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Malaysia Centre of Educational Excellence

   
Yeoh (left) and (seated from left:) Minister of Higher Education Datuk Dr. Hj. Shafie Mohd Salleh, YTL Group Executive Chairman Tan Sri Datuk Seri (Dr.) Yeoh Tiong Lay, and Universiti Malaysia Sabah Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Professor Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Abu Hassan Othman

Text of speech by Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh:

I wish, firstly, to thank all of you for making the time this morning to attend this cheque presentation ceremony to University Malaysia Sabah. A special thank you to YB Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh, our Higher Education Minister for being here to witness the ceremony. Sir, we are honoured to have you here.

It is our pleasure today to present a cheque of RM2.5 million to University Malaysia Sabah for the University’s Foundation. RM1.5 million will be for the building of the Foundation’s corporate offices, which will comprise administrative offices, a gallery, seminar and meeting rooms and an auditorium. A further RM1 million will be for a scholarship fund to support scholarships, research and the welfare of the university.

We at YTL have had a long history in supporting education, both at the schools level and also at the tertiary level. My father, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, the founder of YTL has always believed in the importance of a good education. Some of you may have heard me tell the story of how, during the severe recession of the mid-seventies, I offered to give up my studies to go into the family business to help my father. Despite the financial difficulties he was facing at the time, my father insisted I pursue my engineering degree in the UK. I have much to thank him for.

My beloved father, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, does not just believe in education for his family, but also for the wider community. In the early sixties, he started a fund for the students of the Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Aziz in Kuala Selangor. Many of the recipients of this scholarship who were very poor yet very bright have risen to become successful professionals and entrepreneurs. We are glad our early investments in these brilliant students paid off and our society is better for that.

Over the past 40 years, he has also supported many scholarship schemes and the building of schools. In the Chinese school sector, his philantrophy in education-related areas is well known. His support is, however, not limited to Chinese schools but extends to many national schools as well. For many years he has been a generous donor the Tunku Abdul Rahman College and recently, to the new University Tunku Abdul Rahman.

At YTL, we have inherited the vision of Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay in supporting education as a social responsibility.

Education is a means by which those in deprived socioeconomic households can take themselves out of the poverty cycle. Education is also the tool that can ensure that the country will have the human resource skills that are required if we are to achieve our aspiration to be a developed nation by 2020. The Government has made education a priority and has done much to establish new public universities over the past 2 decades. It also sent many students abroad to well-established foreign universities as our universities had insufficient places to cater for our students.

By the late eighties, the country had a large number of its students studying abroad. It occurred to us that, rather than have so many of our students studying abroad, it would make sense to bring the foreign universities to Malaysia. We at YTL had hopes that Malaysia will one day be a Centre of Educational Excellence; therefore in 1990 we approached the University of London with a proposal that they establish a new Branch Campus in Malaysia. The University of London had many prominent Malaysians among its alumni and was aware of the potential benefits to both itself and to the UK of having a college in Malaysia. They welcomed the idea, as did Tun Mahathir, our then Prime Minister, when the idea was put before him.

The country then embarked on the liberalization of the education sector and in 1996, the new Private Higher Educational Institutions Act was passed to allow the establishment of private universities and higher education institutions.

By then, the University of London had undergone a structural change and was not able to continue with the project in Malaysia. We then entered into a partnership with another premier UK university, the University of Nottingham, and together with Boustead Berhad established a branch campus of the University of Nottingham in Kuala Lumpur. I am still a very active member of the University of Nottingham Foundation which was recently launched by our Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, an alumnus of University of Nottingham. This campus currently has an enrolment of over 600 students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. A new university campus is being built in Semenyih and new student enrolments from Malaysia and the region are expected in academic year 2005. This new campus can accommodate up to 5,000 students in the first phase.

Building on the legacy left by Tun Mahathir, our present Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi has made it clear that education continues to be a priority for the country. He has asked that the private sector work with him in improving the educational standards in our schools and universities. We at YTL are pleased to respond to his call both in supporting our public universities as well as private institutions. Whilst we look to the Government to provide leadership and direction in setting policies and standards, we believe that education works very much along the lines of public private partnerships. As a responsible corporate citizen, we will continue to play our part.

We thank University Malaysia Sabah for giving us the privilege to contribute to its Foundation. We are confident that our gift to the University will be well utilised and that many will benefit from the scholarship fund; and we very much look forward to hearing of the future achievements of the University and its scholars.

Once again I thank all of you for joining us here today and may God bless you.

Text of speech by
Tan Sri Dato' (Dr) Francis Yeoh
at the YTL Cheque Presentation Ceremony to Yayasan Universiti Malaysia Sabah
at JW Marriott Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
on 26 June 2004

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