Case Study: Swinburne University of Technology

State partnership propels Australian university to No.1 spot in Borneo

Swinburne University of Technology

Education is one of Australia's most valuable exports, worth $21.8 billion in 2016. Besides bringing students to Australia, expansion for Australian institutions means opening campuses overseas. Today, Singapore alone is home to five Australian universities, with Malaysia being home to three and Vietnam also hosting an Australian campus.

One institution that's enjoyed considerable success is Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology. Having opened in Borneo, East Malaysia in 2000, Swinburne Sarawak now has 4,000 students from 53 countries. It enjoys the highest international ranking of any international university in Borneo, according to UK's Times Higher Education Asia-Pacific University Ranking 2017, and has achieved Tier 5 'Excellent' status conferred by Malaysia's premier higher education-rating agency.

According to Professor Ajay Kapoor, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Sarawak campus, Australian higher education has earned a top reputation in Malaysia. 'Australian education has always been very popular in Sarawak,' he says. 'Affordable fees make it possible for local and international students to obtain a world-class Australian degree, which might not be otherwise financially possible.'

Swinburne Sarawak is located on a 16.5-acre (67,000 m2) campus in Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kuching, capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is 75 per cent owned by the state government of Sarawak and 25 per cent by Swinburne, Australia. It is Swinburne University's only international campus, and part of a long-term strategy to globalise operations and provide students with international living, working and learning opportunities.

The campus was awarded full university status in 2004, when the campus' first batch of 70 students graduated. Prominent in its curricular are degree courses in business, the sciences, design engineering, and information and communication technologies. In addition, Swinburne Sarawak is the only approved CPA Australia tuition-provider in East Malaysia and Borneo.

Swinburne Sarawak has cultivated links with local industry. Its students gain exposure to real-world experiences through internships, industrial traineeships, conferences and industry-organised competitions. According to Professor Kapoor, one result is that the programs offered at Swinburne Sarawak are highly sought after in industry, especially within the local region.

'Overall, the employment rate for our graduates is now 93 per cent, and our graduates have reported up to 100 per cent employment for many business and engineering courses,' says Professor Kapoor. 'With students from Europe, the Middle East and across Asia – and exchange programs with institutions in Australia, South Korea and Germany – students begin their global networking right here at Swinburne Sarawak.'

The combination of close involvement by the Sarawak Government and local industry has encouraged steady growth. After extending the campus in 2008, Swinburne Sarawak opened a research centre for sustainable technologies in 2012, a science postgraduate centre in 2015, and a 'digital futures' centre in 2017.

'The state government of Sarawak and Swinburne University have established clear, collaborative goals, and the result is a colourful and vibrant campus that delivers first-class training. Swinburne Sarawak is also a wonderful case example of a major Australian university successfully operating in a non-capital city environment of Malaysia' says Professor Kapoor. 'The diversity that Swinburne Sarawak attracts into its campus makes it a unique experience for students in Borneo.'