The Malaysian Collegiate Way
6 May 2007 (collegiateway.org) — The collegiate way of living is similar (and equally appreciated) wherever it is found all around the world, as reporter Sarah Chew reminds us in this extract from her story “A Home Away,” appearing today in The Star, Malaysia’s most popular English-language newspaper:
“Universiti Putra Malaysia students find their room at the Fifth Residential College comfortable and spacious.”
Imagine living in a place where you can have a fully furnished bedroom as well as enjoy amenities including sports facilities, a library, a cafe, computer rooms, a recreation room, a hall and organised activities all year round for just RM135 per semester. Yes, you have all that, for one whole semester.
Throw in free tutorials during exams and support in the form of college fellows – that is the package you get at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Fifth Residential College.
Here is the catch – those looking for a place must be outstanding both academically and non-academically or in great financial need.
“We’ve had to turn down about 500 students this year,” says college manager Zainalabidin Ali.
Unlike hostel facilities found in some other public universities, a residential college has its own student council that looks into the students’ welfare and works with the management to organise events such as inter-college sports competitions, debates and in-house orientations and cultural shows.
Although a residential college functions autonomously, it is intricately part of the broader university landscape.
According to Zainalabidin, it is not easy to maintain a college with limited government funding.
“But the students run their own activities to raise funds, even for outstation trips that the student council organises,” he adds.
The result is a close-knit community.
“You will never feel lonely here,” says student Nur Airena Aireen Azman, 21, with a smile. “Everyone studies together and share their experiences.”
College principal Syed Agil Alsagoff feels that the college environment, which emphasises involvement in activities and engagement with the community, makes a difference.
“It fosters leadership and team-building among students,” he says.
It is largely the same story over at the university’s 17th Residential College, which charges RM4 per day. The latest addition to UPM’s residential colleges, it is the only one that has apartment-style units with their own bathrooms, lounge area, kitchen and balcony.
The college also has a “student kiosk” where students set up services like a photocopying shop and launderettes.
“The kiosk is where students can do their thing. There is an Entrepreneurship Club here that encourages students to set up their own businesses as a way to help poorer students gain pocket money,” says college principal Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Bakri.