18th UBD Convocation

Congratulations to all who received their degree, diploma and other certificates yesterday from His Majesty and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince. This year's crowd of 1,072 students is slightly smaller than last year's 1,103. This is UBD's 18th Convocation since it held its first convocation way back in 1989.

UBD has indeed gone a long way since His Majesty first announced the establishment of UBD in April 1985 and when it opened six months later in October 1985 at its temporary campus in Gadong. And to use UBD's own words, "...today the University accommodates more than 300 academic staff and 2,800 students in seven faculties, namely Arts and Social Sciences, Business, Economics and Policies Studies, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Institute of Islamic Studies, Science, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education, Academy of Brunei Studies and Institute of Medicine..."

Despite the 20 year history of UBD, there are still many questions raised by UBDians and other people about UBD. For instance, about a couple of months back on HYS, there was an argument about the standard of education at UBD. I was saddened to read not so much about what everyone who wrote in the column about what they perceived about the education standards but more about who they perceived to be responsible and what was responsible for it. This was compounded by the very recent interview which made a rather interesting focus on the statistics that 50% of UBD are marketable which of course made everyone questioned what about the other 50%.

Honestly speaking, I don't have a stand or I am rather impartial with regard to UBD or UBD graduates. I have met many UBD graduates and I have met many non-UBD graduates. Put them side by side, it's a little bit difficult to tell them apart. Those who did well in UBD would have done equally well outside UBD. Those who did not do so well outside UBD would have the same kind of trouble in UBD. To me, it is not so much about the institution but about what each and every single graduate does with his education. A degree is like a door knob. It opens doors. But the quality of the door it opens depends on the quality of the doorknob. But even a bad doorknob can be polished or repaired or even replaced. So even if one does not do so well with the first doorknob, there is always a chance to get another doorknob and improve on the first one.

At this point, I have learned by now, someone would have said, you yourself did not go to UBD, who are you to tell us that all these? First of all, I did go to UBD even though it is only a 4 month executive program. During my time, UBD did not exist, so I couldn't go even if I wanted to go there. But that short period of time I was at UBD was sufficient for me to know that there are good and dependable lecturers both local and expatriate who can hold their own in other highly rated institutions overseas. I went to a top ivy league university and even there, I can assure you that there are lecturers who shouldn't be teaching but are there just because they were nobel prize winners or something. They maybe brilliant but you couldn't learn anything from them - they just couldn't teach.

This is one of the issues really. What do we want UBD to be? A good teaching university or a good research university? Don't say both, because it is difficult to be good at both because the focus are just different.

The other major issue is perception. I can't help but have this impression that some UBDians feel that just because they were in UBD and did not go overseas, their qualifications are second rate. Of course, this is exarcebated by recruiters or other people who did go overseas thinking themselves so much better than their local countrymen. I can assure you that in UK alone there are about 100+ universities and UBD can hold its own against a large number of them. To me it is not so much about where you graduated from but what you graduated in and what did you learn when you actually graduated. And most importantly how you applied it when you work and what your attitudes are at your work.

These are just my rambling thoughts and I have to admit I am a little bit out of my depth here. For those who felt offended, my apologies - it was not intentional. And finally, congratulations once again tho those who graduated yesterday.


Anonymous said…
Any comments on HM's desire to see a second, probably Islamic university? It would be interesting to see how the relevant authority reacts to his remarks that he had made 3 calls for the new uni to come about and how it should not be delayed any further.
Anonymous said…
Your point of view involving doorknobs is so... interesting!

Anonymous said…
yes, i totally agree with your point about doorknobs :)

i did my first degree at an overseas university, and now i'm in ubd doing my MA. i can safely say that there is very little difference between the two, in terms of the quality of the lecturers.

if anything, i find it easier being taught by the local lecturers here because they're more able to connect with us as bruneians. most of the lecturers ive met at ubd are humble, helpful, willing to help and there are a handful of them who are able to do what all educators should hope to do - they can inspire.

i agree that it's all a matter of perception. people think that ubd is a second rate university. they should really think again.

Anonymous said…
I think its worth considering the fact that the Brunei youth of today may not care what they really want to achieve and hence will take up courses at UBD which they think is easy to get that piece of degree certificate.

Its also worth considering that it may be because these youth perceive there are no real opportunities in Brunei that attract them so, such that they become slacks in their studies.

So in the end it might not be UBD's fault at all. The people as a whole need to change. Education will ensure that the knowledge is there whether its through good teachers, tutors and lecturers.

Educators will always try to instill all the values, ethics and cultures to shape these youths from the beginning. But they themselves need to accept these. If not then instituitions like UBD would never be a success.

So would having a second university help? It would help to provide more opportunities to advance studies and all but the target youths are still the same.
Anonymous said…
I do agree with what BR has said about being in an ivy league university and how it is not always jolly good. I have lots of people look at me surprised when they ask which university I go to. I guess you have to be there to know the inside story really.

Imperial College is where it is now because of their level of research and not so much for their teaching. Throughout my 4 yrs there, I have been taught by professors, doctors and readers and I can tell you that they are there not there as a teacher but as a researcher. Sure they give good lectures but they don't give shit if you don't understand what he's on about (most of time I don't understand anyway) or will give u a helping hand on his free time (or if he does have free time). Most of the time they assume as they start the lecture everyone knows at least something (something here will be of 70%) about the topic, if not then shame on u.

Its only occasionally do you get lecturers who give their whole heart to pass on their knowledge. So BR I know where you're coming from - THEY JUST COULDN'T TEACH for the world.

So to all the UBD graduates, don't feel you have to compare yourselves to other overseas graduates. You don't need to go to the top universities to be intelligent - thats just the cherry on top of the icing ...just need to be confident enough to apply the knowledge.

Good luck to all the graduates. Welcome to the real world.
m o g L i e said…
Quite true .... the degree itself is a passport to a better start to your career. But when you kick start your working career you'll have to start all from scratch tho'. The only difference it makes is the individual's ability to pick up new knowledge to embark on your new jobs. Some correlation might be evident how an individual approaches their learning styles/effectiveness during their studying years back then.
Anonymous said…
I agree. It's not where you graduated from but rather in what area you graduate in and what you learn from it.
Anonymous said…
Thank you SO much for bringing to focus on this much heavily debated topic of local grads vs overseas grads when the actual conclusion should be that there NO SUCH DEBATE SHOULD EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE.

It is unfortunate that some graduates and employers have adopted this dumbfounded perception that it is the name of the university one has on their degree that becomes the ultimate visa to gain access to a career and not the name of the owner of that degree.

I have mixed and mingled with both local and overseas graduates - and as true as you say Mr BR - in terms of performance you can't just say an overseas grad would win it hands down in the job market as compared to a local grad.

Stop putting down the local university. There is more than meets the eye. Narrow-mindedness and this inability to see the bigger picture is not going to help our country progress to a better state of development.

You all talk about the substandard syllabus of UBD just because you consider yourself lucky not to have gone there. But there is nothing substandard about UBD. I have known some great and inspiring lecturers there during my four years and I feel deeply saddened that the excellence of their teaching is marred by a few closeminded individuals who put little faith in our local tertiary level institution.

And as Mr Br says - it is the individual who will eventually "turn that doorknob" and not that piece of paper. That piece of paper only gets you in front of the door.
Anonymous said…
For me if i am employing someone, the main point is about how your personality and drive is towards the position i am offering.

I graduated from a UK university which was somewhere between 90-100 position and i only even have 1 A level to join them. That was how easy it was to join the university which in another perspective shows how not so 'Ivy league'. But the good thing was the lecturers was so helpful, easy to to talk to, simple to understand what they want that they gave me an A for my project which i think if i was to have that project in Imperial they'd probably laugh at me. haha! Siriusly it was such a simple device but the idea was big i guess thats why they liked it.Anyway with a degree from a not so 'ivy league' university, i was kind pessimistic of getting jobs either in the UK or Brunei. But dengan kasih allah jua i managed to secure a job with Brunei Shell after 6-months of waiting.

And that also surprised me, i asked my employer how come i got in and the boss said we like your personality and entusiasm.

It has now been more than 5 years with Brunei Shell and it has been a great and postively competitive experience. With that i conclude when looking for jobs be yourself, be entusiastic, don't be shy and quiet but not too loud and 'know-it-all' insyallah there is an employer definitly been waiting for you all this time out there. To assist those hopes and desires, if you are muslim: tanamkan niat mencari kerja/rezeki kerana allah and perkara yang wajib jangan di tinggalkan insyallah dapat kerja tu.
Anonymous said…
Never compare UBD with any other universities in the world...coz you can't compare apples with oranges!Further, remember the 50% marketable lots! Even these 50% are not that so high in their quality, they are good in text-book knowledge but dumb in other areas...could be lacking in communictive skills, keeping quiet throughout the discussion,lacking creativity and more importantly, the UBDians are not very critical in their thinking...digesting everything fed into their mouths..just like some of you just did,simply agreeing with the "door knobs" analogy of BR...good luck UBDians and non-UBDians...the ball is in your court...
Anonymous said…
"But even a bad doorknob can be polished or repaired or even replaced. So even if one does not do so well with the first doorknob, there is always a chance to get another doorknob and improve on the first one".

That's an interesting metaphor. True enough, if a graduate ("doorknob") is "bad" then an employer can just chuck him/her out and get a new "doorknob". Not exactly a situation that you might (like to) see in the public service though, being that the Government is meant to provide duplicatable jobs to the masses. This point reverberates back to our country as a large percentage of our workforce and "doorknobs" opt to work in the government. So that falls back to our civil servants, unchuckable & unreplacable, (but polishable & repairable), to be, in essence, "bad doorknobs". Now why SHOULD we ever settle for that?

Which institution is better and should we compare UBD to other unis? I think we shouldn't easily dismiss on the exercise of comparing universities. It is a healthy activity if done with the intention to positively construct out little university into a "first class international institution". Woodrow Wilson wrote something to the effect that one cannot possibly learn much from the experiences of oneself alone. However, if we compare UBD to other universities, we ought to take into account the comparability of the said institutions. It's like trying to compare a first tier ASEAN economy to a third tier ASEAN economy; it's just not "fair". Similarly, it's like comparing regional institutions like ASEAN to EU; there are certain lessons that we can draw from the giants, certain features that are comparable, but not the entity as a whole.

UBD is only 20 years old. Considering this as one generation, I do believe that we have created many milestones seeing that it launched just six months after Titah-ed. Being an acknowledged and accredited entity within the global arena of higher institutions itself is a mark of achievement. I think our people sometimes love too much to criticize that we forget to puff our chests up and realise how far we've gone and achieved. Sometimes, it's ok to be proud of what we have done... this said without sounding like a preach. In that generation, UBD has produced plenty of charismatic and dedicated workers both in the civil service and in the private sector. I think it's not too late to congratulate those wave of graduates at this point in time either.

I myself am a product of UBD. At the same time at UBD, I went to two top universities for exchange programmes for a good amount of time. Today, I am back from the 4th university within the span of 6 years of my life; and I can say that UBD is an excellent place of study, relative to the other three. The environment for learning and teaching is conducive, but it needs to exude more intellect in terms of discussions and exchange of ideas. Often, we see students who are too timid to express opinions that they rather express on Hear Your Say.

The lecturers are amongst the friendliest, and are never too busy too help.

In terms of quality, naturally it is yet to reach the standard of the last university that I went to (which has the largest library of the social & political sciences in the UK).

I am NEVER too embarassed, nor should I ever find reason, to be a product of our own university. I will flaunt it where I can because i believe in it.

His Majesty is such an insightful and brilliant man. I fully support the idea that it is long overdue for us to develop our higher education & university research sector and capacity. What we need now, again without sounding too preachy, is good planning that takes into account the challenges of internationalization of students, competition, and funding.
Anonymous said…
So what you are saying is that everytime one agrees with someone else's ideas, because the idea appeals to them or the idea makes sense to them, you would consider that as " lacking in communictive skills, keeping quiet throughout the discussion,lacking creativity and more importantly, ...are not very critical in their thinking...digesting everything fed into their mouths".

Agreeing with someone's idea or in this case - analogy, doesn't mean they don't have a brain to think for themselves. It just means that they agree. Simple as that. People can agree with other people's ideas. There's nothing wrong with that? It doesn't make you less creative or less critical. It makes you OPENMINDED. And that is exactly what you seem to be lacking.

So you must consider yourself a unique person. One that doesn't always side with the majority then. It's fine being that type of person. But it's not OK when you put down others just because they don't think the way you do or behave the way you do.

Because, at the end of the day. You're no better than the rest.

Oh and by the way - were you just stereotyping when you said UBD-ians "are not very critical in their thinking"??

Coz that's a pretty shallow thing to say. For someone who probably sees him/herself as someone who thinks out of the box.

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