By Siti Radziah Hamzah & Mikhail Raj Abdullah
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 (Bernama) — A brisk increase in student intake has spurred the QI Group of Companies to set its sights on setting up the first-ever university township in Perak when it builds Quest International University Perak’s (QIUP) permanent campus in Gua Tempurung outside Ipoh.
QIUP’s campus, covering 100 hectares initially with an option to develop a further 80 hectares, is expected to materialise in five years, QI Group Founder and Executive Director Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran said recently.
QIUP, temporarily housed at Jalan Kampar in Ipoh, chalked up an exponential growth in student intake to over 1,000 now from a mere 98 when set up in 2010 and the number is likely to double next year.
Besides, he said the intake of foreign students would eventually be boosted by the creation of the Asean Economic Community by 2015 given that Asean is potentially one of the largest catchment areas for students.
This is in view of the fact that 180 million middle-income households would be coming onstream regionally by then and “it would be very silly for us not to be looking at our own (regional) backyard,” he told Bernama in an interview.
QIUP plans to open branches in Sabah and Sarawak.
Its Chief Operating Officer, Nicholas Goh, said: “The university is expecting to have between 23 and 24 programmes this year from two foundation courses and two degree programmes when we started out in 2011.”
Vijay said that holistic education would be part of QIUP’s academic thrust, much like his alma mater — Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, the university town in Chicago which is larger than Singapore.
Like in Carbondale, which led in providing an ecological environment, he said QIUP’s campus in Gua Tempurung would be premised on instilling students with the “green” concept with a love for the environment and the community.
The Perak State government has equity participation in QIUP jointly with the QI group.
He said Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir was very supportive of a university township, which offered a holistic educational experience, springing up in the Kinta Valley.
“We will be off the grid as far as electricity is concerned as we will be using solar energy as much as possible, cycling would be encouraged and student classes and discussions conducted in the open,” he said.
“We don’t have anything close to Carbondale in Malaysia. Public universities here have their own campuses but not in the sense of having created their own aura or building a university township experience.”
QI aims to build QIUP into a research driven university, not just focusing on first degrees and masters programmes but also offer post-graduate courses and training in nutrition green technology and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
“We want to be at the cutting edge of the nutrition business and wellness, bringing eastern and western medicine educational systems together. Maybe offering a medical degree with Ayurvedic medicine or TCM woven into the programme,” said Vijay.
He said QI’s foray into the education sector was a way of giving back to society for the diversified multinational conglomerate with interests in direct selling, e-commerce, lifestyle & leisure, luxury and collectibles, as well as, property development and project management.
Asked how QI, which has regional offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, would reconcile its business interests with that of education via QIUP, he said: “Our students are attracted to the fact that there is a big group behind it as QI has the facilities to provide industrial training both here and overseas and eventually hire them.”
QI’s networking will be synergistic to QIUP as its hospital project in Meru Valley, Klang, is on and would emerge as a full fledged university training medical, dental, nursing, bio-technology and pharmacy students.
Meanwhile, Goh said QIUP would introduce a number of new programmes including Masters in Business Administration for its Business School and Bachelor in Mass Communication to cater to a wider range of school leavers and take in foreign students for the first time this year.
The university had received applications from Mauritius, Iraq and Bangladesh and is looking for foreign students in other countries as well.
Vijay said Vietnam and Cambodia were potentially lucrative markets for QIUP as a major portion of the middle-class population in these countries were looking for overseas universities to further their education.
“We are counting on this to build our edge coupled with our affordability,” he said.