By Peng Huiru
“Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) needs to strengthen cooperation with China,” declared UMK President Dr. Noor Azizi Ismail. “We hope to deepen the relations between China and Malaysia, especially Kelantan, through cooperation in education so as to further propel the economic development in Kelantan. At the same time, we also hope that Chinese universities can come to Malaysia for academic exchanges, and it is my task and duty as the president of UMK to promote mutually beneficial and friendly bilateral exchanges.”
Recently, UMK President Noor Azizi Ismail made a visit to China and granted an exclusive interview to China Report ASEAN while in Beijing. This scholarly head of UMK is known for his outstanding academic performance and extraordinary skills as an educator as well as for his long term goals and an international vision in terms of promoting Sino Malaysian education cooperation.
Welcoming Chinese Students
From college to Ministry of Higher Education (MHE) of Malaysia, then back to academia from politics, Noor Azizi Ismail’s personal experience highlights drivers of the success of higher education in Malaysia.
Noor Azizi Ismail obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, a master’s degree in accounting information systems from the University of Memphis and a doctorate in accounting and information systems from Loughborough University. His practical experience studying in the UK and the United States enabled him to accumulate a global perspective on education. After working in a college for more than 20 years, he became a senior official at MHE. On January 7, 2019, Prof Dr. Noor Azizi Ismail returned to the academic community to begin a three-year term as the president of UMK.
Established in 2006, UMK is a young institution of higher learning and the 19th public university in Malaysia. The university aims to train students with entrepreneurial spirit and promote and assist in improving the social entrepreneurship environment. It attaches great importance to the transformation of academic achievements with a spirit of innovation and practice.
UMK’s vision is “To champion balanced and holistic human capital development ascribed to entrepreneurial distinction for global prosperity.” Noor Azizi Ismail explained that UMK integrates entrepreneurship education into various subjects and encourages students to engage in business activities while studying. Nearly 400 students from business circles were enrolled in 2018.
Many Chinese students also attend UMK. Noor Azizi Ismail heaped praise on the performance of Chinese students. He noted that Chinese students account for a considerable proportion of international students in Malaysia and that they are hardworking and very business minded. Ismail expressed hope that students from Malaysia and China can learn from each other and make progress together. He encourages Chinese students to make friends with local residents while experiencing the rich and inclusive culture of Malaysia.
The Right Time
The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia. Ismail said in the interview he was pleased to visit China again as the newly-appointed UMK president to continue to promote Sino Malaysian education cooperation and development. Although it was his fifth trip to China, he remarked that every visit to China brought fresh discoveries and he hoped this trip would be also fruitful.
Noor Azizi Ismail asserted that more and more Chinese people are coming to Malaysia to study, conduct business and travel, which makes people-to-people and educational exchanges between the two countries increasingly frequent. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by China in 2013, Malaysia has become an important node country for Belt and Road cooperation in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has maintained sound cooperation and relations with China in fields of economics, technology and tourism.
In recent years, Malaysian government and people from all walks of life have actively supported cooperation between the two countries under the Belt and Road framework. After Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister in 2018, he also expressed commitment to continue friendly cooperation with China.
Malaysia’s education enjoys a good reputation globally. According to QS World University Rankings 2019, 13 universities from Malaysia are on the list, with six among the world’s top 500, which fully reflects the success of the higher education system in Malaysia.
Today, some 15,000 Chinese students are pursuing further studies in Malaysia, and huge potential for education cooperation between China and Malaysia has emerged.
After rounds of talks, UMK, Association of Chinese Returned Students from Malaysia (ACRSM) and Association of Overseas Chinese Students in Malaysia (AOCSM) decided to jointly establish a “Belt and Road Business School” to further advance education cooperation between China and Malaysia and deepen the development of friendly relations between the two countries.
Noor Azizi Ismail revealed that the objective of this trip to China was to further propel the building of Belt and Road Business School, which had won support from the Embassy of Malaysia, ACRSM and AOCSM. He hoped to seize this opportunity to strengthen cooperation and establish educational partnerships with Chinese universities.
Noor Azizi Ismail also expressed that UMK is very happy to strengthen its ties with Chinese universities. “The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping has enabled neighboring countries to share opportunities and prosperity,” he said. “Malaysia is ready to work together with China to achieve a better future. It is my duty and mission as the president of UMK to promote mutually beneficial and friendly bilateral exchanges, and we hope that Chinese universities will visit Malaysia more often for exchanges. We are eager to learn fromChinese universities, strengthen relations with governments and employers, upgrade teaching equipment, develop online education and expand our capacity for information exchange.”
China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has considered the Belt and Road as a top-level design for China’s educational institutions to conduct international cooperation and exchanges. Through education cooperation and exchanges with countries along the Belt and Road, it has deepened understanding between China and the rest of the world.
Sino-Malaysian education cooperation has developed fast. Xiamen University, directly under the MOE, opened a campus in Malaysia in 2016, becoming a model of education cooperation between the two countries. The successful advancement of UMK’s “Belt and Road Business School” project will provide new impetus for educational exchanges and cooperation between China and Malaysia.