SEPANG - Work to construct Xiamen University's first overseas campus has officially begun here.
The campus, which will be constructed on a 60-hectare site in Salak Tinggi, was described by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as symbolic of the friendship between Malaysia and China. It is designed to host 10,000 students when fully operational.
The renowned private university is listed among the top 20 universities in China and the first enrolment of 500 students at the Malay-sian campus is expected to begin in September next year.
Najib said at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday that the Government was committed to making Malaysia a hub for world class education.
Malaysia, he added, was ranked 11th in Unesco's list of preferred educational destinations.
"We intend to improve this ranking and we are also committed to developing a home-grown work force of individuals capable of generating the big new ideas and game- changing strategies that will create wealth and jobs for the people.
"In order to achieve both these goals, Malaysia must improve the range and quality of our tertiary education. Xiamen University's new campus helps us to do this," Najib said.
MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who was present, welcomed Xiamen University as an important milestone for the future of the relationship between Malaysia and China.
"Xiamen University coming to Malaysia will also help to boost Malaysia as a hub for excellent universities and MCA is committed to attract more international students and Chinese students to Malaysia," said Liow, who is the Transport Minister.
Xiamen University was founded by the late philanthropist Tan Kah Kee, a Chinese businessman who was reported to have achieved great success in Malaysia, particularly in the rubber plantation industry in the 1900s.
Xiamen University president Prof Zhu Chongsi said the setting up of the university's branch in Malaysia was a historic reciprocation of the link between its founder and this nation.
The Malaysian campus has a planned total floor space of 470,000sqm.
The university said the campus would inherit the "Tan Kah Kee architectural style" similar to its three campuses in China.
"Some 93 years ago, the university was founded by Tan to whom Malaya was his second cherished homeland.
"Xiamen University will do its best to become a world-class university and make its due contribution back to Malaysia," said Zhu, who expressed his gratitude to several Malaysian leaders for their efforts and cooperation in bringing the Chinese institution to Malaysia, including Najib, the Prime Minister's special envoy to China Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, and former deputy minister of higher education Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung.
According to Ong, the Malaysian campus is estimated to cost RM1.3bil.
"We thank (Najib) for his great vision and farsightedness, great passion for education, and deep friendship with the Chinese people," added Zhu.
The groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China and was also attended by China's Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang.