After more than couple of week of ‘hard labor’ preparation, last July 7th we finally had our annual meeting with Tun M and the rest of the AAC members. At some point during those weeks, my blood boiled so high that I barely can eat during the day and sleep at night. But Alhamdulillah, everything goes well as planned. We had a fruitful 3 ½-hour discussion on the 6th and 2 ½ hours meeting with Tun with this year theme ‘Financial Sustainability’.
The Council members expressed their gratitude towards the institution’s achievements on teaching, learning as well as in its Research & Development since the last time we met. Tun Mahathir started the ball rolling and conveyed the idea of having a University-town in UTP, a concept adapted from university-towns such as in the Cambridge and Oxford. He added, with clever planning, UTP can be a catalyst for new growth areas which eventually will attract visitors and industries. Developer should be given opportunity to invest and develop the surrounding land through building shops and residences for staff and students. This should also be alternative revenues for the institution rather than being too dependent on the students’ fee.
The Chairman were then invited all Council members to discuss openly and provided advice or suggestion on the theme ‘financial sustainability’ and other related matters that will be beneficial to UTP and its students. We talked a lot that day. Below are some of the salient points of discussion that I could not agree more: -
a) The establishment of UTP is a large investment for PETRONAS and the country. However, value created from the investment in education i.e. by its contribution to society and the nation in the area of teaching, researches and services, will take time. Therefore, any investment made for UTP is also considered an investment for the future of PETRONAS and the nation.
b) Massive and arduous staff recruitment by hiring outstanding individuals as senior faculty members is critical for UTP to reach the next plateau of excellence. In doing so, UTP should look for quality rather than quantity e.g. CALTECH has only 150 faculties but is able to make a global impact through its teaching, learning as well as R&D.
c) The 20th century Asian only played catch up in Science and Technology with their Western counterpart. With superior economic and intellectual strengths, it is quite natural that Asia viewed the West as the ‘standard of excellence’. Institute of Higher Education in Asia needs to educate the Asian students what it means to become Asians in the 21st century. Therefore, there are four (4) values need to be given a priority (i) Education Integrity; (ii) Intellectual Agility; (iii) Academic Courage; and (iv) Intrinsic Self Confidence.
– A very interesting notes by Prof Feng Da Hsuan from Tsinghua University, Taiwan. I plan to have another write up on these values in the coming post.
d) UTP is urged to establish the Technology Target Group for specific areas to ensure funding acquisition focusing within the energy industry. UTP should also identify projects and/or equipment that will enable UTP to do research and simultaneously commercialize the usage of the facility. Collaboration strategies and tactics are immensely important. It may take time but most importantly UTP need to identify the suitable target group to collaborate with. The Council members noted that there is still a gap between research in PETRONAS and UTP. Therefore, the link between UTP and PETRONAS researchers should be made very clear.
e) In a broader perspective, education and infrastructure are the two main elements for any country to be highly competitive in meeting future challenges. Education and infrastructure (aka Public Goods) will eventually encourage other economic activities to flourish. UTP is contributing to Public Good or Sectoral Good by fulfilling PETRONAS and the nation’s human capital in the oil & gas industry. PETRONAS should consider the financial gap as the value representing benefits in investing and should not be interpreted in accounting value of dollars & cents. Therefore, UTP is recommended to re-visit and re-negotiate the understanding with PETRONAS and Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) with regards to the above matter.
Obviously the item (e) above really made the day meaningful for me and UTP management. We just need to pray hard for the parent company to open up their heart and try to understand that sometimes it will not always the ‘bottom line’ that matter most.
Below are some unedited snapshots from the above meeting. Enjoy (as I do). Thanks to Hazrin for nice pic taken.