What new initiatives is Taylor’s University involved in?
SAID: Taylor’s University is working on a few initiatives to support the purpose and the mission of the institution. The purpose of Taylor’s University is to shape the new leaders of the community. Our mission in the next 5 years is to make Taylor’s University the preferred recruitment place for employers. The new initiatives will focus on the students’ experience, their global recognition, and making them marketable on a global scale. For the first initiative, we are looking at how to attract more talent to the University. For us to achieve our mission and purpose, great deals of talented people are required. Thus, we try to identify talented individuals not only among the Malaysian intellectuals, but also among the international workforce. Our objective is to achieve 20% international personnel in the University. The second initiative is to transform the students’ learning experience, meaning we are establishing transformational teaching and learning methodology. To implement this new method, we need to ensure that our teaching and learning process, our teaching and learning support, is well accepted by the young generation. We strongly believe that the way we teach our students has to be different. Therefore, we have decided to incorporate new technology into the teaching process and introduce a blended program. This blended program will be 30% technology-based, meaning 30% of the teaching and learning methodology will shift to e-learning.
Where are the majority of your students from? Are there any new enrollment trends in the last year taking place?
SAID: At the moment, 22% of the student population is coming from 70 different countries. The majority of these students are from Asia, for example Indonesia, China, and South Korea. There are also countries where a specific industry is the main economic contributor and they need a well-trained workforce. For instance, we attract people from the Maldives with our strong competency in hospitality management and tourism. Our objective is to get students from all around the world. We are working to enroll students from Europe, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia. Such diversity is proven to enhance the students’ learning experience. Furthermore, we want to ensure that the young generation understands how cross-cultural dynamics work and appreciate differences among the different cultures.
In your opinion what is Malaysia’s competitive advantage?
SAID: In my opinion there are several reasons why Malaysia is becoming more popular among foreign students. People must appreciate the quality of education delivered by Malaysian universities. Our local Malaysian Qualification Agency is in charge of the quality assurance of the education process in both the private and the public education institutions. Today, the perception about the private and the public sector is that both sectors provide the same level of quality education. Another reason is the low cost of living in Malaysia in comparison to other countries in the region and Europe. Furthermore, Malaysia is a multicultural county. I believe that students want to study more people, more culture, outside the class room. To summarize, the reasons for students to come to study in Malaysia are the quality of education, the low cost of living, the multiculturalism, and the fact that by being in this part of the world, Malaysia is the connecting bridge between the East and the West.
What impact did the global economic downturn have on Taylor’s University?
SAID: Despite the global economic downturn we are still able to receive the required quantity and quality of students. When industries are in such an economic position, most people will turn to education in order to prepare for the challenges ahead. Therefore, I am glad to say that we are not facing any threat in education. Taylor’s University is reaching its target for students’ enrollment and we hope that the situation in Europe will bring additional opportunities for us. We are working hard to express all of our advantages to bring more European students to Malaysia and to Taylor’s University. We have great support systems and a well situated campus next to Kuala Lumpur. In addition to that, our campus is modern and attractive to students even from the well developed countries. We have a brand promise. Our promise is to provide students with high quality teaching and learning support. Furthermore, we have Taylor’s graduate capability, which is designed to enhance students’ soft skills and their interpersonal skills. We want to ensure that upon graduation, our alumni will be meeting employers’ expectations. By delivering a good learning experience and a good skill set to the students, we are delivering graduates able to compete in the global market. Our objective is that our graduates will be hired by the top employers at a premium rate. Moreover, they will be flexible enough to work across diverse environments and ultimately become the leaders in their respective fields. In summary, our brand promise is to provide the market with the future leaders of tomorrow. With such a brand promise you need to provide a solid infrastructure. Thus, we have good lecturers, and we cover the technological criteria well through our curriculum.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, as it moves toward becoming more innovation-driven, Malaysia will need to improve its performance in education and technological readiness. In the latter dimension, the country places a low 44th, with room for improvement in technological adoption by both businesses and the population at large. What role do educational institutions play in addressing these challenges?
SAID: There are three areas that we need to develop further to address these challenges. The first area is to ensure that all students will be exposed to the technological trends. Taylor’s University is working to make technology available in the class rooms, in the campus, and in the overall teaching and learning process. In some of the programs we are incorporating the iPad because we feel that blackboard technology is becoming obsolete. Since our University is a research-informed teaching one, the second area, we are concentrating on is enhancing our research capabilities. Unfortunately, to become a purely research university a great deal of financial support is needed. As such, we are working to enhance our research capabilities in order to provide relevant, up-to-date information to our academic staff and post graduate students. Most of the research is on how technology can be utilized to support our teaching methodology. Furthermore, we are encouraging multi-disciplinary research and enabling the cluster of the various research findings. But the university’s efforts are not only on the academic side. We need to enhance the usage of technology among our non-academic and professional staff. By incorporating new technology to the workplace, we also create what we call AWE (Awesome Workplace Environment).
In terms of the higher education in Malaysia, I think that the sector is becoming more attractive to international universities to set up premises in the country. This has created a new challenge for us to compete with these foreign universities.
What are the main challenges facing Taylor’s University?
SAID: For Taylor’s, the biggest challenge is how to meet the global changes in higher education. The industry is very dynamic and we need to take into consideration the government’s perspective, the quality assurance perspective, and the formation of alliances. Newly established education groups and alliances may bring new policies to the sector. At Taylor’s University we need to pay attention to these changes in order to be able to compete at a global scale. To be part of the international education scene, we need to ensure that all new policies and trends are implemented by us. The other challenge is to attract and retain the top students to our university. Most of the high achieving students are looking for scholarships. As a private institution this is a challenge for us, although we have allocated MYR 12m ($4m) for scholarships and tuition support for our top students. In terms of the higher education in Malaysia, I think that the sector is becoming more attractive to international universities to set up premises in the country. This has created a new challenge for us to compete with these foreign universities. To distinguish ourselves from the rest of the competition, internationalization is becoming an important factor to us. We will be able to expand our business and capture higher market share. We will be able to expand our business and capture a higher market share. Moreover, we have to ensure that Taylor’s is a truly international university. Thus, we have established various partnerships with universities from around the world. These partnerships are to provide new exchange opportunities for students and staff. I am happy to state that Taylor’s is able to meet all the requirements of the top universities and our students have even greater opportunities. We have established dual degree arrangements with overseas universities, which give the option to students to graduate with their degree at a partner university. We also target to have 30% students from overseas.