Go the distance for learning

The current acting president of Disted College shares his thoughts on the institution and its trajectory

21 Jan 2020 / 10:18 H.

A brainchild of three educationists, Disted College was initially formed by Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Dr Hulman Sinaga and Datuk Dr Sharom Ahmat in 1985 as a private limited company called Disted Services Sdn Bhd.

Disted – a combination of the words ‘distance education’ – was intended to provide adults with an alternate route to tertiary education, as it was felt that compared to high school leavers, adults had more limited prospects in obtaining a higher education.

In an email interview with theSun, Disted College CEO and acting president Tan Sri Datuk Dr Chin Fook Weng (below) said: “Due to the high costs of tertiary courses abroad, they had to alter their direction to cater to the youth.

“By 1987, contracts were signed with the British Columbia Open University, TAFE South Australia, Murdoch University and the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education to provide off-campus courses to Penangites.

“Within the same year, Disted College was registered with Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education.”

In 1988, Disted then took in its first batch of students, while housed inside a bungalow on Hargreaves Road in George Town, Penang. The lack of space saw the college relocating twice before finally moving into its current premises on Macalister Road in 1995.

After being sold off to the Wawasan Education Foundation in 2000 and opening a second campus for the School of Hospitality Management in 2012, Disted College now provides various pre-university, diploma and degree courses, which are twinned with Staffordshire University (SU) in the UK, as well as HELP University locally.

Disted also has articulation agreements with various universities in the United Kingdom, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and US for its diploma graduates to further their degree programmes in these countries.

Chin also shared how Disted College will evolve with the changing times.

Having endured for three decades, what does the college view as its biggest challenges moving forward?

“Implementation of new initiatives to sustain franchising business growth are constrained by the government’s regulatory policy changes in recent years. For instance, the Malaysian Qualification Agency’s (MQA) additional restrictive criteria for [the approval of new franchising partner engagements, and the renewal of existing ones].

“Furthermore, existing programmes offered are mostly in the red ocean due to saturation of market players and unprecedented competition from public universities.

“There are also uncertainties in the country’s economic growth prospects, [resulting] in a deferment of parents’ decisions to send their children to a private college. Some opt to study in the government-subsidised, lower cost public institutions.”

What is next in Disted’s plans for the future, particularly with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution?

“Since 2018, some of our main and future programmes’ curriculums in the schools of Business, Psychology and Computing and Engineering have undergone major revamps, by incorporating IR4.0 related topics in the areas of digital marketing, big data, software development, application of artificial intelligence and digitalised tutorial classes.

“(We will also) forge closer relationships with the industries via regular interactions, in the form of [dialogue] sessions with our diversified panels of industrial advisors, invitations to conduct talks and workshops by industrial experts in the contemporary disciplines, and by engaging industrial practitioners as part time or guest lecturers in almost every programme.

“In line with the change in lifestyles due to the digital technology revolution, we are also gradually shifting our lesson delivery mode from the conventional face-to-face approach to blended learning, which is more activities-based and emphasises a student-centred learning approach.

“This will enable an attainment of a higher order outcomes in all the three learning domains for the students, namely cognitive, psychomotor and affective.”

Compared to other colleges/universities that have several campuses around the country, Disted College is based in Penang. How else does the college set itself apart from competitors?

“Being the first and one of the very few non-profit educational institutions in the northern region, we are genuinely focused in our pursuit of education excellence via channelling most of our surplus income or profits to the overall redevelopment and enhancement of Disted’s teaching resources.

“Disted is also the only private institution offering the pure Science-based Psychology programme (Bachelor of Psychology (Hons)) in the northern region, while also offering high quality business degree programmes in collaboration with one of the UK’s top 5% universities, Staffordshire University.

“The college is also the only one in Malaysia that offers a Japan Transfer Programme, where our IT and engineering diploma students can articulate into the third year of a four-year degree programme in the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan.”

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