Interview with Sivarajah Subramaniam

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Photography by Greg Chin

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Interview with Sivarajah Subramaniam‭, ‬Chief Operating Officer‭ ‬from Laksamana College of Business.

“I believe that it is important to send out a message and ensure the next generation of people know what business is and find it enjoyable. This is one of the most important reasons why I decided to set up Laksamana College of Business.”  Pehin Orang Kaya Ratna Hapidz Setia Dato Setia Hj Awang Abdul Hapidz bin Pehin Orang Kaya Laksamana Hj Awang Abdul Razak, Business Icon 2011.

Laksamana College was founded in 2003 to provide the next generation of Bruneians with training and exposure to the world of business. Today, as the government is calling for diversification due to the falling oil price, the mandate of training the next generation of entrepreneurs has never been more urgent and significant. How has Laksamana College responded to this?
As YB Pehin Hapidz stated in his founding statement, since our inception, developing entrepreneurs has always been the core of our existence. At Laksamana College, we encourage students to not only consider careers with the government. We constantly challenge students to identify opportunities; to ask questions about what the market needs; and to find solutions that will fill in the gaps. Regarding this, we are actively engaged with the business community through BBBF (Britain Brunei Business Forum) in trying to establish dialogues; and conducting sessions on our premises to share the latest practical and market knowledge with our students.

In response to the call for diversification, one of the courses which we are proud to be providing is the course in Hospitality. We believe that this is a growing industry that is in high demand not only in Brunei but all over the world. At Laksamana College, we manage to utilise our business leverage to give students on-the-job training at Rizqun Hotel and also at other hospitality outlets. It is important for us to make sure that our students understand the real meaning of “service” and are highly competent in this skill. We encourage them to explore careers outside of the country, so that they could gain valuable experience and then return one day to serve Brunei.

What is Laksamana College’s vision for the next 10 years?
When Laksamana College was founded 13 years ago by YB Pehin Hapidz, nobody believed that we would be where we are today. It took a man with a clear vision and a dedicated team who believed in it to carry out this vision. Today, our goals have evolved and we are aiming at future targets. Two of the things that we hope to accomplish is to one day have our own campus to accommodate more students, both from Brunei and beyond. Secondly, we hope to support Brunei’s economy by making Brunei an education hub for the region. We believe that Brunei has all the key elements that would encourage foreign parents to send their children here. For a start, it is possibly one of the safest places on earth and we have a high standard of education compared to our neighbours. Today, for example, if you were to send your son or daughter as a foreign student to Laksamana College, they can choose to live in apartments that are conveniently located on the college compound; there is easy access to supermarket downstairs; and they are also in walking distance of some of the best cafes and restaurants in Brunei. This, I believe, is something that we are excited about and will be very busy pursuing over the next 10 years.

“It may be wiser for you to consider sending your child overseas at a later stage to complete their MBA, by then, they should be more mature and better able to deal with living independently in a foreign country.”

One of Laksamana College’s recent milestones has been your collaboration with the University of Chester in the UK. Students in Brunei can obtain 100% of their training and certification from the University of Chester by studying locally at Laksamana College. What does this mean to Bruneian students?
This program is especially designed to help students to obtain a UK degree, without having to pay the UK fees. It would cost up to BND120,000 to complete a three year degree inclusive of the living expenses in the UK. Not many parents can afford this especially if they have many children to support. If your son or daughter were to pursue a degree from the University of Chester degree through Laksamana College, your child would get the same training and degree – and the three year degree would cost you approximately BND34,000. It has always been our dream to provide high quality education to the students in Brunei, and we firmly believe that this collaboration is a tangible part of the solution.

Secondly, the University of Chester has a long tradition of excellence as a teacher training college since the 1800s. In order to collaborate with the University of Chester, we need to adhere to the high standards set out by them. The university regularly sends their lecturers to train the local teaching staff; and the lecturers also have regular interactions with the students here in Brunei. Some of the courses that the University of Chester are renowned for that are also provided at our college include Business Management, Tourism and Computer Science.

What are some of the advantages of pursuing your further education locally, compared to pursuing it overseas?
I really believe that there are great advantages of studying abroad. You get to learn about independence and more importantly, you get to meet people from all over the world.  But what concerns me is the issue of what is the right age to be sending your child abroad? It is extremely difficult to gauge a child’s level of maturity in relation to their age. As well as this, sending your children overseas is a huge financial commitment. It may involve great financial risk, if your child is not mature enough or mentally prepared to face the challenges of living in a new country and adapting to a new culture and system of education.

With those concerns in mind, if you are able to find the same quality of education locally as you can get abroad, there is really no rush to send your child overseas. It may be wiser for you to consider sending your child overseas at a later stage to complete their MBA, by then, they should be more mature and better able to deal with living independently in a foreign country.

At Laksamana College, we offer a foundation course to get students prepared for what they can expect when they enter foreign universities. They are moved from an exam-oriented curriculum to a more holistic program that involves assignments and group based projects. One of the main advantages of pursuing further education locally as opposed to overseas, is that there’s always the benefit of safety and family support. Not only that, but the student will also be more familiar with the local issues during their training, so that he or she can maintain relevance in the market place.

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