REVAMPING a university is hard work, but a local private higher education institution here is taking on the challenge.
Asia Metropolitan University (AMU) chairman Tan Sri Dr Zulkurnain Awang is confident that the change will be positive.
“The new owners of the university are striving hard to provide quality education beyond certificates where students are capable and can fit into the industry.
Man with a plan: Dr Zulkurnain says the university also plans to institute a continuous programme of structured internships which will enableits students to interact and network with potential employees.
“We aim to be a learner-centred university, and with the turnaround, we believe we can deliver that.”
Consistently getting the right people for the job will enable an organisation to grow and become a reputable brand.
And with private equity firm Creador, a reputable investor, and education provider SMRT Holdings Bhd with its experience in Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS), this is exactly what AMU has started doing this year.
The newly-formed partnership will synergise the established CUCMS with AMU in the areas of student recruitment, support services and manpower.
“The plus point is that we can work closely with CUCMS, which will help make operation costs more efficient,” says Dr Zulkurnain.
On that note, Dr Zulkurnain is certainly a vital component in the university’s revival as well, with his vast experience, which includes 36 years in government service.
He holds two Masters degrees in International Affairs and Public Administration from Ohio University in the United States and a PhD in Development Studies from Leeds University in the United Kingdom.
Dr Zulkurnain joined the civil service on April 15, 1974 and retired in October 2010, during which he served in various positions with several agencies including the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Public Services Department and the National Institute of Public Administration.
He was also in the Education Ministry for 10 years – four-and-a-half of which he was secretary-general.
Until 2014, Dr Zulkurnain was Education Service Commission chairman, too.
“I am here for a reason. Otherwise, I would be enjoying my retirement life.
“I believe in what the university is doing, which is very clear – it is very committed to quality education,” he says.
And according to Dr Zulkurnain, what is most vital now is the staff and students’ support for the university’s new strategy.
He points to one of their “key thrusts” in providing quality education, which is hiring prominent academic faculty.
“My role is to counsel and guide lecturers to maintain a highly ethical standard of lecturing in our university,” he says.
But besides lecturers and professors, the university also has to “reorganise the whole structure of the organisation”, right down to the support staff.
“Every person the student encounters will play a role in their education. So it is important for us to put the right people in the right places in order to provide the right environment for learning.”
While improving student intake is clearly a priority for the university, Dr Zulkurnain stresses that their goal is to admit high-potential students who meet their academic benchmarks.
The right programmes
AMU intends to position itself in the business, medical, and allied sciences education sector.
Which is why the university offers over 48 courses available in medicine, allied sciences, business, and postgraduate studies, says Dr Zulkurnain.
“These are areas where there is a great demand in our country as it becomes more developed and people become more health conscious.
“There is big potential here, which is why our university is concentrating on these courses,” he says.
But, understanding that the industries are “interlinked”, their current focus is on their foundation in business, medicine, pharmacy, biomedicine and health, and therapeutic science.
“We will certainly leverage on our offerings in these related fields to allow our students to learn from each other.
“This will prepare them for employment in the medical and allied sciences field.”
As emphasised by the government, the university also plans to institute a continuous programme of structured internships by working closely with the private sector.
“This is so important.
“An internship will enable our students to interact and network with their potential employers,” he shares.
Having experienced “thousands of recruitment interviews”, Dr Zulkurnain says the most common problem was that students lacked soft skills.
“A person’s attitude and the way they behave and communicate makes a difference in their success.”
He also shares that the combination of a students’ classroom knowledge and working experience will “hone their capablities and make them employable”.
Besides its full university status, AMU’s campuses across the country also presents it with a great opportunity for growth.
“Many local private colleges don’t have campuses nationwide. That’s our advantage,” he says, referring to AMU’s campuses in Cheras, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Johor Baru and Kota Baru.
“We aim to leverage on our existing campuses and make them hubs for the different programmes we offer,” he adds.
But with all that being said, Dr Zulkurnain emphasises that the university’s target as an education provider is simple
“Our students should and will graduate with the neccessary skills needed to perform to the best of their abilities in their professions.”