In conversation with
Datuk Mohd Zubir Bin Sheikh Saad
Executive Chairman/CEO | Pusrawi International College of Medical Sciences
ASEAN Education Spotlight: How do you balance the professional life that you have had for the past 20 years with your now role as the leader of an educational institution?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: In whatever you want to achieve it is important to be confident, disciplined and to follow your heart in order to achieve your targets.
What was the strategy you had in mind to turn around the fortunes of this institution into being prosperous, profitable and soon to be welcoming international students?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: I am very confident in the business of education. I looked at other institutions that were achieving what we wanted to achieve and we worked hard to improve upon their success. A big part of that was opening up internationally and focusing on the overseas market. It took three years to upgrade from a college to a certified university and we now have approved bachelor programmes that we can offer to students.
We understand you have plans to expand into a bigger campus – tell us about your ambitions.
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: We have the land secured already and we are now focusing on the planning and implementation process. The important thing for me is not having a large campus, the important thing to have is students – that way we have the income required to develop these things in the long term and we can rent in the short term. The new campus is expected to be completed in 5 years.
Do you teach at the moment?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: At the moment I teach subject introduction to pharmacy and in the future I would like to teach entrepreneurial courses.
Entrepreneurship is a big topic in our report – coming from a business background and currently pursuing your Doctorate degree in Business Administration ( DBA) what is the message you would give to all the students who will be reading this report with regards to being more open minded and entrepreneurial?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: We are consistently moving in line with the national blueprint by ensuring that our students are entrepreneurs in spirit. We believe that job creation should be prioritised over job seeking. We expose our students in their early stages of their studies to different business cultures in addition to knowledge, skills and abilities that they have gained in formal classes.
In the market now there are very limited opportunities to work, especially in the government, so now more than ever, you have to do business. It is not enough to know how to cook, you must be able to sell what you make. I don’t have a standard programme to cultivate entrepreneurship but we do teach all of our students about online business because this is accessible to everybody, rich or poor. We also have three dialysis centres, and a physiotherapy centre, so our students can get an insight to the industry by working part time there, we also provide home nursing care and we are going to introduce reflexology as well.
Additionally, we are shaping our students to be resilient despite facing repeated failures while consistently executing their actions intelligently. In seeking opportunities, we shape our graduates to be mindful only of those that are attractive, timely, durable and based on offerings or businesses that create or add value.
In regards to internationalisation, we understand that you have partnerships with educational institutions in Jordan among several others in the region. What is your current expansion strategy and do you have plans to work with other higher education institutions within ASEAN?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: Internationalisation is one of the key objectives of the Education Blueprint and Malaysia needs to lead and be proactive in ensuring the borders are broken down towards internationalisation.
PICOMS sees itself in contributing towards such integration with our recent developments. One of which is our interim process of upgrading to a university college status, as the government has recognised our contributions towards the education sector as well as helping the nation achieve its aspirations.
One of our initiatives is to become a global reference center by sending our students and staff to other countries yearly. We want them to learn externally not only within formal education but also towards the improvement of their day to day lives. We have also given our students opportunities to do their practical as well as working on part time or permanent basis. They are also given chances to get appointed as agents for our products. These initiatives will expose our students holistically within their fields.
We also consistently build ourselves towards forming partnerships and joint ventures with international institutions and attract more international students. This is achieved by the Ministry of Home Affairs granting us such permit to recruit international students, just last month. We have since signed MOU with Al Azhar University for the medical program, the University of London for physiotherapy, Jordan University of Science and Technology for dentistry and with the TH Hotel for hotel management.
Through this, we are certain to be able to build global ties towards internationalisation. We are able to also produce internationally minded students who are readily available to serve all countries in the world and not confined towards only serving Malaysia.
We must think outside of the box. As we are now one community- ASEAN, it only makes sense to concentrate on areas like Indonesia, which has a huge population, Thailand and eventually the rest.
As you stated, Malaysia has a big responsibility in uniting the ten member states and giving them one identity. How would you identify Malaysia’s role in doing this through the higher education blueprint, and what is PICOMS’s role in the overall development of ASEAN, specifically in the health sector?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: One of the sectors we have to focus on is medical tourism because Malaysia is perfectly placed within ASEAN to make these connections. As for universities, we should focus on student sharing programmes, so our students can move around and learn about other the cultures and economies of ASEAN throughout their education.
How confident are you in the future of ASEAN?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: I am very confident in the ASEAN community – even though we sometimes have disagreements about economics and defence. I know we are all willing to sacrifice in the name of unity and stand together for the benefit of the world.
If we were to return to PICOMS in five years time, what changes would we see?
Datuk Haji Mahamad Zubir bin Sheikh Saad: In five years we will have our own permanent campus and we will be a fully fledged certified university. I have a goal for this university to become the top university in the OIC – I believe this is achievable.