August 13, 2012, by Graham Kendall

Knowledge without Borders: A Malaysian Example

It was one of those happy, and totally unexpected, events. We were on our way to visit Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM). We arrived at the airport, with a few hours to spare before our first meeting, and were wondering what to do with the time.

In baggage reclaim we met Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’. A previous Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) he is now the Vice-Chancellor of Albukhary International University (AiU – He invited us to visit his university.

I was aware of this university, having met the Vice-Chancellor at an event in Indonesia last year, but I was not fully aware of the vision and mission of the university.

AiU aims to “provide academically qualified students from underprivileged and disadvantaged backgrounds not only quality education for them to succeed in life, but also an education which will result in their valuing discipline, being caring and giving individuals.”

Its vision is to “empower underprivileged and disadvantaged students.”

This new model university is underpinned by the Albukhary Foundation ( It does not charge fees and provides access to education to those that could not otherwise afford it (aiming at the bottom 20% of society, from across the world). As well as providing the educational opportunities, the students are also provided with accommodation, meals and clothing.Meeting the VC of AiU

AiU, established in 1996, was the brain child of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary. The university is built on a 45 acre site and comprises everything that you would expect from a top class university, including libraries, lecture halls, accommodation, food outlets and sporting facilities. I can vouch that the campus is impressive. Its capacity is 3,000 students, with about 1,000 currently enrolled.

The students come from across the globe and are expected to study hard as well being required to participate in social and community engagement. It is hoped that the students, once they have completed their studies, will return to their home countries and utilise their educational and social engagement experiences to have a direct effect on their own lives, as well as others around them.

We spent about two hours at the campus. It was one of those times when something unexpected, was a very enjoyable experience and we are grateful to the VC for inviting us and giving up his valuable time to show us his university and explain the vision for this unique (at least in Malaysia) university. We are also grateful to all the other people we met who were willing to talk with us, and exhibited the same passion for the goals of AiU.

Not every university could operate in this way, but we should be thankful that at least one university in Malaysia is providing opportunities to those that could not otherwise hope to receive a high quality university education. I, personally, will follow its progress with interest. 

Professor Graham Kendall is the Vice-Provost (Research and Knowledge Transfer) at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.

Posted in Higher EducationInternational campusesMalaysia