What new initiatives is The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus currently involved in?
PASHBY: In terms of new initiatives, we are in the development stage, so we are investing heavily in our research activity, and we are also bringing new programs to the campus. We have been doing that for the last two or three years, and we will continue to do that as we expand into liberal arts and science.
Are these new initiatives aimed at becoming a more diversified university or a response to market demands?
PASHBY: The drive behind these initiatives is really to expand the provision. Traditionally, we have had programs that are really popular in this part of the world. These programs lead directly to careers in engineering, business, and pharmacy, and they have all been very popular. I think a part of being a more comprehensive university is to bring in the more liberal arts programs, but we have never had the luxury of doing that. They are never going to be enormous programs but they are very important to us in terms of growth.
What is the makeup of the student body at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus?
PASHBY: In terms of student numbers, we currently have about 4,600. We have a plan that will take us to about 6,500 by about 2015-2016. The student body has a good mix of Malaysian students to international students; about 38% are from outside of Malaysia.
In terms of future projections, is the roughly 40-60 domestic-international ratio a level you aim to maintain?
PASHBY: In terms of the student mix, I think that we have a very good balance of domestic to international students. A 60%-40% ratio is good for us. More importantly is where we draw the students from. We draw students from 75 different countries, so we are a very international community, and that is probably the most important and significant thing we do. We are here for Malaysia, for Malaysians, and for national building, but we also here to give people a truly global, international experience. So it is very important we have a relatively high level of international students as well.
What role do you think educational institutions play in increasing Malaysia’s global competitiveness?
PASHBY: I think one of the key roles that higher education institutes play in building Malaysia’s competence, and helping its development, is to have high quality education in-country. In the past there has always been the passion for education, but many of the students have flowed away from the country, studied overseas, and unfortunately they have not come back to Malaysia. So having this high quality provision, which is very much a part of the government’s vision to make Malaysia an educational hub, serves that purpose very well I think.
What research areas are you currently focusing on?
PASHBY: In terms of research activity, our focus is quite broad based across the engineering disciplines, which are very strong here. One very major initiative that we have here is called Crops for the Future. This is actually an international research center, which is established and supported by the Malaysian government to look at alternative crops, not just for food, but for uses as diverse as building materials and pharmaceuticals. It is looking at crops that are not traditionally seen as food crops. I didn’t realize that there are only seven food crops that support 80% of the world’s diet, but there are 13,000 plant species here in Malaysia. So there is a great, untapped potential, and that is one of our major initiatives here.
In what ways are you engaging with the local business community?
PASHBY: In terms of engagement with local business, this is very much a growing area for us. It is an important aspect of our university culture in the UK, and we are now bringing it to Malaysia, where perhaps that interaction is not as well established as it is in other places. We have significant interactions, mainly in engineering, but also in business and pharmaceuticals, with local providers. It is a two way street. We do research work with them, but they provide internships for our students. They also support us in initiatives such as advisory reports, so that we make sure we are producing graduates that are not just highly technically skilled, but have the skill sets the industry really needs.
I think there is an enormous amount of untapped potential, particularly with the government’s ambition to raise the number of international students in Malaysia from 80,000 to about 200,000 by 2020.
How would you describe the level of competition among the universities here in Malaysia?
PASHBY: I think there is great segmentation in terms of the universities here in Malaysia. There are a great number of universities that are passionate about education. People are taking it very seriously, so you will see more and more international universities establishing themselves here. Twelve years ago there were four universities. In the last few years we have seen an influx of new universities. It is good competition, but I think there is an enormous amount of untapped potential, particularly with the government’s ambition to raise the number of international students in Malaysia from 80,000 to about 200,000 by 2020.
How would you describe the dynamics among public and private universities in Malaysia?
PASHBY: The relationship between the public and private universities is very good, especially in our case. I think it is natural that when foreign branch campuses first arrived, there would be an element of suspicion. I think everyone would feel that way regarding what this competition brings and how will it change our world. That is gone, and I think we are in a situation now where we have very good relationships with the local public universities. UKM (University of Kebangsaan Malaysia), UPM (University of Putra Malaysia), UTM (University of Technology Malaysia), UT (University Technology Mara), UM (University of Malaysia) are all partners with us on various initiatives, and others are as well. So it’s a good synergistic relationship.
What is your future outlook for tertiary education in Malaysia? Which indicators are showing positive signs and which challenges?
PASHBY: In terms of the indicators for higher education in Malaysia, I think they are all very positive, and I think this is one of the reasons you are seeing other institutions looking very seriously at the foreign institutions setting up here in Malaysia. If you look at the demographics, there is going to be an increasing number of 18-22 year-olds coming through the system. This is very much the opposite of the case in developed nations in Europe and other places. There is a supply side demand there overall, but with the government’s initiative to establish Malaysia as an educational hub, that draw will not just be in Malaysia but it will be regional. We pull students from Central Asia, we pull students from the Middle East, and I think those demographics are very similar. So you have an increasing number of people looking for higher education, and that is going to continue. I think that Malaysia is well placed to explore that.