Zhao Xiny­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

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

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Haw Choon Yian teaches

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