Interview with Professor Dr. Mohammad Ayub Sadiq

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Photo courtesy of Universiti Brunei Darussalam

UBD has achieved some astounding results in terms of academic rankings. The Asian Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University rankings showed a significant jump of 50 places in the last two years; and the university has also made the top 20 list in five other categories. Can you elaborate further on your success? What has contributed to this achievement?
I am proud to say that we were ranked 1st in outbound students for two consecutive years; 3rd in inbound students; 11th for international faculty; 13th for faculty student ratio and 17th for international students. UBD scored full marks (100%) in three categories – outbound exchange students, inbound exchange students, and international faculty.

This achievement is a result of the collective effort and determination of our academic and administration staff to provide support and guidance to the students; and it is also due to the tenacity of our students who seek the best education for themselves and attain success. Our achievement to break into the QS rankings is testament of our dedication to provide high quality education to ensure our students are well equipped to achieve their own success in the future. Our achievement in the QS rankings also provides us with more motivation to continue working hard, linking our students to a wider network of experts, universities, providing them with more opportunities for research through infrastructure and international linkages to collaborators – to ensure that they get a richer learning experience at UBD.

The research funding and research facilities at UBD have developed tremendously, consequently leading to a significant increase in graduate students and collaborators coming to UBD to undertake research. With the massive academic mobility and a number of internalisation strategies including increased joint academic programmes, research collaborations and networks such as iCUBE and Borneo Studies Network (BSN), UBD’s active partnerships with institutions worldwide have brought an increased number of international students and staff to UBD who continue to contribute to the tremendous improvement of campus life, teaching and research output at the university.

“The role of our academic staff have extended from merely imparting knowledge to students to engaging our students in discussions…and encouraging them to be more proactive and curious.”

The UBD’s GenNEXT undergraduate degree program is set out to provide more hands-on experience for the students by making Year 3 a “discovery year” for students. What is the significance of the GenNEXT program?
We believe that experience is the best teacher and so, the focus of our GenNEXT programme is on student experience. We provide our students with networking opportunities and a chance to learn from international experts and prominent figures around the world. In addition to this, the Discovery Year programme is one of the main highlights of GenNEXT, where we send our students out to experience the world and learn through doing.

The significance of the GenNEXT programme is its flexible personalised curriculum based on the student’s strength and interest. And also GenNEXT equips them with skills, which they need for lifelong learning, and skills to prepare for an uncertain and rapidly changing future. It emphasises the need for students to be curious, to explore, and to learn by themselves.

In this issue, we help students to evaluate options for further education both locally and abroad. What are the advantages of choosing to go to UBD? How is UBD going to help prepare students for a successful future?
UBD’s GenNEXT curriculum is a unique education framework that allows our students to take charge of their higher education and future career path. Unlike the traditional curriculum, which confines a student to majoring in a discipline, the GenNEXT curriculum gives students the freedom to explore their interests across disciplines. Only 55% of the programme is in the major discipline with the rest spread over other disciplines. The curriculum ensures that students are exposed to essential life skills such as critical thinking, reasoning, communication and quantitative analysis; with both national and global perspectives. Embedded in all our modules are the three thrust areas:

1. Entrepreneurship

2. Leadership and Innovation; and

3. Environmental Awareness are embedded in all modules taught.

This is especially relevant in today’s job market, which values professionals with expertise in multiple disciplines.

The flagship part of the curriculum is the mandatory Discovery Year programme, which sees students venture out of the university to gain experiential learning through study abroad, internship, incubation or community outreach programmes. The aim of this programme is for students to experience the real world and understand how the professional arena works so that, upon graduation, they will be ready and well equipped with the necessary skills and mindset to be successful in their respective industries.

The programme also allows student to take an additional minor, double majors and double degrees to expand their scope of study.

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How has the role of the lecturer evolved over the years to meet the demands of today’s students?
The role of our academic staff have extended from merely imparting knowledge to students to engaging our students in discussions on the subject matter and encouraging them to be more proactive and curious. Other than the traditional lecture, our lecturers engage our students through informal discussions outside the lecture room and various online platforms, teaching them to be more IT savvy – an important skill to have in the 21st century job market.

Additionally, many of our lecturers have become mentors to our students, advising them on selecting courses or even on long-term decisions such as choosing a career path fit for their skill set. They have also brought networking opportunities for our students to international experts or even potential employers by bringing in guests to their lectures to meet their students.

Basically, it has been switched from teacher-centred learning to student-centred learning. Various pedagogy approaches such as problem-based learning, team-based learning, project-based learning, work-based learning, and other flipped classroom approaches are implemented by the lecturers.

How has UBD contributed to Brunei’s Wawasan 2035 in creating a diverse workforce that is internationally competitive?
Education and research at UBD is driven by national relevance, with the emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership frameworks. We maintain active engagement with international and local industry players to ensure our research and teachings are relevant to the needs of the job market and the economy.

I am proud to say a lot of our former students have gone into the local market with their entrepreneurship endeavours, and some have successfully tapped into regional markets with their own business initiatives.

Our GenNEXT programme encourages students to explore multidisciplinary areas of study in order for them to discover their strengths and potential and nurture them to be competent in multiple areas, and have a competitive edge over other jobseekers and professionals in the job market.

Our programmes are also targeted to the wider population, from fresh school leavers and the working population to retirees and home-makers – it gives them opportunities to study without leaving their business or work. These programmes are directed to the areas of financial literacy, digital literacy, businesses, and entrepreneurship, etc. This will contribute to the development of the knowledge economy and so to Wawasan 2035.

This article was published in the Oct-Dec 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!