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Prof. Graham Kendall

MALAYSIA - Health & Education

Under the Hood

CEO & Provost, University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM)


Professor Graham Kendall became CEO & Provost of UNM in August 2016, prior to which he was Vice-Provost (Research and Knowledge Exchange). He has now lived and worked in Malaysia for eight years and has an in-depth knowledge of transnational Education. He was awarded a bachelor’s degree (Hons) First Class in Computation from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), UK in 1997 and received his PhD from the University of Nottingham (School of Computer Science) in 2000. He is a Fellow of the Operational Research Society and the British Computer Society.

The University of Nottingham, a UK-based school, has opened up a branch in Malaysia where it hopes to add value to the country's education sector.

How do you assess the contribution of UNM to the development of Malaysia’s higher education infrastructure?

We celebrated our 18th anniversary in September 2018 and are gearing up for our 20th, which will be a significant milestone. The original joint venture agreement was signed in 1998, and we commenced in 2000 with 86 students, being the first to establish a UK overseas campus in Malaysia. UNM has been a catalyst for other UK universities to come to Asia and Malaysia, specifically. Today, we are one of five UK universities here and are pleased to be considered the most global one. An international presence has become necessary for universities; however, when we first ventured out, that was not the case. I hope our actions have provided a sustainable model for globalization. The first five years were about building ourselves and attracting students. In 2005, when we moved to our current campus, we started developing a healthy research portfolio. UNM delivers world-class teaching reflected by our Tier-5 rating in SETARA 2017. We also have a five-star rating in the Malaysian Research Assessment (MyRA), making us the highest-rated international university in Malaysia in terms of quality of research and innovation. Doing research in Malaysia is different than in the UK, as there is no margin and we have to invest from our primary income streams, which are tuition fees. Despite this, our dedicated staff produces great research that cannot be done in the UK. We delve into subjects such as food security and the feasibility of certain crops in a tropical climate. We also investigate the human-elephant conflict. The elephant population is falling, and one reason is that they follow certain routes that are likely obstructed by human development. For example, when a road is constructed through the jungle, elephants are nervous to cross such roads, which can divide populations. We can see from statistics that our research publications have a real impact.

What will be the main challenges and opportunities in the higher education sector in the coming years?

One of the challenges in Malaysia is around visa regulation. On the one hand, the Ministry of Higher Education wants 200,000 international students by 2020. On the other, the immigration authorities need checks and balances, which can create difficulties for students coming to Malaysia. Some countries make the process much easier, and Malaysia has to recognize that international student recruitment is a competitive environment, and it should seek to ease immigration obstacles for those wishing to study here. We are one of 10 foreign-branch campus institutions in Malaysia, meaning we are a foreign university with a campus in Malaysia with degrees awarded by the host country, the UK in our case. Therefore, we have the added challenge of having to go through two quality assurance processes, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in the UK and the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) in Malaysia. This takes additional time and resources. If I had one wish, it would be that MQA fully recognized QAA so that most, if not all, of the checks that MQA does could be removed. Indeed, there is an MoU between the two quality agencies, and my wish is for it to be developed to a stage where a UK foreign branch campus just had to go through one process. If we could achieve this it would make us more competitive and agile and reduce a great deal of the bureaucracy that we currently have to adhere to.



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