This week, I made my first trip to Malaysia as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading. Arriving on Sunday night, I have been engaged since in a busy round of visits and meetings and hearing and seeing first-hand the progress that University of Reading Malaysia is making.
I began by seeing our impressive facilities in downtown Johor Bahru where we are already offering executive education courses as well as English language programmes. The new facilities feel very much a part of University of Reading, with prominent images of the University all around the building.
Not surprisingly, one of the highlights of the week so far has been visiting EduCity where our campus will open in 2015. It’s in a prime location at the entrance to EduCity and, will, I am sure become a landmark building in the area.
The rest of the facility is already taking shape with University of Newcastle offering medicine and University of Southampton just receiving their first engineering students. The student accommodation block is now open and the sports stadium should be completed by the end of the year.
I am delighted that there is considerable interest in the plans for University of Reading Malaysia in the region, and as part of my visit, I have been delighted to be interviewed by the New Straits Times, Star and Sin Chew Daily newspapers. I have also attended dinners in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur where I have met many influential figures from business and commerce, including University of Reading and Henley Business School graduates.
It has also been very useful to meet key contacts in the Ministry of Higher Education and the University of Malaya as we develop partnerships in Malaysian higher education.
Throughout my time in Malaysia, I have been very well supported by our enthusiastic project team. It was clear to me that they are held in high regard locally and are great ambassadors for the University of Reading.
My main impressions from the short visit to Malaysia and Singapore are that:-
There is a palpable sense of ambition surrounding higher education in the country. We are part of the expansion effort, as well as contributing to the enhanced status of HE in the country. I am delighted that we are already considered as having an important contribution to make in this regard.
Secondly, I have seen for myself the potential for Malaysia to become a great education hub. It is located in a region with a hunger for education and a huge potential market.
Thirdly, the University already has many friends here. I mentioned the alumni I met and it will be marvellous to be working with them in the future. Our team in Malaysia has also developed strong relationships with the High Commissions of both Malaysia and Singapore as well as in the British Council. It was good to hear the UK Universities Minister, David Willetts, talk so positively about our work in Malaysia at the Universities UK annual conference last week.
I look forward to my next visit and to hearing of further success as we approach an important milestone for the University, the full opening of University of Reading Malaysia.
SIR DAVID BELL
VICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF READING