Using the analogy of marriage and suggesting to “consider the possibilities of a shared bed”, the staff of Wawasan Open University and DISTED College were given a preview of the ongoing integration between the two institutions.
The townhall session at the main campus was presented by Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Chairman of WOU’s Board of Governors and Director of DISTED. Some 170 staff from WOU and 65 from DISTED attended the briefing, which was also video-conferenced to all WOU Regional Offices.
“This is about integrating two instiutions owned, sponsored, supported, financed by a single body, the Wawasan Education Foundation,” he stated, explaining that the purpose was to benefit from the synergies – that is, people, asset and content – of WOU and DISTED. “The integration is a continuous exercise to improve revenue, performance, efficiencies, and thereby reduce expenditure.”
He said the integration is driven by a shared group vision to promote lifelong learning and a lifelong learning society that values scholarship, innovation enterprise and responsible citizenship. “Shouldn’t we become self-driving, self-supporting, fiducially responsible and ethically accountable?” he stressed.
He said upon the agreement of the chiefs of both institutions in Dec 2011, the Foundation absorbed all the shares of the College under WOU Sdn Bhd. The acquisition of 100% DISTED shares is currently awaiting the Ministry of Higher Education’s ‘blessing’ of the marriage. “While we are trying to integrate, we still want to maintain the identities of these two institutions,” he stated, clarifying that it is not a merger or takeover.
One notable aspiration from the integration is the seamless mobility from matriculation at DISTED to postgraduate studies at WOU, with the allowing of credit transfers. “Any student who finishes a diploma at DISTED should be able to continue seamlessly into a 3rd or 4th level programme at WOU.”
The integration, which started in late 2009 upon the endorsement of both the WOU and DISTED Board, led to six departments being tasked to manage the back-end integration – Human Resources, Finance, Marcom, ITS, Library and Administration.
Among the activities are aligning policies and procedures, sharing of resources, and harmonisation of vendors to gain savings. In the sharing of resources, Tan Sri Raj said DISTED can utilise the intructional design expertise of WOU to become a much more active e-learning environment, while WOU can send its academics straight from industry to gain face-to-face teaching experience at DISTED.
He also mentioned joint projects such as the university’s property at China Street Ghaut given to DISTED to use as its hospitality and tourism management school, while the Penang Regional Office relocates to the main campus.
The integration also involves additional IT bandwith and the cross selling of WOU Master’s programmes to students of DISTED starting next year.
“Group rebranding is expected to be gradual and determined by the pace of back-end integration,” he concluded.