September 14, 2017, by Kathryn Steenson

Notable Nottingham Alumni: Raja Azlan Shah

As the University of Nottingham prepares to welcome thousands of students for the new academic year, we look back at some notable alumni, starting with the King of Malaysia, Azlan Shah.

Azlan Shah was born on 19th April 1928 in Perak, the 4th-largest state in Malaysia. He was the second son of Sultan Yussuf Izzuddin Shah, the 32nd Sultan of Perak. His mother was a commoner who ensured her children were brought up largely outside the royal circle. Azlan did well academically and in athletics, especially field hockey. In the 1950s he came to the University of Nottingham to study Law, and if his royal status was widely known then it didn’t trouble the pages of the student publications.

Newspaper column with the text curved due to tight binding

The Gongster, 13 February 1953, p.06

His sporting achievements did appear in print, on several occasions. Men’s Hockey was enjoying a successful run during Azlan’s time here, and their victories often featured in the sports pages of Gongster, Nottingham’s student newspaper (now Impact).

Unfortunately the most prominent article about him, ‘Azlan In Form’, has been so tightly bound that digitising it proved difficult, but it recounts his performance in the match between Nottingham and Loughborough in February 1953. Despite last minute team substitutions due to injury and a ‘treacherous’ playing field, his play won the praise of the reporter covering the match. In May he was one of several members of the hockey team awarded colours, having been “a stalwart in the County Hockey team as well as the University XI…Azlan has shown his remarkable consistency by scoring for the University XI 57 goals in 56 appearances”.

Newspaper article entitled U.A.U. Men Honoured

The Gongster, 8 May 1953, p.06

He remained heavily involved with hockey throughout his life, serving as Vice President of the Malaysia Hockey Association, President of the Asian Hockey Federation, and Vice President of the International Hockey Federation. The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, an international men’s field hockey tournament, has been held in Malaysia since 1983. It’s little wonder that after his return to Malaysia he became known as the “Father of Malaysian Hockey” for his dedication to the sport.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1953 and was admitted to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn the following year. After returning to Malaysia, he became a judge and rose quickly through the ranks of the Malaysian legal system. In 1965, aged 37, he became the youngest judge ever appointed to the High Court of Malaysia.

Printed booklet of names of students awarded degrees, listed by subject

Degree conferment, July 1953 (UR 372)

After his uncle died in 1984, Azlan Shah became the Sultan of Perak. In September 1989, he was elected the 9th King and head of state of Malaysia. His relationship with Nottingham continued, however: in 1986 he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Law, and he attended the opening of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus in 2005. He was also a supportive member of the University of Nottingham Graduates Association of Malaysia. In perhaps one of the greatest indications of his support for the University of Nottingham, one of his sons, Raja Ashman Shah (1958-2012) followed in his footsteps by enrolling here, graduating with a degree in Economics.

Front page of the newsletter showing a photo of Shah and the University officials at the honorary degree ceremony

UoN Newsletter, October 1986

On 28th May 2014, His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah died aged 86. He was honoured for his legal and sporting legacy in Malaysia, and by the University of Nottingham, as one of the most influential and supportive alumni.

The Gongster and other University Archives are available to view in our Reading Room on King’s Meadow Campus. To arrange a visit please contact us, or to find out more see our website, follow us @mssUniNott or see our newsletter Discover.

Posted in From the collectionsUniversity archives