University opens Far East branch in Far East

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ONE OF Britain's leading universities is to become the first to open a campus in the Far East.

Academics hope the University of Nottingham in Malaysia will open in Kuala Lumpur next year. They expect the university to attract 2,500 students within five years.

Senior figures from Nottingham were in the Malaysian capital last week for a formal ceremony inviting them to submit plans for the new university, to be established in the city's former National Art Gallery. The pounds 18m venture will specialise in management and business, electrical and electronic engineering and computer science - all subjects popular with overseas students studying in Britain.

It is promising "a high- quality campus environment in keeping with the ethos and tradition of the University of Nottingham as a leading international university".

Academic staff will be recruited in the Far East, but the university hopes to attract a number of lecturers from the East Midlands. Students will have computer links to the campus in England and British undergraduates will be able to spend part of their course studying in Kuala Lumpur.

The venture is part of a growing trend towards selling British education overseas. A string of universities already runs courses abroad under franchise.

Nottingham alumni include Malaysia's supreme head of state, Ja'afar ibni Abdul Rahman, and its minister of education, Najib Tun Razak. A former supreme head of state and former defence and science ministers are also graduates.

English schools have also seen the potential of the Far East. Harrow School opened a branch in Bangkok last year. Dulwich College, south London, which counts P G Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler among its old boys, has gone as far as to build a replica of its buildings on the Thai island of Phuket.

Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) published last week showed a 50 per cent fall in applications from Malaysian students, a consequence of the Asian economic turmoil of the past year.

But Keith Jones, the registrar of the University of Nottingham, said there was demand for the new institution as part of efforts to build Malaysian higher education and establish the nation as a regional centre of excellence.

Fees at the new university will vary between subjects, but are expected to be roughly half those charged to foreign students studying in Britain. Mr Jones said: "It will be the first time a British university has operated in this way.

"It will be a campus in Malaysia but it will be an integral part of Nottingham."

John Nance, an expert on international education at the British Council, said: "This is the partnership of the future. These countries will probably send fewer students here in the future. They will be looking more and more for education at home. In south-east and eastern Asia, academic excellence is a god. It's essential for students to get a first degree at least and probably a second or a PhD.

"Britain has very, very long- standing relationships with this part of the world and our universities have a record of recruiting students, but we can't look to our laurels because the United States and Australia are very active."