COVID-19: The experiences and optimism of the University of Nottingham Malaysia
The Higher Education sector in Malaysia is facing a significant challenge in the form of COVID-19. The University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) is no different and it is certainly the biggest challenge we have faced since becoming the first UK university to establish a foreign branch campus in Malaysia 20 years ago.
UNM set up a task force in early February, when Malaysia had started recording single digit cases of COVID-19. This task force continues to meet regularly, now online, to ensure that all precautionary measures are being taken for the wellbeing of staff, students and the University. The task force has also developed risk mitigation and business continuity plans.
When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March, UNM cancelled all physical events including its Open Day to ensure that the safety of the community was not compromised.
With the introduction of enforced social distancing in many parts of the world, the University of Nottingham (across its three locations in the UK, Malaysia and China) had plans in place to move all teaching online in the form of Guided Learning. Given that we have a campus in China, we were able to draw on their experiences as they were the first in having to manage COVID-19.
When the Control Movement Order (CMO) was introduced, we put in place plans to comply with the Order and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the 650+ students still living on campus, along with several hundred students who were staying in private accommodation close to the campus. The University’s Management Board has communicated with every student and member of staff since the Order was implemented, via a Daily Digest and videos from the Provost/CEO.
UNM has been extremely pleased with reaction and actions of our staff and other stakeholders. Our academics have found innovative ways to teach, our professional services staff are keeping the University running and our suppliers have been nothing but supportive. There is a determination from all concerned to ensure the wellbeing of our staff and students.
Now celebrating 20 years in Malaysia the University of Nottingham has gone from strength to strength. We have over 5,000 students from 85 countries, we employ about 650 staff and have 17 Schools offering a wide range of disciplines. Moreover, the University supports many other jobs and business, including cleaners, landscapers, security and food & beverage, as well as many suppliers. The University will remain, as it always has been, financial sustainable and it has always invested in student experience, world leading research and the development of Teaching & Learning initiatives.
The University has never had to cut either jobs or courses to survive, as some press reports recently stated.
For students and parents, ensuring a successful career is one of the main reasons for selecting the University of Nottingham Malaysia. A 2019 survey of graduates found 90% were employed six months after graduating (one of the highest rates in Malaysia) with an average starting salary of over RM50,000 per annum (RM 4,200 p.m.).
UNM’s researchers have a significant focus on policy and practice in Malaysia and work closely with government and industry in areas such as the environment, economics and health. Nottingham is the only international university to have sustained a 5-star rating in the Malaysia Research Assessment (MyRA) for research excellence, receiving this rating in 2015 and which has recently been renewed.
The University of Nottingham was founded on a compelling vision that education can transform people’s lives, it should add social and economic value and it should be accessible to anybody who can benefit from it.
Whether the CMO remains in place or not, we are looking forward to a new group of students enrolling in April 2020 and again in June and September. Student numbers continue to grow, new programs are being introduced this year and we face the future with optimism.
Whatever the future may bring, the University of Nottingham is a Malaysian success story which we are proud of and we hope Malaysia is as well.
Professor Graham Kendall
Provost and CEO, University of Nottingham Malaysia
Pro-vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Capital Post.