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Now Everyone Can Go To University

Last update: 13/05/2010
News Pic
UNIVERSITY FOR ALL...OUM Vice President of Business Development and Human Resources Management, Repin Ibrahim says that the university's success is attributed to its flexible entry policy, student-centred learning process, quality product and services, and affordability. Pic: Samsuddin Mohammad
By Sakina Mohamed



KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Bernama) -- Gone are the days when people had a good reason to lament on the lack of opportunities to continue with tertiary education.

The common reasons for not being able to get into an institution of higher learning are lack of fund, time and qualification.

But today, the Open University of Malaysia (OUM) has addressed all these stumbling blocks by introducing the "The Four Flexes", making university education accessible for all.

OUM has made it possible for anyone to obtain a degree at their own pace, using their own preferred method of learning and even paying the fees in instalments. And it doesn't matter if the only paper qualification you have is a SRP certificate.

Repin Ibrahim, the university's Vice President of Business Development and Human Resources Management talks to Bernama on the efforts to live up to their tagline, "The University For All".

FLEXIBLE ENTRY

Want to get into a university, but had to leave school before taking your SPM? No problem!

Repin says the university has introduced a policy that makes it possible for those with only SRP, PMR, or even the LCE (Lower Certificate of Education) to obtain a Bachelor's or Master's degree.

The Flexible Entry Policy, approved by the National Council of Higher Education, provides those with relevant working experience a chance at higher education where normal channels won't allow.

"For the bachelor's degree, as long as you're 21 or above, have some work experience, you can come in and undergo the assessment tests," says Repin adding that the tests are usually the Form 5 level of English and Mathematics.

Meanwhile, those seeking to apply for postgraduate programmes must be at least 35 years old and possess a minimum of a diploma, STPM or an equivalent qualification.

FLEXIBLE MODES OF PAYMENT

When news got around that OUM allows its students to pay their fees in instalments, many found it too good to be true.

"As soon as word got out that we provide flexible modes of payment, many people called us up seeking confirmation on this," says Repin.

"Someone called in to ask us to calculate what the monthly payment would be for a course he was interested in, and after paying the RM300 registration fee, it worked out to around RM360 a month for a four year degree."

There is no interest rate charged on the instalment payments. In addition to that, a 10 per cent discount is given upon full payment of tuition fees.

"It's part of our CSR (corporate social responsibility) to keep our fees as low as possible, and we can do that because of the volume of our intake," says Repin.

But perhaps the biggest display of CSR is its whopping 75 per cent special fee discount for senior citizens and those physically disadvantaged.

"Many are not aware of this special rate we have for these groups, and that's a pity," he says.

OUM's enrolment in the first year was 753. Today there are over 90,000 students in its database with 37,000 active students.

FLEXIBLE METHOD OF LEARNING

While OUM has been known for distance and online learning, the learning methods offered to students are actually much wider and varied. These methods, which comprise of self-managed learning, online learning and face-to-face interaction, these days are referred to as "blended learning".

According to Repin one of the more innovative methods of learning is through its iRadio, which is the university's online radio station that can be accessed worldwide through the OUM portal.

Seventy per cent of the programmes broadcast over the station are academic-related. To sustain the interest of listeners, the other 30 per cent has been dedicated to entertainment.

"We have subject discussions and interviews with experts in the related fields during the live broadcast, which takes place from early morning to 6pm.

"As we understand that is when our students are busy at work, the programmes and interviews are also archived online so that the students can download and listen to what they missed at a more suitable time," he says.

Students also get to attend classes via video conferencing, audio or video streaming, from wherever they are in the world. Besides that, the university is also working on mobile learning, a platform to allow students to study or receive assignment and tutorials via mobile phone.

But an integral part to self-managed learning is print modules. Repin says OUM develops its own module from the best and latest textbooks available worldwide. In doing this, the modules are always updated so that the information provided evolves to stay current.

However, he says, some students still prefer the ability to interact face-to-face with their instructors.

"For those who prefer face-to-face learning, we also provide the facilities and avenue to facilitate that. This is what we mean by student-centred learning," he says.

FLEXIBLE TIME OF LEARNING

Another unique feature in OUM is the ability to attend classes or learn on an individual's own time.

OUM understands the shifting needs and demands of the working adult life, which requires priorities to be put on hold to make way for others.

"This is because sometimes working adults need to take a break and attend to some pressing matters first. But we provide them with the opportunity to pick up where they left off, instead of having to start all over again," says Repin.

In view of that, where other universities allocate four years to complete a bachelor's degree OUM allows its students to take up to eight years. Meanwhile, Master's degree students can take up to five years.

However, Repin says, the university cares about its students graduating on time.

"So if you miss some classes or assignments, or if you took a long break when you only have a paper left to submit, you'll find that someone from the university will call you to check up on your progress and see where we can help," he says.

"And this has been the emphasis from day one - student-centred learning, quality product and services and also affordability. All of which has been our success factor to a certain extent."

-- BERNAMA