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Article Released Thu-23rd-February-2012 10:07 GMT
Contact: Administrator Account Institution: ResearchSEA
 Albukhary International University in Malaysia: a 'humaniversity' dedicated to providing a world class education to the marginalized students from around the world.

Albukhary International University is a wholly charitable university located in Alor Setar, Malaysia dedicated to providing students from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds a high quality education. ResearchSEA visited their campus to find out more.

Campus 1
The AIU campus is bright and open.
Copyright : AIU
As the taxi rounded a corner, following a sign to Albukhary International University (AIU), I was temporarily dazed as the bright Malaysian sunshine hit a series of pristine temple-like white-washed buildings. I assumed I was in the wrong place. After all, I was visiting a newly launched university whose vision was to provide high quality, completely free education and humanitarian values to underprivileged students from around the world. I had imagined a series of austere, low profile buildings. The campus that stood in front of me, however, looked like something straight out of Arabian Nights.

Sceptically I walked across the gleaming forecourt. Was I really going to find disadvantaged students here? As a European, I associated such grandeur with the wealthy elite. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Upon stepping into the cool shadows of the buildings, the open layout tempts the visitor in, and the humility of the staff and students is immediately apparent. But what strikes the visitor most of all when talking to people at AIU is their passion, humanity and integrity. Although many institutions across the world claim to be ‘multi-cultural’ and have religious tolerance, AIU does much more than just pay lip service to these ‘politically correct’ stances. Its students from over 46 countries and a plethora of faiths become engaging, global citizens.

Funded by the Albukhary Foundation, a Malaysian organisation founded in 1996 by the corporate entrepreneur and philanthropist with the same name, AIU is unique in being a wholly charitable university. Coming from a poor, disadvantaged background himself Syed Albukhary was determined to give something back. In AIU’s charter it states that 80 per cent of its students will be international. Rather than targeting academic high-achievers it focuses on students with reasonable academic standing, but who come from poor, disadvantaged or marginalized backgrounds. Although the name Albukhary may lead some to assume this is a Muslim university, Syed emphasises that the goal of AIU is to admit students “irrespective of race, creed or religion”.

Another aspect that really sets this university apart is the requirement that all students take part in planned welfare service activities. As one of the English lecturers explains, their objective is to instil in students a passion to serve and contribute to their community. AIU’s ‘student centered’ learning approach allows students to pick a valuable activity which is monitored by their lecturers. Recent projects ranged from helping to clean up the jungle to surveys of local plastic bag use to mentoring children at a local orphanage. It’s less about the grades the university can showcase and much more about bringing well-rounded people into the world.

Fjolla Deva is from Kosovo and never imagined she would be living in Malaysia. She stumbled upon AIU after recommendation from a friend. There are so many things she wants to tell me about AIU, her enthusiasm is infectious. Similarly, Abdul Qahar Abdul Wahab from Afghanistan gives a very moving account of how AIU has given him the best possible chance of, caring for his family in the future. The self-imposed responsibility that weighs on this young man’s shoulders is great, but so is the support he is gets from his peers and staff at AIU.

Aiuob Ali AbduLQader from Yemen and Mohamed Sacko from Mali are eager to tell me all about the many clubs and societies at AIU. There are debating, sport and arts societies that will cater to anyone’s interests. “Indeed”, says registrar Puan Norpisah, “We cater for so many nationalities that we face some unique challenges, take for example the cricket field. When it was being built, the work men had never built one before in Malaysia. It took us awhile to figure out that the lights all needed shields over them to prevent them getting smashed all the time!”

Some of the international students admit that they miss home and that they were nervous about coming all the way to Malaysia. Jamilyn Tausa Galacio comes from a small village in the Philippines. Before coming to AIU she had never left her own country before and the transition for her was initially daunting, but she adds “this was the best ever decision that I have made.” Having gone to a public school in a small town, she never had any plans to go to university. She didn’t think it was possible, the educational standard was generally low and without a full scholarship there was no way she would ever have gone to any university, let alone one abroad.

The challenge AIU has taken on cannot be underestimated. An inevitable consequence of such a diverse student population is that the educational background of pupils is incredibly broad. It has set a high learning curve for the lecturers whose task is not confined to teaching alone, but includes a strong pastoral role. Many students are thousands of miles away from home and likely to be exposed to a bewildering array of beliefs and opinions, and it is up to the lecturers to ensure that classes run in an open, respectful manner.

So what is the most striking thing about AIU? For me it’s the enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunities they have been given shown by its students. I have been to many a university where students pranced around with an air of ‘I deserve to be here, look at how great I am’. Not so at AIU. -The students’ overwhelming positivity was such that I jokingly asked whether they had been paid money by the AIU’s communications department. Rarely before and I witnessed such fervent enthusiasm, gratefulness and humanity in a group of people.

Norfadzila Putra from Malaysia, tells me with a big smile: “I’m so happy…we learn about human diversity [and] they teach us a lot of things like humanitarian values, I’ve got friends from Kosovo, Mali, Afghanistan and more…!”

There are still many shelves to fill in the new library, empty rooms on campus which require more furniture and time for the grass to grow greener on its grounds. Undeniably, however the spirit and dedication of the people working and learning here is infectious. This is a place worth watching. I have no doubt it will continue to do great things.

If AIU sounds like the sort of place you would like to study, visit their website to find out more:
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Copyright : AIU
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Copyright : AIU

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Keywords associated to this article: Albukhary International University, Malaysia, education
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