July - Sept 2012, Other

Postgraduate: Education with a soul

From New Straits Times


March 15, 2012

Conventional postgraduate studies with an Islamic essence are what the International Islamic University Malaysia offers its potential students. A form of blended studies where students have the opportunity to obtain an orthodox graduate degree and on top of that, Professor Dr Hassanuddeen Abd Aziz, Dean of IIUM’s Centre of Postgraduate Studies, points out that Islamic approaches in all disciplines will be given

“In all our programmes, students are exposed to the Islamic vantage point. Using what they have learned, we expect our students at a postgraduate level to be able to formulate solutions to issues that may arise in their field of study by incorporating an alternative way of thinking. Doing so allows them an escape from repeating the same mistakes that occur when the standard solutions are offered time and again.”

The holistic nature of Islamic approaches in education at IIUM works as a much needed counterbalance to the customary western-based programmes. When reviewing the corporate and economic situation thus far, and how the pillars of western education have not been able to shoulder the burden of the new world economy in a sustainable way, it is only natural for academicians seek out auxiliary sources to replace the current structure. With a rich history and ethics-bound tradition, specialised practitioners from Islamic backgrounds would be a welcome change from the tales of corporate greed that have become all too common these days.

In terms of unique education, IIUM has been a front runner in many Islamic-based programmes. Islamic banking and finance, while gaining enthusiastic global recognition in the past decade, has been on IIUM’s programme list since the university itself first began in 1983. Currently IIUM has continued this focus on education with a religious basis through programmes under the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, the Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance as well as through discussions and studies carried on throughout all their offered courses in all the faculties. IIUM is a comprehensive university offering basically all branches of knowledge.

Postgraduate Priorities

The Centre for Postgraduate Studies (CPS) acts as a gateway for postgraduate students. All admissions pass through CPS to ensure applicants are of the minimum grade before being handed over to the individual faculties, where the students are chosen according to criteria and screened for suitability. This screening process is one of the methods IIUM implements to ensure the quality of its students, and subsequently, its programmes.

“Students that are up to par allow our education processes to evolve with them,” says Professor Hassanuddeen, who assures that the success of a student’s entry is wholly merit based. “This is important in maintaining a high standard of education. Most of our teaching and learning processes are ISO approved, and when push comes to shove, getting better students allows our programmes to achieve the standards that we had promised them in the first place.”

The postgraduate programmes at IIUM are constantly evolving and improving, and this is reflected in the attributes of the students they turn out – well-spoken, in possession of clear communicative skills and capable of laying out intelligent ideas concisely. “It is the environment here that shapes them,” Professor Hassanuddeen avers. “As the Garden of Knowledge and Virtue, we champion the Islamisation of knowledge. This gives our students a sturdy foundation to stand on.”

A strong grasp of English is another aspect that allows IIUM students to flourish once they graduate. The university is licensed to teach in English from the top down, and Professor Hassanuddeen believes that this fluency and exposure to English helps the students by giving them confidence in their communication.

Industry Needs

How does IIUM serve postgraduate academics looking for studies with aspects in Islam, while at the same time fulfilling the needs of the industry in a satisfying manner? The key to this is the programme reviews that are carried out every two years. “Once a cohort graduates, we carry out a thorough review of that programme, adjusting it to contemporary demands,” explains Professor Hassanuddeen. “We convene a board of studies for the review, which includes specialised practitioners, invited from the corporate world to give their input based on experience, as well as our own academics.”

While most universities conduct reviews every half a dozen years, IIUM carries it out at a regular interval as part of their culture of quality, ensuring that changes for the best can be incorporated as soon as possible into their programmes.

CPS also hopes that its active postgraduate community will help in the university’s bid for Research University (RU) status from the Ministry of Higher Education. “A large postgraduate community is integral to attaining and maintaining RU status, and the CPS will play an important role in this,” Professor Hassanuddeen states. In anticipation of a heightened research status, IIUM has encouraged graduate studies in all spheres, and tried to address the needs of research and funding constructively to provide a well-rounded postgraduate education.

International Plans

“Right now, IIUM has students from about 106 countries, and we are looking to increase that number,” Professor Hassanuddeen reveals. “For now, we are interested in creating awareness in Latin America. We have been working closely with NGOs in South America. These NGOs are interested in the Islamic component of the education that we offer, and this would appeal to the Muslim community in Latin America.”

Latin American students who choose to study at IIUM should rest assured that their welfare will be well taken care of. The International Affairs Division and the CPS work closely together to lend international students a helping hand, whether it is a pickup from the airport to the university, or assistance in finding accommodations.

Why does IIUM hold such an appeal to students throughout the globe? “We have always been foremost about our intention to champion the ummah,” answers Professor Hassanuddeen. “During Friday prayers, you can hear the students answering the call to worship together, and later they talk to each other in different languages and accents. We welcome them from every part of the world, and their presence here creates a deep sense of community while at the same time showing the diversity of Islam.”

This is the very essence of IIUM, and through its graduate students who form a community of specialised knowledge, it embodies an ideal of a university with a soul.