By Azman Ujang
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 -- Plans for the establishment of a branch campus of Japan's Tsukuba University in Malaysia -- the first ever by a Japanese university overseas -- are on track and now expected to be fully operational by 2023.
The original plan is to launch in 2022 but this has not worked out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the discussion is now underway between Japanese and Malaysian sides and no more major delays are expected as everybody is eager to bring this project to reality, said Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Hiroshi Oka.
Tracing the background leading to a Japanese university's proposed presence here, Oka said education has, for a long time, been the main focus of Japan-Malaysia bilateral relations, particularly after Malaysia launched its Look East Policy aimed at learning from Japan in the early 1980s.
“Of course, business is very important, an essential pillar for bilateral relations. However, equally important has been education and human capacity development. Under the Look East Policy, Malaysian students and government officials have come to Japan to pursue further studies or participate in the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s training programmes,” he told Bernama.
Their numbers have exceeded 17,000 since the programme started and after completing their education or training programmes in Japan, they returned to Malaysia and are playing leading roles in both the government and business sectors, making them “the actual bridge between Japan and Malaysia,” said Oka.
Japan, on its part, reciprocated this initiative by establishing two educational/human capacity development institutions in Malaysia, the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) in 2011, a faculty within Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and much earlier the Japan-Malaysia Technology Institute (JMTI) in 1998, both based on government-to-government cooperation agreements.
“The intention is to bring in the Japanese engineering education to Malaysia and now nine Japanese professors together with a hundred other faculty members are teaching more than 1,000 Malaysian students both the undergraduate and the post-graduate education at MJIIT,” he added.
On JMTI, Oka said it provides Malaysian students with Japanese-style technical learning in Malaysia because of the crucial importance of human capacity development, particularly, vocational training for business development.
“Japanese companies are here and what operate the companies and their machines are the people. So unless there are qualified people capable of running the company, or the machines, the investment means nothing. This is the kind of conscious effort we are making to strengthen the linkage between education and actual businesses,” he said.
It was on this solid basis of educational cooperation from both sides that Japan responded favourably to Malaysia's request for a Japanese university campus to be set up locally.
“Tsukuba is a well-known university with three Nobel Prize winners and the excellence of its academic level is globally-well known,” Oka said.
On Tsukuba's local campus, he said it would be set up within Universiti Malaya and by making use of the university's facilities.
“Well, this is amazing because Japanese universities have never so far established a branch campus overseas. This is going to be the real first branch campus by a Japanese university. And this is the endorsement of the quality of education in Malaysia from the view of the Japanese,” he said.
Oka also pointed out that the merit of having a branch campus of Tsukuba, in addition to MJIIT and JMTI, is bringing Japanese university education closer to promising Malaysian students who can attain Japanese quality higher education in Malaysia.
“While being in Malaysia, the students can study as if they are in Japan for higher study. This is the objective of establishing a branch campus of Tsukuba University in Malaysia,” he said.
The Ambassador said it is also Japan's vision that given Malaysia's strong ties with the Islamic countries and others in this region, the campus could attract students from these nations to make Malaysia an educational hub in the region.
“We are going to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Look East Policy in 2022 and surely this branch campus is going to be a new milestone to symbolise the future cooperation between Japan and Malaysia,” he said.
Malaysia National News Agency
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