UNIVERSITY Telekom (Unitel), Malaysia's first private university, is set for its first intake of 120 students in May 1997. Unitel will offer courses in computer engineering, software engineering, communications and multimedia arts.
Education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak has now officially invited Telekom Malaysia to upgrade its existing institute, Telecomunikasi dan Teknologi Maklumat (ITTM), to university status. ITTM was established in 1993.
Telekom Malyasia is the first private corporation to be invited to set up a university since the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 came into being.
The university will be situated at ITTM's present campus in Bukit Beruang, Malacca, on the west coast of the peninsula. The institution has four faculties: telecommunications engineering, information systems engineering, foundation studies and information technology services.
The programmes will commence with 120 students in May, and the number will increase to 5,000 within three to five years. The programmes will be at diploma, degree and postgraduate levels. The first and last batch of 43 ITTM graduates, who received their diplomas in September, will become graduates of Unitel.
Tuition fees must be approved by the National Higher Education Council, set up in September 1996.
Dr Najib said the setting up of Unitel and other private universities in future did not mean the government would allow those from poor families to be deprived of a university education. The government would continue to defend their rights and ensure they are given an "equal opportunity to pursue higher education".
Telekom Malaysia is now required to set up a body, which would be a subsidiary of the corporation, to coordinate Unitel.
In his speech before handing over the invitation letter to Telekom chief executive Mohammed Said, Dr Najib described the setting up of Unitel as a milestone in the development of higher education in Malaysia that would "help make Malaysia a centre for world-class quality education".
The creation of private universities will enable more students to pursue higher education, Dr Najib said.
The government has made it clear that it is willing to consider applications by other corporate bodies to set up universities. "The government's final decision would however, depend on current needs and the suitability of individual corporations."
All new universities must also make Bahasa Malaysia (the Malay language) their medium of instruction. "Overseas students who study in our universities will be required to take up Malaysian studies to familiarise themselves with our language and culture," the education minister said.