There is still a long way to go, but things are improving all the time,” he said.
At present, 13 programs are offered on the campus, including electrical and electronic engineering, which has just been approved by the Malaysian government and will see its first students in September. Only two of the programs — Chinese studies and traditional Chinese medicine — are taught in Mandarin. All other courses are taught in English.
Some members of the academic staff have been seconded from the main campus in Fujian province, while the rest were recruited in Malaysia and other countries. The studentteacher ratio is set to be 15:1.
Xiamen University Malaysia has applied to open master’s courses in Chinese studies and business administration. If approved, the programs will be launched in 2018 or 2019.
Contact the writer at zhaoxinying@ chinadaily.com.cn
Haw Choon Yian teaches
A student band performs