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UTP Forges Ahead Into The Future

Last update: 01/12/2008
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Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Muhd Fadhil B Nuruddin
By Zaharin Mat Noor

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) was established in 1997 when the national petroleum company was invited by the government to set up a university.

It started off as Institut Teknologi Petronas (ITP) in, Bangi, Selangor in 1995. The following year ITP transferred its operations to UTP's present campus in Bandar Seri Iskandar, Perak.

Currently, UTP is actively promoting its postgraduate programmes in line with its efforts to help increase the number of knowledge-based, creative and innovative workforce sought by the nation.

Bernama recently met with the university's Civil Engineering Department head, Associate Prof Ir Dr Muhd Fadhil Nuruddin at the National Graduate Career Carnival 2008 held at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur to seek more details on postgraduate studies at UTP as well as the university's aspirations.

Below is an excerpt of Muhd Fadhil's conversation with Bernama.

We understand that UTP not only wants to promote higher education at basic degree level but also at postgraduate level. Can you elaborate more on this?

Answer: UTP has been in existence for nearly 12 years and for the first few years we were focusing at undergraduate studies. Now we are moving ahead to promote postgraduate studies. Basically, for postgraduate studies, students can come in to do coursework and dissertation or undertake research programmes.

The reason UTP is focussing into postgraduate studies is to produce graduates who are more knowledgeable in their field since we are moving towards knowledge-based economy. UTP's purpose of existence is to provide opportunities to the public to enrol in postgraduate studies and subsequently allow them to contribute to the society, industry and nation more effectively through the enhanced knowledge that they acquired from their postgraduate studies.

What are the qualities that UTP hopes to inculcate in its graduates?

Answer: Since UTP promotes outcome-based education; we aspire to produce postgraduate students who are:

1. Able to contribute and their advice on matters pertaining to their expertise is highly sought after. The capability in providing advice to the industry should be realised upon graduation.

2. In the long run, probably in three or four years time (after graduation), we not only want them to be experts but also leaders in their respective fields for the industries and for the nation.

How does UTP develop its academic curricula? Are the curricula designed based on those of other institutions?

Answer: Prior to the establishment of UTP, the Academic and Research & Development (R&D) Master Plan was prepared to provide a guideline for us to forge ahead. At that time we sought information from various stakeholders such as the industry practitioners, professionals, parents, graduates as well as from universities local and abroad, and from the input we established UTP's vision, mission and the academic curriculum.

Based on the research it was found that the technology and engineering students were technically competent but lacked in attributes like communication skills, lifetime learning capacity, solution synthesis ability, business acumen, critical thinking and practical aptitude. The seven attributes identified are the main focus in our delivery systems and it is hoped that the shortcomings can be addressed when UTP implements its academic curriculum.

Tell us about some of the unique programmes offered at UTP. Are the courses recognised internationally?

Answer: Malaysia is one of the member countries of the Washington Accord initiative and all our programmes are accredited by the Malaysian Engineering Accreditation Council and therefore our programmes are internationally recognised.

At Masters level, we offer three coursework programmes in collaboration with other renowned universities. For instance in Petroleum Engineering, UTP collaborates with Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, which is one of the best universities as far as Petroleum Engineering is concerned. Then we have Process Integration where we collaborate with University of Manchester. Another one is Masters in Petroleum Geosciences where we collaborate with Institut Francais du Petrole, France. These courses can be considered unique as we have a pool of overseas and local lecturers to deliver the courses.

UTP has had eight convocations. How have the UTP graduates been received by the industry? What kind of feedback have you received so far?

Answer: So far we are very satisfied with our graduates. In fact we have our own Key Performance Indicator where when our students graduate, within six months, ninety percent of them should be employed. So far, even before these students graduated, thirty percent have received job offers and we are pleased with the development. We also conduct CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) where we do interviews and request feedback from employers on the quality of the graduates. As of now, the feedback from the employers are highly positive and if there are any areas that need to be improved, we will include them in our curriculum.

Looking at say, 10 or 15 years ahead, what is UTP's target, and what are the initiatives being taken to meet the target?

Answer: We have set various milestones and the closest one is by year 2010 -- we aspire to become a Research University securing grants not only locally but also abroad. By 2015, we aspire to be an internationally recognised partner of choice for the oil and gas industry; and by 2020 to be the internationally recognised partner of choice for industries and a respected member of the scientific community.

There are numerous initiatives that has been put in place to achieve these targets. These initiatives include a strong drive and emphasis on groundbreaking and IP-related researches. Some of the ongoing projects include the utilisation of waste materials in concrete, industrialised building system, engine development, green technology, deepwater engineering, and nanotechnology.

What has been the most significant achievement for UTP?

Answer: So far we have several achievements that we are proud of. Among them:

- 2008 Exhibition in Brussels, UTP received three gold and one silver medal out of the four entries. UTP also received special award on one of its research entitled HARSH Concrete which utilises agriculture waste.

- At Irnova Eureka 2007 Exhibition in Brussels, UTP received four gold, four silver and one bronze medal. - At Invention & New Product Exposition 2007 in Pittsburgh, USA (June 2007), UTP received five gold, one silver and one bronze medal.

- During the 17th International Invention, Innovation, Industrial Design & Technology Exhibition, UTP hauled six gold, two silver and seven bronze medal. At this exhibition, UTP also received a special award, The Moscow Award for Best Invention in Medical Science.

- Received one gold and two silver medal at the 34th International Exhibition of Invention, New Techniques & Products of Geneva.

- Overall Champion and Best Booth Award at the Engineering Invention N Innovation Challenge 2006.

- At the 16th International Invention, Innovation, Industrial Design & Technology Exhibition (ITEX 2005), UTP received one gold, eight silver and ten bronze medals.

- Received one gold and one silver medal in the IPTA R&D Exposition 2005 at Putra World Trade Centre.

- Received Peoples Choice Awards, Most Marketable Awards and Consolation Prize for the five projects submitted at Engineering Invention N Innovation Challenge 2005.

- First Prize Awards at TSS 1st Malaysia Engineering Design Challenge 2005 Exhibition.

- Overall Champion in the International Young CEO-Match Challenge 2004 in Singapore.