Wales’ Links with Malaysia

Students at the International University of Malaya-Wales. Credit: IUMW.

Did you know that the UK attracts more than 17,000 Malaysian students every year, most of whom head to the UK to pursue their undergraduate studies? Did you also know that around 60 UK tertiary institutions have links or collaborative arrangements with Malaysian counterparts? 

The political, education, cultural and development links between Wales and Malaysia have not always been made obvious to many readers but this article will help to demonstrate that these intertwined connections have been vital to shaping the livelihoods of the concerned populations. 

University Partnerships

In 2013, the International University of Malaya-Wales was founded in Kuala Lumpur as a joint venture between the University of Malaya and the University of Wales, offers students the chance to spend a semester at one of the campuses of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and to gain a dual award from the two institutions.

Aberystwyth University (AU) is one of five UK universities to partner with the British Council to offer postgraduate scholarship opportunities with the UK Government’s GREAT scholarship scheme to Malaysian students. It has also collaborated with Brickfields Asia College (BAC) as its first international franchise partner since 2007 through the BAC’s UK Transfer Programme, a collaborative agreement between seven UK-based Universities established with BAC in 2010). Malaysia continues to be a focus for AU in terms of both teaching and research collaborations, like the University of Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Teknologi (MARA). The long-standing and close relationship between AU and Malaysia dates back to 1951, where many students who have attended the Law Department at Aberystwyth have gone to hold high office in Malaysia.

Research Connections with Malaysia

Taman Negara on Peninsular Malaysia. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Regrow Borneo is an ethical, transparent, and research-led reforestation and carbon mitigation project. It is the first UK-university based project of its kind, led by researchers from Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, the Danau Girang Field Centre and KOPEL Bhd in Borneo. The project delivers a model of sustainable and ethical reforestation that will improve lives and livelihoods in local communities, and increase biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in the Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia. The expansion of palm oil plantations in the Lower Kinabatangan has led to a loss of three-quarters of rainforest since the early 1970s.

Systems thinking and place-based methods for healthier Malaysian cities(SCHEMA) is a joint project between the Sustainable Places Research Institute [of Cardiff University] and the International Institute for Global Health, funded by Newton-Ungku Omar Fund joining partners with expertise in systems and place-based methods, urban planning and public health to examine urban health in Malaysia. In particular, this project will explore how health links with green infrastructure and urban food in Malaysia creating new knowledge, facilitate the implementation of place-based systems approaches, and so lead to better planning decisions and health outcomes in future. 

The SafeBioPack project improves the preservation of food during transport and storage between the producer and the consumer; reduces urban solid waste from plastics going to landfill; and improves health and well-being of the population by reducing risk of pathogenic diseases transmitted in meat or vegetables. It was co-funded by Innovate UK, Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and by match funding from the commercial partners. The project ran from October 2016 to December 2019.

Malaysian Political Figures with Welsh Connections

Dato Sri Hishammuddin Hussein

He graduated with a Bachelors of Law degree from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1983. He was elected to federal parliament in the state of Johor’s Tenggara seat and immediately appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade and Industry in the government of Mahathir Mohamad, before becoming the Minister of Youth in 1998. He was appointed as Minister of Education until 2009 before becoming the Minister of Home Affairs until 2013. Hussein was thrust into the international spotlight as the acting Transport Minister, who was responsible for the investigation of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. He later became the Defence Minister from 2013-18, and then the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, he was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

Tun Dato’ Dr Haji Mohd Salleh Abas (1929-2021)

He was the lord president of the Federal (later Supreme) Court of Malaysia during the 1998 Malaysian constitutional crisis. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree of Law from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1954 before joining the legal service in 1957 and served as a magistrate in Kota Baru, Kelantan. He was transferred to the capital Kuala Lumpur to serve as Deputy Public Prosecutor. He obtained his master’s degree in international law and constitution at the University of London in 1962 and was later appointed to serve as state legal adviser and Deputy Public prosecutor for the states of Negeri Sembilan and Melaka simultaneously. He served as both the Attorney-General, appointed as the Solicitor-General and became the Lord President of the Federal Court in 1984. During his tenure, the Federal Court became the highest court in the land, before being renamed to the Supreme Court. 

Tun Muhammad Ghazali bin Shafie (1922-2010)

The eminent Malaysian politician studied Law at the University College of Wales (Aberystwyth). He went into the civil service shortly after graduating before serving as the Home and Information Minister from 1973 to 1981. He was appointed as the Foreign Minister until 1984, known for his role in ASEAN’s diplomacy with respect to the conflict in Cambodia. He represented the Parliamentary seat of Lipis from 1974 before serving in the Dewan Negara, the upper house of the Parliament. 

Raja Nong Chik bin Raja Zainal Abidin (1953-)

Credit: NSTP/Sairien Nafis

He is a Malaysian politician, accountant and former Minister of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing and has served as a Senator in the Dewan Negara. He obtained his Bachelor of Economics from the University of Wales. 

Economic Development Projects

Selling Wales to the World programme forms part of the ‘Wales in the World’ strategy for companies of all sizes who want to export to all destinations, both inside and outside the EU. Companies have been on trade missions to Qatar and Brazil, and particularly welcome the high take up of small businesses for a recent two-centre trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia. We have a comprehensive overseas events programme aimed at promoting and strengthening our exports to these countries which will continue even after the UK leaves the European Union. 

Welsh Trade & Investment, where Malaysia is a key market for Welsh exports. Businesses from a wide range of sectors are hoping to develop their trading relationship with one of the UK’s most important partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and to fly the flag for Wales in South-East Asia. As Malaysia’s economy continues to expand and develop, the nation of over 31 million people is certain to offer excellent opportunities to Welsh businesses seeking a foothold in South-East Asia. The UK Department of International Trade estimated that Britain now has almost 25,000 businesses exporting to the ASEAN-4 nations alone (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam), and is the second biggest European investor in the whole region. 

Former Secretary of State for Wales David Jones MP emphasised that:

“Malaysia’s relationship with the UK is hugely important and our education ties are unparalleled. Huge opportunities exist within these emerging markets. That’s why as a government we are expanding links between Malaysia and the rest of the UK across the fields of trade, investment, sport, science and of course education to ensure that British companies are being given the best opportunities to compete in the global race.”

– Former Secretary of State for Wales David Jones MP.

This showcases how the nations of Wales and Malaysia have been interlinked through educational, research and development initiatives with some relationships stretching back decades. 

Mapping Research by Aberystwyth Student Placement Iman Hamizan: