Interview

Dato' Prof. Ir. Dr. Kamal Nasharuddin Mustapha

Vice Chancellor of Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN)

UNITEN is The Energy University, and energy is what sets our programmes, and our people, apart. We are focused and tireless in supporting the university’s aspirations to become the leading energy university globally.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Can you briefly introduce UNITEN and its current plans?

PROF. KAMAL: Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) is a unique higher learning institution, and it is one of Malaysia’s first Government-Linked Universities. Our niche is energy. Of course, we also offer excellent programmes in Engineering, Computer Science & Information Technology, Business, Accounting, Finance, and so on but specialising in energy related areas such as energy management, energy sustainability, and energy infrastructure.

We are now on a journey of transformation. For example, BOLD 2025 is our strategic plan to become one of the top Universities in Asia by 2025. In our efforts to internationalize, we are also embarking on the UNITEN Global Exchange & Mobility (UNITEN 360 GEM), which offers an affordable opportunity for our students to study in another country or another institution within Malaysia, as well as welcome incoming foreign and non-UNITEN local students. The global interaction will no doubt broaden students’ educational and life experiences.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: UNITEN sees the enrolment of over 30,000 local and international students from more than 46 countries. What is the key to the university’s success?

PROF. KAMAL: UNITEN is The Energy University, and energy is what sets our programmes, and our people, apart. Our lecturers, technical personnel and admin staff are highly enthusiastic and passionate in providing quality education. They are focused and tireless in supporting the university’s aspirations to become the leading energy university globally. All these drive students to choose our university because they can clearly see that their futures are in good hands.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What is the unique experience that UNITEN offers students?

PROF. KAMAL: We have a track record in producing highly marketable graduates, whose employability rate stands at 94% within six months after graduation. The chief factor is, of course, our direct link with the private sector, and our close affiliation with Malaysia’s energy utility giant, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). There are ample opportunities for students to get an early foot into the industry, gaining entrepreneurial exposure and practical training, which we emphasise just as heavily as academic excellence.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The demand for energy is growing continuously, and more countries are looking to diversify their energy sources and focus on sustainable energy. What is the role that UNITEN plays in advancing the energy sector?

PROF. KAMAL: On top of academic development, we focus on research and expanding our knowledge on energy. But, while research and development are important to us as a university, commercialization of such knowledge is equally crucial. At UNITEN, we want our research excellence to deliver real-world, financially-feasible solutions to provide true value to the society through 5 research institutes namely Institute of Power Engineering (IPE), Institute of Sustainable Energy (ISE), Institute of Energy Infrastructure (IEI), Institute of Informatics and Computing in Energy (IICE) and Institute of Energy Policy and Research (IEPRE).

We are driven by the pressing need to move from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. Hence, we are pumping in more investments into developing solutions and knowledge in this area, and we have presented some of our research papers to the government.

In tropical Malaysia, we have many opportunities to diversify into solar and hydro power. We also have potential for biomass. These are the strengths that we can leverage on when researching and developing an ecosystem that is offering the full spectrum of energy resources.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: UNITEN is directly linked to the industry through Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). Can you tell us more about the strategic partnerships that UNITEN is leveraging on to provide value to your students’ education experience?

PROF. KAMAL: Our students have the opportunity to be attached to TNB, one of the biggest power utility entities in the region, for industrial exposure. We are in the midst of exploring more industry partnerships for practical training opportunities and knowledge-sharing.

In terms of academic partnerships, we engage internationally-renowned professors to create collaborative programs on teaching and research. They come from many other countries, such as the UK, Denmark, US, Japan and more, and we exchange ideas and insights through frequent networking events.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How does UNITEN deal with technological changes?

PROF. KAMAL: Industrial Revolution 4.0 is having a significant impact on education. The mode of learning has changed. Our days of writing on the blackboard are over. These days, we apply blended learning by using technology to improve the students’ experience.

As a university, our role is to also develop applicable technology through innovation and research to help solve industry issues especially those that are related to energy including energy management, renewable energy, infrastructure and cyber security. For example, TNB has 30,000 transmission towers throughout Malaysia. How do we manage and monitor these towers? It used to be done manually, but some of these towers are situated in remote areas. So, we developed a technology using satellite image and VR that allows us to monitor the transmission towers in real time. If there are any issues with the towers, TNB staff can be informed and attend to it immediately. Technological solutions such as this not only save cost and improve efficiency, but also bridge our university research with industry needs.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What does Malaysia offer as a student destination?

PROF. KAMAL: Malaysia is fully capable of providing quality education at a competitive price. At UNITEN, for example, we do not compromise on quality. All our courses are certified by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) and we are also a full member of the Washington Accord for engineering education, which proves our global standards in terms of education, facilities and resources, putting us on par with leading countries in the world.

We welcome international students to study in our university, and I truly believe that they will get one of their best lifetime experiences in UNITEN and in Malaysia.