UBD ranked 34th among young global universities

UNIVERSITI Brunei Darussalam (UBD) continues its upward journey, securing a prime spot in the QS ranking for universities founded less than 50 years ago.

The Sultanate’s most prestigious academic institution vaulted three places to 34 from 37 in 2017 in the QS Top 50 Under 50 world rankings announced on June 22, 2018.

University ranking exercises heavily favour older and larger institutions, making UBD’s rise even more remarkable, UBD said in a statement yesterday.

Since its publication in 2012, the QS Top 50 Under 50 highlights some of the world’s fastest rising young universities. Among young universities, UBD is now ranked 16th in Asia and sixth in ASEAN. Among small universities based on QS World University Rankings, UBD is ranked 16th in the world, fifth in Asia and number one in ASEAN.

“The 33-year-old university makes up for its relative youth with a strong drive and a clear vision to empower future-ready leaders through innovative education and enterprising research driven by national aspirations and guided by the values of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB).”

As a national university, UBD aims to contribute to the economic development and diversification of Brunei Darussalam. In a knowledge-based economy, those who are best able to innovate are the best able to succeed. UBD seeks to produce graduates who will play a role in the social and economic development of the country, the statement noted.

One of the key reasons for UBD’s rise in the QS Top 50 Under 50 rankings is that it has made significant leaps in research and innovation. UBD has fundamentally shifted from a teaching university to a university of teaching excellence and research. QS has acknowledged and ranked UBD as a “high-research intensive” university.

Research in UBD covers areas that are relevant to Brunei Darussalam. It conducts applied research that is not only high in academic value but also high in economic and social impact. These include studies on green energy, herbal and medicinal plants and pharmacology.

The Universiti Brunei Darussalam library. – BAHYIAH BAKIR

UBD is taking great strides in studying the feasibility of green energy in Brunei Darussalam. One result of this research on renewable energy is the recently patented wind turbine that is able to generate energy in locations with low to moderate wind profiles.

Kinetic and solar energy research in UBD has resulted in working prototypes such as the UBD Flyer 2000. It contributes to the power supply of the Simpur Café, a UBD-owned café that operates in the campus premises. Other industries have also shown interest in this technology and UBD may see its commercialisation in the very near future.

At the recently-officiated Botanical Research Centre, the medicinal potential of various herbs and plants are being studied. Researchers take cues from tradition and folklore to better understand local plants that have been used to treat common ailments such as pucuk pawas (litsea elliptica blume), sambah bagangan and simpor bini/laki. A particular subject of interest at the centre is the many benefits of stingless bee honey (madu kelulut) which has great potential for the commercialisation of local food products and supplements.

Research excellence requires a pool of talented graduate students in addition to high quality academic staff. From having only two per cent graduate students, UBD increased its graduate student population to over 30 per cent in 2017.

While pursuing research excellence, UBD continues to hold dialogues with industries and forge public-private partnerships for researchers to effectively translate their knowledge and research into innovations, enterpreneurship and commercialisation. Collaboration with government agencies such as the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) and the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) produces innovative employment opportunities for its graduates.

One of the key strategic directions of the university has been to partner with companies in the private sector to establish research and development projects. Its Industry Liaison Office actively engages with industries to develop joint research and development. These international collaborations help set up innovation labs and execute cutting-edge projects utilising principles such as Internet of Things (IoT). Innovative use of IoT sees its applications in a variety of scenarios including environmental monitoring and disaster management. Another collaborative area that UBD is looking into is cybersecurity.

One of the key principles of UBD’s curriculum is embedding innovation and entrepreneurship. Instilling important attributes in graduates such as valuable leadership skills and environmental awareness, students in UBD are encouraged to also pursue enterpreneurship through its GenNEXT programme. UBD employs a multidisciplinary approach in instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in its students regardless of their areas of study. The focus of the programme is to educate the future generation to be leaders in their respective industries.

Modules offered in UBD boost their confidence and give them the initial taste of entrepreneurship. UBD also continues to provide support for students through the Entrepreneurship Village as well as pave the way for collaborations with agencies such as DARe (Darussalam Enterprise). There, they acquire the necessary training, learn how to fund their projects and network with industry experts. UBD is setting up the Innovation Wharf which is an area where products, prototypes and innovative projects by students and staff are showcased in the UBD library.

UBD’s simple start-ups have the potential to evolve from small scale and individual efforts to eventually blossom into large scale businesses that employ Bruneians. In addition to diversifying Brunei Darussalam’s economy, they also address issues of unemployment as their foray into entrepreneurship also moves into the field of job creation.

“We would like to thank the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for the continuous support. Alhamdulillah, UBD has marked another major milestone by rising up the QS Top 50 Under 50,” Vice-Chancellor of UBD Datin Dr Hajah Anita Binurul Zahrina Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Aziz said.

“While UBD continues to pursue commercialising research, our ranking shows that we are already a world-class university that can provide the best education and training for our students to prepare them to be leaders contributing to the long-term sustainable development and growth of Brunei Darussalam, Insya Allah,” she said.