LESSONS LEARNED

Malaysia 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Monash University is leading the way in innovating the educational sector by drawing on experiences and knowledge gathered globally.

Prof. Andrew Walker
BIOGRAPHY
Prof. Andrew Walker is President and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Monash University Malaysia and an anthropologist specializing in the societies and cultures of the region. He is committed to positioning Monash Malaysia as a hub for educational innovation and excellence in Southeast Asia. Before joining Monash University Malaysia in late 2016, Professor Walker worked at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra where he was a member of the Executive Committee of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU from 2009-2014. His research has focused on economic development and rural transformation in Thailand.

How do you assess the contribution of Monash University Malaysia to the development of Malaysia's higher education infrastructure?

Monash University celebrated 20 years in Malaysia last year. When the country opened up to international branch campuses, Monash was the first to establish a presence here. Over the last 20 years, we have developed into a fully comprehensive campus with more than 8,000 students, providing degrees in business, engineering, medicine, pharmacy, IT, science, arts, and social science. Monash is Australia's largest university, and Malaysia is its third-largest campus. The 16,000 graduates we have delivered are our most valuable contribution to Malaysia. About 75% of our graduates are Malaysians who are now working in businesses, government agencies, and NGOs throughout Malaysia. We have contributed to the development of human capital by providing young Malaysians with an international education at an affordable price. We have been recognized for the quality of our education, with a six-star SETARA rating awarded by the Malaysian government, the best possible. This places us at the top of Malaysia's higher education system. Celebrating our 20th anniversary was a great chance to pause and reflect on our achievements and look forward. We had our best-ever student intake in 2018 and have surpassed this in 2019. This speaks about our brand—that it is valuable and powerful. Health research is also an advanced area for us. We have many people working on diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This is highly relevant to Malaysia, as like many countries in the region, Malaysia is transitioning from the health challenges of poverty to those of affluence. Our research attempts to address challenges directly relevant to the future development and sustainability of the country and the ASEAN region.

How do you address global trends and changes in the ways students acquire knowledge?

Information today is everywhere. Universities used to have an advantage when we were the primary brokers of information. This advantage has been lost. They have had to rethink and move away from focusing on providing students with content and engage more with developing their skills. In a nutshell, the way we are addressing this is through active learning. We are moving away from lecture-focused teaching toward workshops, seminars, and collaborative learning. We want our students, and our graduates, to be active partners in learning.

What are the main challenges in Malaysia's higher education sector?

Malaysia has a large higher education sector, though the range of quality is too large for a country that wants to be an international education hub. There has to be some rationalization and focus on excellence in higher education. This range in quality means that Malaysia has a regulatory system focused on avoiding problems at the bottom of the system, rather than enhancing quality and innovation at the top. This needs to be addressed if it is to flourish as an international scholarly hub. Fortunately, there are some positive signs coming from the new government on this issue.

What will be your key objectives for the near future?

Monash Malaysia is recognized as one of the most successful branch campuses in the world. We are successful in a number of dimensions, such as student numbers, educational quality, our financial position, and, most importantly, our research performance. The big evolution for Monash Malaysia going forward is to move from being a branch to becoming Monash University's platform in Asia.