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Newcastle University to open in Malaysia




Malaysia's mangroves are far removed from the familiar fog on the Tyne

Malaysia's mangroves are far removed from the familiar fog on the Tyne




Newcastle University is to reach out beyond the chilly banks of the Tyne to equatorial South-East Asia with the establishment of a new medical and biotechnology faculty.


Its “NuMED branch campus” plays squarely on the huge local cachet and brand strength of the British education system, which, much like Premier League football, is emerging as one of the UK's most successful exports to the region.


From next year, the satellite version of Newcastle University in the province of Johor will offer Malaysians, Singaporeans and students from elsewhere in Asia a full British tertiary educational experience and an undergraduate degree, but at bargain prices.


Moreover, Newcastle University's £5 million gambit is expected to be followed next year by a slew of similar expansions in Malaysia by Hull University and several British public schools, so much so that the local government has built a giant complex, EduCity, to accommodate the expected flood of British academic institutions and believes that soon it could host 100,000 students as the new academic hub of Asia.


Marlborough College and Oundle School are both thought to be considering schemes for campuses in Johor that would seek to emulate the originals and may involve sending experienced teachers out as staff. The British High Commissioner to Malaysia said that other universities were planning to follow Newcastle's lead.



The move is part of Newcastle's self-declared “internationalisation strategy” and is the latest foreign investment in a big multinational push into Johor's Iskandar region, an area ripe for development only a few kilometres from Singapore. The province is in the midst of a spectacularly aggressive drive to position itself as the logical spillover from Singapore, now that the city state is running out of land and other resources. Johor has constructed one of the fifteen largest container ports in the world, is developing Islamic finance specialities and has succeeded in making itself a manufacturing hub for hundreds of Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean high-tech companies. Property prices are rising amid expectations that eventually Iskandar will be added to Singapore's MTR subway network and be only a 20-minute journey away.



Yet the process could grind to a halt without higher standards of education, according to Dato' Ikmal Hijaz Hashim, the chief executive of the Iskandar regional development authority. “It is simple,” he said. “What is happening in Iskandar is about nation-building, and you need serious education system to achieve that. We need good schools to attract talent and we did not have them until now.”



Students who complete the course at the Johor campus will graduate with a full degree from Newcastle's widely respected medical department, but for about half what it would cost to take the same classes on Tyneside. Hundreds of Malaysians and Singaporeans travel to Britain every year to enrol in schools and universities, but until now it has been available only to the very wealthiest families.



Nottingham University was the first to experiment with the satellite campus in Malaysia and opened its campus on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in 2005, offering identical courses to ones taught in Britain.



Centres of learning



- The University of Nottingham has two international campuses: the University of Nottingham Ningbo, in China, and the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus at Semenyih



- University of Wales Institute, Cardiff has a Singapore campus Queen Margaret University has an Asian campus in Singapore



- Liverpool University has a campus at Xi'an Jiaotong in Suzhou, China



- Dulwich College has franchises in Beijing, Shanghai and Phuket, Thailand



- Shrewsbury School has a branch in Bangkok



- Harrow has an international franchise in Bangkok



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