Interview

Prof. Dr. Ideris Zakaria

President/Vice Chancellor of Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL)

IUKL also has an industry panel that provides input on industry needs, and that is how we have managed to continuously improve the quality of our education while providing our graduates with the relevant skill sets.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL) has a very specific focus on providing quality education for the infrastructure sector. Can you please give an introduction of IUKL?

PROF. IDERIS: Our history dates back to 1997 when we started as a private infrastructure college under the name of IKRAM. The infrastructure industry in Malaysia has been booming at that time, creating a very large demand for graduates with engineering skills, and we were established to fulfill that demand.

For more than 20 years since then, IUKL has continued to provide quality education and excellent professional services in various fields of infrastructure. We have three faculties and two centres, namely the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment; the Faculty of Business, Information & Human Sciences; the Faculty of Engineering, Science & Technology; the Centre for Postgraduate Studies and Research; and the Centre for Foundation and General Studies.

We have a unique position in the higher education market because we are a subsidiary of the leading infrastructure company Protasco, which is listed on the main board of the Bursa Malaysia. This means that we are one step ahead in creating industry linkages and affirming our relationship with the private sector. It gives us the advantage, for example, to call on business leaders to give speeches and share knowledge with our students.

IUKL also has an industry panel that provides input on industry needs, and that is how we have managed to continuously improve the quality of our education while providing our graduates with the relevant skill sets.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What are the challenges to adapt technology into your programs and to keep up with developments in Industry 4.0?

PROF. IDERIS: Nowadays, education is borderless thanks to technology. Our students can be anywhere in the world and still learn from the lecturers and communicate with them. We are adapting digital learning technologies like MOOC for certain types of programs, but there are some programs that still require one-on-one teaching and additional interaction, especially professional programs, because the instructions and practical knowledge are too technical to learn from a distance. Moreover, the technicalities are regulated by professional bodies and government agencies, so it’s not easy to make a technological transformation for these programs.

Business programs, on the other hand, are more flexible for technological adaptation and suitable for distant-learning. Hence, we offer programs with different approaches to ensure effective delivery of knowledge.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How does IUKL profile itself in the collaborative sphere and are you open to other partnerships?

PROF. IDERIS: First of all, engagement between industry and universities is highly crucial. Our collaboration with the private sector is extensive in offering students internship opportunities and practical learning experiences. This gives students early exposure to the workplace and allow them to learn soft skills, thus developing graduates equipped with working experience.

IUKL is in a unique position because we are closely tied to a private-sector listed company. We also engage with the industry by calling on business leaders to provide insights, and we are always receptive to new collaborations with the professional world.

Through our international partnerships with other universities, such as in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, our students are getting enriching study-exchange experiences while developing new skills. This is how IUKL provides pathways to international institutions as well, which makes our graduates more employable.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: IUKL is receiving more than one third of its total student enrolment from foreign countries. What makes IUKL a popular choice among international students?

PROF. IDERIS: In Malaysia, education in both private and public universities is highly regulated by the Ministry of Education and Malaysia Qualifications Agency (MQA), so the control on program quality is very stringent. That is why international students have confidence in the courses that IUKL offers.

Malaysia is also a diverse country that allow most of our international students to feel like they are at home. Our choices in higher education is abundant, and our culture is warm and accommodative. Furthermore, our country’s affordability makes us an outstanding study destination for students from all over the world.

At IUKL, we believe in the importance of the ‘human touch’. International students, especially, require extra care because they are in an unfamiliar land. So, IUKL assists them to adjust to the Malaysian culture and customs. We even remember their birthdays and send our wishes to them, which may seem like a minor gesture, but it makes a lot of difference for a student far away from home.

International students also choose IUKL for the professional recognition we received from various local and overseas professional bodies, such as the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM), Board of Architects Malaysia (LAM), Land Surveyors Board (LJT), Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM), Washington Accord, CISCO, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), among others.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What is the importance of higher education for the national development of Malaysia?

PROF. IDERIS: In general, Malaysians agree that we need to become a fully-developed nation based on knowledge. For that to happen, we need a good education system in place.

Our Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir, had previously been the Minister of Education, so he understands the role that colleges and universities are playing in national growth. Our newly-installed government is standing for change, but we need time to change the mindset of the whole government machinery.

With education becoming more competitive and expensive, IUKL is committed to implement technology to make education accessible for everyone.