Learning from WOU experience

The Asian Women’s Learning University (AWLU) project, in partnership with Smith College, plans to start an international liberal arts women’s university in Malaysia in 2015 As such, they visited Wawasan Open University recently to learn from its experience.

(From left) Dato' Seri Stephen Yeap and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dato' Dr Ho Sinn Chye greet the guests.

(From left) Dato' Seri Stephen Yeap and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dato' Dr Ho Sinn Chye greet the guests.

On hand to welcome the delegation of 13 academics from the AWLU project, Singapore and Smith College, US were Wawasan Education Foundation chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap, Chairman of WOU’s Board of Governors Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan, and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye.

Prof Ho gave a brief introduction of WOU while Prof Dhanarajan related the history, procedures, as well as the vision behind the setting-up of the university.

A few of the team members from AWLU and Smith College took turns to share their own experiences in liberal arts and in teaching the different subjects during the one-hour dialogue with representatives from WOU.

Discussion between WOU and the visitors.

Discussion between WOU and the visitors.

Khoo Hoon Eng, founding Board Member and Director of AWLU Project, Singapore said that Smith College is their academic planning partner to start an international liberal arts women’s university in Malaysia. She said they have already found a suitable site in Penang and are in the process of getting funding.

“The model for the university is fully residential, face-to-face, four-year curriculum. When I say liberal arts, this also means sciences and possibly engineering. The students will take classes for courses in their major and then anything that they like,” she stated, adding that AWLU project has a partnership agreement with Smith College for three years.

Khoo said that they plan to have two semesters a year, but entry will be only once a year in August. The initial batch in 2015 will only have 100 and the intake is to be increased to 500 students a year from across Asia. There will be 2000 students in the hostel at any one time.

Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan with the guests at the alfresco area.

Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan with the guests at the alfresco area.

Carol T Christ, the President of Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts said that her college has some 3,000 students ranging from 27-55 years and they take courses in arts and engineering. “We are very excited with our partnership with AWLU to create a women’s university in Asia to bring ideals of liberal arts education to this part of Asia.”

Prof Dhanarajan, in replying to queries, talked about the university’s operations, tuition fees, age of students, and the challenge of delivering education in English to the current younger segment of population.

Among the delegation were professors of music, biology and economics from Smith College. Also present at the dialogue were Assistant Vice Chancellor (Academic Support) Prof Mohandas Menon, School of Foundation and Liberal Studies (SFLS) acting dean Dr S Nagarajan and senior lecturer Jasmine Emmanuel.