Meet The CEO

Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, Provost & CEO, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM)

With 200 years of heritage, Heriot-Watt University (HWU), the eighth oldest higher education institute in the United Kingdom first established itself as the world’s first mechanics institute in the heart of Edinburgh in 1821. The institute’s principles were deep-rooted in the belief that education and science should be used for the betterment of wider society. Now, it is one of the leading UK technological and business universities with global campuses in the UK, Dubai, and Malaysia. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s (HWUM) purpose-built Green campus (GBI-certified) opened its doors to students in Putrajaya in September 2014 and was formally launched on 12 February 2015. Through its high-quality UK education, HWUM caters to a global network of students from over 62 countries worldwide.

The University’s students are supported by academic leaders who are a testament to the University’s high quality UK education. These professionals are dedicated to delivering innovative and educational excellence and nurturing the academic pursuits of its students. HWUM students also benefit from HWU’s Social Capital (alumni) through mentoring, guest lectures, internships, and other available services to excel further in their studies. HWU’s alumni consists of over 147,000 graduates in 190 countries.

As part of the University’s efforts to ensure career-relevant education, HWUM’s world class programmes are developed based on the needs of business and industry and are accredited by professional bodies. These accreditation bodies are Engineering Council, UK; Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB); Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES). In addition, the University is also committed to nurturing purpose-driven leaders who are impactful and resilient through its unique positive education approach which was introduced in 2017. Positive education promotes the holistic development of its students while encouraging them to mobilise their purpose to positively impact the world.

HWUM offers a unique and very well-received Go Global inter-campus transfer programme, where students can transfer to any of the University’s global campuses. The Go Global programme enables its students to enhance their learning experience, widen their cultural horizons, and improve their employability prospects. As of now, nearly 700 Malaysian students have transferred and experienced studying at the University’s UK and Dubai campuses, and nearly 300 students from UK and Dubai have transferred to Malaysia.

This year, HWUM celebrates its 10 Years of Impact in Education and Beyond with the One-Watt global alumni and looks back on a decade of creating positive impact in the country beyond quality education. Currently, HWUM ranks 30th out of 131 institutions in the UK, and 6th in Scotland, according to The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022. The University too is ranked in the Top 10 for Research Impact in the UK. HWUM’s research which focuses on purpose-driven leadership, data science, robotics, and achieving Net Zero emission, among others continues to push the limits of knowledge acquisition, resulting in breakthrough discoveries with practical impact on the world.

Moving forward, the University’s portfolio of programmes will be further tuned to the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its graduates will continue to promote education, research, and innovation. Last but not least, the EmPOWER programme will be further enhanced towards advancing a sustainable, just, and equitable landscape in Malaysia and internationally.

What are some of your organisation’s proudest moments/milestones in Malaysia?

Since its establishment in Malaysia, we’ve achieved many proud moments/milestones including:

  • HWUM’s journey began in 2012, when it welcomed its first batch of students at Menara Putrajaya.
  • In 2014, the University launched its purpose-built, state-of-the-art lakeside campus in Putrajaya. It became our new home and the first “green campus” in Malaysia. Here, we celebrated new faces, innovative new spaces and celebrated our truly global leaders of tomorrow.
  • In 2015, the University introduced the Go Global programme – our inter-campus transfer programme that enables students to seamlessly transfer between our campuses in Dubai and UK for a semester, a year or even throughout their programme duration.
  • In 2017, we celebrated the first batch of undergraduate students graduating as well as our 5th year anniversary. Most importantly, HWUM continued to pave the way in Positive Education with its unique EmPOWER programme, which was officially launched by Malaysia’s Former Minister of Education, Yang Berhormat Dr Maszlee Malik, at the University’s campus in Putrajaya.
  • In 2018, HWUM received its first BrandLaureate’s Most Iconic Brand Award as the reputable UK university.
  • In 2019, the University reaffirmed its commitment to excellence by launching its Strategy 2025 to provide equal access to quality UK education, ideas, and solutions to make real impact on the world, and to nurture purpose-driven leaders.
  • In 2019, His Royal Highness Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, visited our HWUM campus as part of his tour to Malaysia and Australia.
  • In 2021, we are proud of the appointment of our Chair of Board of Directors Datuk Yasmin Mahmood and Pro-Chancellor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, and in the same year HWU celebrated its 200th anniversary.
  • This year, HWUM celebrates its 10 Years of Impact in Education and Beyond with the One-Watt global alumni and looks back on a decade of creating positive impact in the country beyond quality education.

Based on your experience in operating in Malaysia, what are the 3 most important criteria for achieving business success in Malaysia?

Some of the important criteria for achieving business success in Malaysia include:

  • Understanding the investment environment in the country for business sustainability and cross border collaborations for business – Malaysia shares its borders with countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei.
  • Providing quality UK education – flexible programmes and services to contribute to the high-skilled talent pipeline of the country and contribute to the country’s GDP growth.
  • Understanding and adhering to the regulatory framework of the country.
  • Building strategic partnerships with Malaysian employers to providing quality UK education that is relevant and tailored to the needs of industry players in Malaysia and leverage the English language.
  • Transparency in audit and financial reporting.
  • Partnership with certification bodies, industry associations and regulatory bodies to ensure quality standards.

How has your business evolved during this pandemic, especially in terms of optimisation of human and technology resources?

The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for technology adoption; we are proud that we were prepared for the disruption. We had the right infrastructure in place, supported by our professional staff and academicians which eased our transition. In other words, we were privileged to have the right set of skills, competencies and people combined with robust technology resources that enable us to transition to the pandemic environment seamlessly, ensuring that the business is still in operation especially for the student experience to continue their education with HWUM. For our students, we also implemented our responsive blended learning (RBL), which ensured the continuity of education for our students despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

How do you see your business growth and prospects in Malaysia?

As tabled in the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), Malaysia aims to transition to a high-income economy by the year 2025. The government will focus on enhancing the labour market for inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as develop future-ready talent. Strategies to produce future-ready talent will include improving the quality of academic and training programmes, ensuring equitable learning outcomes, leveraging emerging technologies and strengthening governance. In view of this, we see a demand in nurturing high-skilled talent for future jobs with higher salaries. Malaysia will also require STEM and TVET graduates to power the key economic sectors.

At HWUM, we provide world-class programmes to meet the needs of the future. We also ensure that our students are nurtured as purpose-driven leaders, who can navigate through a highly competitive and complex world through positive education. In addition, with the reopening of our borders and relaxed travel SOPs, we see an influx of students coming from neighbouring countries such as India, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei who are seeking to pursue quality UK education. Our inter-campus transfer “Go Global” programme enables us to promote and enrol students from our UK and Dubai campus to study in Malaysia too.

What are the top 3 reasons for your organisation joining the BMCC?

  • The British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (BMCC) has an affiliation of elite companies from all industrial spectrums.
  • As such, in line with our Strategy 2025, we believe in the importance of building flourishing communities and fostering strong partnerships for collaboration to positively impact the communities in which we serve in.
  • BMCC also provides the platform for industry advocacy to elevate businesses to the next level.

What is the top value you see for yourself or your organisation in being a member of the BMCC?

Being a member of the BMCC means we can continue to foster ties, network between both parties and other members as well as contribute to the country and provide access to valuable resources that may benefit the business of each organisation.

In one sentence, how would you describe your own experience or your organisation’s experience as a member of the BMCC.

Being a member of the BMCC brings value in widening the access of purpose-led positive education to a different segment of audience and potential partners for our organisation.