Our Heritage

About WOU


In line with its new tagline ‘Think Tomorrow’, Wawasan Open University (WOU) is focused on equipping students and the workforce with pertinent knowledge and skills for the real-world environment. WOU aspires to deliver a versatile education that keeps pace with the ongoing technological advancements occurring in the world.

The University is totally committed to lifelong learning and continuous professional development. The aim is to produce future-ready talents for improved workplace productivity and to stimulate the nation’s economic growth. For this reason, it is important for the workforce to have the right mix of technical know-how and soft skills to stay competitive at the marketplace.

In recognising the need to be relevant to students, WOU constantly updates its programmes and course contents, adopts new learning platforms, and integrates knowledge from different disciplines so as to develop an education curriculum that prepares them for the future of work.

The University was established in 2006 to deliver quality higher education via open distance learning (ODL) to working adults. WOU welcomed its first intake of students in January 2007. It has since expanded to also offer on-campus degree programmes to school leavers and diploma holders at its main campus in Penang.

All WOU programmes are approved by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and the Ministry of Higher Education.

Key Fact​s

IncorporatedAugust 2006
Official launch by Minister of Education22 September 2006
Official opening of Penang Main Campus by Prime Minister19 January 2008
Past Chancellors   
FirstTun Dr Lim Chong Eu (2nd Chief Minister of Penang)
SecondTun Dr Lim Keng Yaik (former Minister)
ThirdTun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah (former Chief Justice)
Past Vice Chancellors   
FirstTan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan
SecondDato’ Prof Emeritus Dr Wong Tat Meng
ThirdDato’ Prof Dr Ho Sinn Chye


Wawasan Open University (WOU) has made its strong
mark in higher education with many significant milestones
of achievements throughout the years.

Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik  (later Tun), during his presidential address at the 28th Gerakan National Delegates Conference in Penang, put forward the vision of a private, not-for-profit, virtual university to give a “second chance” to working adults to pursue higher education, in line with the concept of Lifelong Learning.

The Gerakan Education Foundation (GEF) was established as a tax-exempt charitable entity.  It was chaired by Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik; other board members were the then Gerakan Deputy President Dato’ Kerk Choo Ting (later Dato’ Seri), Secretary-General Mr Chia Kwang Chye (later Dato’ Seri) and Treasurer Mr Ng Chiang Chin (later Datuk). 

The grandson of Towkay Yeap Chor Ee, Dato’ Stephen Yeap Leong Huat (later Dato’ Seri), agreed to work together to realise setting-up of the proposed university and to seek a court order for vesting in the Foundation, properties in the Yeap Chor Ee Endowment Trust (YCE-ET) designated for education as stated in Towkay Yeap’s will. 

Dato’ Seri Dr Lim started a fundraising campaign for the foundation to establish the university, joined by Dato’ Stephen Yeap and others.

Eight experts in open and distance learning were commissioned to prepare a detailed proposal for the establishment of an “Open and Virtual University of Malaysia” (OVUM). The foundation received the report in 2003.

GEF was officially renamed Wawasan Education Foundation (WEF), upon approval from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).

Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap was appointed the Chairman of WEF.  Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik and three (3) other Gerakan leaders stepped down from the WEF Board, but have remained as WEF members.

A Deed of Mutual Agreement was signed between the Trustees of the Estate of Towkay Yeap Chor Ee led by Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap, the grandson residing in “Homestead,” and WEF as represented by its first CEO Dato’ Dr Sharom Ahmat, for the vesting of the YCE-ET properties in WEF for the advancement of education.

The order to vest Homestead and YCE-ET properties in WEF was issued by the High Court of Penang. 

Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap announced that “Homestead”, the heritage Yeap family home on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang, would be donated to WEF to serve as the main campus of the proposed virtual university.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) invited WEF to plan for the setting-up of ‘Wawasan Open University College’ (WOUC).

WOUC was officially established, with Emeritus Prof. Dato’ Dr  Gajaraj Dhanarajan (later Tan Sri) appointed the founding Vice Chancellor.

The Inaugural University Council Meeting was held, chaired by Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik, with Dato’ Seri Chet Singh as the Deputy.  The University Council, consisting of mostly professionals and corporate figures, was tasked to guide the development of the university.

Wawasan Open University Sdn Bhd (WOUSB) was incorporated, with Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap as the Chairman.

The first WOUC Management Board Meeting was held, chaired by Vice Chancellor Prof Dhanarajan.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the construction of a new 12-storey tower building behind the “Homestead” heritage mansion, to provide for additional administration and academic spaces for WOUC.  It was named Albukhary Building in honour of the major donor, the Albukhary Foundation.

WOUC’s International Advisory Board held its first meeting.

WOUC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) to offer the Commonwealth Executive MBA and MPA (CeMBA/CeMPA) programmes by distance learning in Malaysia.

WOUC was formally registered under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act of 1996.

“Wawasan Open University College” was granted university status by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and became “Wawasan Open University” (WOU).

The first University Senate Meeting was held.

WOU was officially registered by MOHE.

WOU signed MoUs with the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK), SIM University of Singapore (UniSIM) and Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University of India (YCMOU) to undertake joint initiatives in: research, training and conferences; curriculum and course development; course material design; credit transfer agreements; and support for research-based postgraduate study.

WOU was officially launched by YB Dato’ Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of Higher Education (MOHE).

Conservation and restoration of “Homestead” began.

WOU signed an MoU with the Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC).

WOU welcomed the first intake of 721 students who enrolled to pursue part-time higher education through Open Distance Learning (ODL).

The WOU Council endorsed the nomination of Tun Dato’ Seri Utama Dr Lim Chong Eu, who served as the Chief Minister of Penang from 1969 to 1990, as WOU’s first Chancellor.

The Chancellor’s Scholarship Fund was launched by Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu .

WEF presented the movie ‘Road to Dawn’ throughout Malaysia to seek contributions for its scholarship fund. (This historical drama depicts the founder of Modern China Dr Sun Yat Sen’s life in Penang in 1910 while he planned the “Guangzhou Uprising” in China that eventually led to the founding of the Republic of China.  This movie was filmed entirely in Penang by the Pearl River Film Company of China, with the support of the Penang State Government and sponsorship from the Rimbunan Hijau Group which owns Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau and other Chinese media worldwide. This movie premiered at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in August).

A bronze statue of Yeap Chor Ee was unveiled in front of the Homestead mansion in recognition of his will dedicating trust properties for education – which made WEF and WOU possible – and also in appreciation of his substantial contribution in funding private schools and educational development in Penang and Malaysia.

Work on the construction of the 12-storey Albukhary Building and the restoration of the ‘Homestead” heritage mansion was completed.

The main campus was officially launched by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

WOU welcomed the first intake of 182 students from CeMBA. 

Deputy Information Minister, Dato’ Seri Chia Kwang Chye, launched the ‘Road to Dawn’ DVDs in Penang for public sale, with proceeds to benefit the WOU Chancellor’s Scholarship Fund.

WOU signed an MoU with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

An MoU was signed with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu was officially installed as WOU’s first Chancellor in a formal inauguration ceremony at the university’s main campus. Tun Dr Lim then conferred the university’s first ever Honorary Degrees on the Founding President of the Sukhotai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) of Thailand, Prof Wichit Srisa-an (Hon Doctor of Letters), and on the former Rector of Brunei University and WEF’s first CEO, Dato’ Dr Sharom Ahmat (Hon Doctor of Laws), at a special convocation that followed.

WOU inked an MoU with the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE).

Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng (later Dato’ and Emeritus Professor) succeeded Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Gajaraj Dhanarajan as the second Vice Chancellor and CEO of WOU.

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu was reappointed as WOU’s Chancellor.

WOU’s Board of Governors (BoG) was formed to replace the University Council, in accordance with WOU’s new Constitution and as directed by MOHE.  Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Dhanarajan was appointed as the BoG’s inaugural chairman.

WOU held its inaugural Convocation for the pioneer batch of 38 CeMBA graduates. Honorary degrees were conferred on the Chairman of Ban Hin Lee Bank and Trustee of Yeap Chor Ee Charitable Trust, Dato’ Seri Goh Eng Toon (Hon Doctor of Laws),and the President of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU), Dr Abdul Waheed Khan (Hon Doctor of Letters).

WOU Chancellor Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu passed away.  He was honoured with a state funeral by the Federal Government.

WOU was elected to hold the presidency of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) for the term, 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.

WOU signed an MoU with the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Malaysia.

Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik was appointed WOU’s second Chancellor.

WOU hosted the 25th Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) Annual Conference at the main campus in Penang.

Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik was formally installed as the Chancellor of WOU at the university’s second Convocation.

WOU held a Special Convocation ceremony in Kuala Lumpur to confer Honorary degrees on three distinguished individuals -Chairman of the CIMB Group, Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak (Hon Doctor of Business); world-renowned historian of the National University of Singapore, Emeritus Prof Wang Gungwu(Hon Doctor of Laws); and Mr R Padmanathan (Hon Master of Administration), a long-standing university administrator in Universiti Sains Malaysia and WOU.

Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye succeeded Emeritus Prof Dato’ Dr Wong Tat Meng as the third Vice Chancellor and CEO of WOU.

Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon (Chief Minister of Penang, 1990-2008) was proclaimed Pro-Chancellor of WOU at the third Convocation Ceremony. The Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on Dato’ Seri Chet Singh Karam Singh, the founding General Manager of the Penang Development Corporation (1971-1992).

WOU Chancellor Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik passed away.  He was honoured with a state funeral by the Federal Government.

WOU commenced its on-campus learning (OCL), full-time degree programmes for school leavers and diploma holders at the main campus in Penang. The programme is now referred to as ODL-i (“i” for “intensive”).

Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon took over as WEF Board Chairman from Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap, who still retains his position as Chairman of the Board of Directors of WOU Sdn Bhd.

WOU installed Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah as the third Chancellor at its fourth Convocation Ceremony.


The Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Science degree on Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian, Chief Executive Officer of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad and Chairman of Malaysian Palm Oil Council, and Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on Dr John Yip Soon Kwong, Director of Education, Singapore (1987-1996), CEO of Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) (1997-2003), and a member of WOU’s International Advisory Board (2006-2010).     


At the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF) on Open and Distance Learning in Abuja, Nigeria, WOU received two (2) awards of excellence, one for Institutional Achievement and another for its Distance Education Materials.  

At the fifth Convocation Ceremony, the Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on two outstanding women, social activist and writer, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, and the Rector of Universitas Terbuka Indonesia and President of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), Prof Dr Tian Belawati.

At the sixth Convocation Ceremony, the Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on Dato’ Seri Dr T Devaraj, the Chancellor of International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, and Vice Chairman of the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, Penang Branch.

At the seventh Convocation Ceremony, the Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on two internationally-acclaimed women leaders: the CEO of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Prof Dr Asha Kanwar, and the Chief of World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat at the United Nations in New York and the Mercy Malaysia founder, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood(in-absentia).

Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan retired as Chairman of the WOU Board of Governors, and was succeeded by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

At the eighth Convocation Ceremony, the Chancellor conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters degree on Malaysia’s leading economist and the United Nation’s former Assistant Secretary for Economics Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.   

Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye retired as the Vice Chancellor and CEO of the University.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Zoraini Wati Abas was appointed the Acting Vice Chancellor.

At the ninth Convocation Ceremony, the Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor conferred Honorary Degrees on four (4) distinguished individuals.  Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, former managing director of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, and Dr William Fung Kwok Lun, Group Chairman of Li Fung Ltd, Hong Kong, received the Honorary Doctor of Letters degree while Dato’ Gooi Hoe Soon, a Board Director of Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission, and Tan Sri Soong Siew Hoong, the Promoter of SMIs in Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia, received the Honorary Doctor of Business degree.

Prof Dr Lily Chan was appointed as the fourth Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor of WOU.

WOU installed Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar as the fourth Chancellor in a special Chancellor’s Installation Ceremony at the university’s main campus.  Tunku Imran then proclaimed Dato’ Dr Lim Thuang Seng as WOU’s second Pro-Chancellor.  The Chancellor also conferred Honorary Degrees on WOU’s founding Vice Chancellor and renowned educator, Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan (Hon Doctor of Education) and RHB Bank’s former Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Hussain (Hon Doctor of Business).

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