Malaysia launches Multimedia University

Posted on July 9, 1999 
Filed Under CNET, Julian

By Julian Matthews

CYBERJAYA, Malaysia–Malaysia today launched the Multimedia University (MMU), which claims to be the first university in the world to embrace multimedia-based learning and technologies as the cornerstone of its education system.

Based in new intelligent city Cyberjaya, the university will provide the critical mass of “knowledge workers” needed for the resource-hungry Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

“It is designed to spawn creative ideas and technopreneurs–very much like the role that Stanford University plays in the success of the Silicon Valley,” said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the launch today.

The US$92 billion university will double its current enrolment of some 3,000 undergraduates to 6,000 by 2003. The graduates will be part of the 36,000 “knowledge workers” needed to fill up positions in the MSC by that year.

MMU is another key infrastructure component of MSC whose construction was delayed during the two-year financial crisis.

The pioneer batch of about 2,400 students who already made plans to move in last June found themselves stranded when the university did not materialize. Instead, they were temporarily housed in at Unitele, an existing university in Malacca, over 100 km away.

Both universities were developed by leading local telco Telekom Malaysia and are the first universities in the country that are fully privatized.

MMU has four faculties for creative multimedia, engineering, information technology and management, and offers degrees in such exotic fields as digital media arts, media innovation and multimedia finance.

The university will rely largely on computer and web-based interactive learning and have high-speed Internet access, multimedia lecture halls, intelligent building systems, a digital library and an integrated campus management system.

Dr Mahathir said like the MSC, the MMU is a greenfield project with no rigid and entrenched policies, traditions and practices to hold it back. “There is no issue of re-invention that is faced by long-established universities. If the university is to evolve successfully, it must work with private enterprise as one,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said the university is already collaborating with more than 60 companies with cutting-edge technologies including NTT of Japan, Alcatel and Lucent Technologies.

High-end workstation supplier SGI recently set up a multimedia research lab in MMU and sold 150 units of their 320 family of desktops to the university. Lucent also offered a visiting professor from its respected Bell Labs.

Dr Mahathir said the university will adopt an open and liberal philosophy of learning and transcend cultural and national barriers. “We may encourage institutions using even foreign languages as a medium of instruction to be based in MMU,” he said and noted that it already had 100 students from Asia and Africa.

Dr Mahathir said scholars have identified key trends for new universities to adopt to meet the needs of the Digital Age. Among these are specialized skills for those already in the workplace; transforming the student into lifelong member of a learning community; shifting from “just-in-time” education to “just-for-you” programs; and virtual education or distance-learning.

“The trends can provide substantial spin-offs to the economy. In US, higher learning is a US$175 billion-a-year enterprise. As society become more dependent on the knowledge worker, the global knowledge business will become one of the most active growth industries of our times. Malaysian universities must exploit this market,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said he did not expect an overnight change for Malaysia to become a “learning society” but there was need to speed up the process.

“We must be able to produce individuals who are able to leverage on intellectual capital and move from concept to explicit knowledge, and thereafter, the production of next generation products and services,” he said.

Published in CNET Asia, July 09, 1999

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