Sunday, April 20, 2008

Al-Azhar 1st Overseas Branch in Malaysia

Al-Azhar University, one of the world's oldest university will set its foot in Malaysia. It would have a branch campus in Negeri Sembilan, marking the presence of another prestigious university in the world.

For more info, go to The Star

Al-Azhar boost for Malaysia
THE prestigious Al-Azhar University, one of the world's oldest, will open its first branch campus outside Egypt in Kota, near Rembau, Negri Sembilan.

The foundation stone for the branch campus, to be built by Yayasan Sofa, was laid by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan on April 12.

“This is an honour not only for us, but for the entire country. The university, which has been in existence for 1,000 years has finally agreed to set up a branch and it is right here in Rembau,” he said adding that Yayasan Sofa received the approval from Al-Azhar on March 10.

Also present were a representative from Al-Azhar University, Dr Umar Abdullah Kamil and Yayasan Sofa chairman, Mohd Shukor Sabudin.

Mohamad said the university, which was expected to admit its first batch of students next year, would first offer Usuluddin and Syariah courses.

“It will later expand to offer medical and science and technology-related programmes.”

He said the decision to open a branch campus in Malaysia would allow more students to pursue tertiary education at an affordable cost at the reputable institution.

It now costs each student between RM10,000 and RM15,000 a year to study in Egypt.

Mohamad said under the agreement, Al- Azhar would also have its own pool of lecturers to teach at its branch campus.

“There may be some changes done to the courses to suit local requirements here, otherwise, the basics would be similar to what we have been practising at Al-Azhar in Egypt,” he said.

Mohamad said when he visited students sponsored by the state government at Al- Azhar in 2005, he had asked the university authorities to explore the possibility of opening a branch campus outside Egypt.

“We are happy that they finally agreed, and have chosen us amongst the many others who had also made similar requests,” said Mohamad. He said the Thai and Indonesian governments were among many parties which had approached Al-Azhar to allow them to open up branch campuses in their respective countries.

Mohamad said the construction of the university bode well for Negri Sembilan, which hoped to become an education hub. He said the Sedaya International University College was the latest to agree to set up operations there.

“They will operate in Bandar Springhill. Another university which can help train graduate nurses will also be built in the state at Sendayan,” he said.

On the construction cost for the Al-Azhar branch campus, Mohamad said this would come from the private sector.

Yayasan Sofa advisor Datuk Kamarudin Meranum, who was also present, said it was too early to tell how much it would cost to build the university.

“We have a plan, but it is premature to divulge details,” he said.

Kamarudin said the university would first open its doors to local students and only then enrol students from the region.

Asked if Yayasan Sofa would pay a royalty to Al-Azhar, Kamarudin said it would not.

Dr Umar, when asked why the university authorities picked Malaysia for its branch campus, said it was because they were happy with the proposal submitted by Yayasan Sofa.

“Malaysia is also strategically located ... it can be the regional centre for students from this part of the world,” he said.

Of Al-Azhar’s 28,000 students, 7,000 are from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Dr Umar was also impressed by the Muslims here, whom he described as deeply religious.

“When I was growing up in Mecca, Malaysians bound for Al-Azhar would first come to the holy city and only then proceed to Egypt.”

He said the university may allow Thailand to open a branch campus as well, but, it would certainly be smaller than the one that is to be built here.

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