Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Malaysia’s eighth university was officially incorporated on 24 December 1992. A university that is contemporary in character and forward-looking in outlook, it is committed in providing the nation with leaders, managers, scientists and technical specialists as well as thoughtful citizens who are capable of handling the complex challenges of our common future – confidently, competently, and creatively.
With about 30 academic staff, the University opened its doors to the first batch of 118 students on 8 August 1993. The students were registered in the two pioneering faculties, the Faculty of Social Science and the Faculty of Resource Science and Technology. Two academic support centres were also established: the Centre for Applied Learning and Multimedia, and the Centre for Academic Information Services.
The following year (1994) saw four more faculties opening their doors for degree courses: the Faculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, the Faculty of Engineering, and the Faculty of Information Technology. Staff and student numbers quadrupled. Meanwhile, the University also grew in profile as most faculties began to offer postgraduate programmes. Research activities began to take root with the establishment of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environment Conservation, which focuses on the myriad of flora and fauna in Borneo. Links with various universities abroad were also established. In the same year, the Centre for Technology Transfer and Consultancy UNIMAS, won the contract for EIA study of the Bakun Hydroelectric Project, the biggest ever EIA project in the country.
The period between January 1995 and the end of December 1996 saw further consolidation in the academic and research structure of the university. Two more faculties began taking in their pioneer batches of students; the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (1995) and the Faculty of Economics and Business (1996). These brought the total number of faculties to eight, as originally planned. The Centre for Language & Communication Studies began to offer the TESL programme, in addition to generic language courses. The Institute of Health and Community Medicine, and the Institute of Software Technology were then added to the list of research institutes.
The historic year of 1997 witnessed the pioneering batch of graduates receiving their degrees at the inaugural convocation of the University. The year also saw the establishment of the Institute of East Asian Studies.
The year 2000 witnessed the change in the Vice-Chancellor seat; Professor Dato’ Zawawi Ismail, the first Vice-Chancellor succeeded by Professor Datuk Yusuf Hadi as the second Vice-Chancellor of UNIMAS. Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Rashid Abdullah was appointed as the third Vice-Chancellor on 1 February 2005. From 2001 until 31 March 2013, Professor Datuk Dr Khairuddin Ab Hamid was appointed as the fourth Vice-Chancellor of UNIMAS. YBhg Prof Dr Morshidi bin Sirat was later appointed as the fifth Vice-Chancellor on 1 April 2013. His tenure, however, was brief as he was recalled to occupy the position of Director General at the Ministry of Education, Malaysia. Consequently, YBhg Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi took over as the sixth Vice-Chancellor of UNIMAS on 16 April 2013.
As of September 2013, UNIMAS total enrolment is 16,085 consisting of 14,033 undergraduates, 1,343 postgraduates and 709 pre-university students. In addition, a total of 2,189 staff have been employed as of August 2013.
UNIMAS is an ISO-certified university. It was granted the prestigious MS ISO 9001:2000 certification for excellence in its core management processes — from the intake of new students to certification of its graduates. Our undergraduate programmes have been designed to suit the needs of society and industry. Our strong emphasis on technology has awarded us with the prestigious Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Status on 17 November 2003. The award was granted for our role and ability in developing manpower for MSC and related needs, through our strategic learning and training programmes.
UNIMAS has won the Premiere Information Technology Award from the Malaysian Government, the “Bridging the Digital Divide” category of AFACT’s eAsia Award. It has also won the Industry Innovators Award for System Development and Application from the US-based Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), for its success in setting up a telecentre in the remote community of Bario, Sarawak, to assist the community in communication, education, e-commerce, health and government services.
UNIMAS has been successful in the acquisition of research grants, coming up with publications and useful scientific findings. The university’s Institute of Health and Community Medicine has successfully developed a candidate vaccine for dengue through collaboration with an international company, Bavarian Nordic. Additionally, the Faculty of Resource Science and Technology has successfully developed a process to convert sago starch to lactic acid for the production of environmentally-friendly plastic.
The knowledge discovery initiatives at UNIMAS are premised partly upon the wealth of natural resources and diverse socio-cultural make up of the State of Sarawak. While UNIMAS is strong in biodiversity study, this and most of other research activities at this university are firmly based on contemporary technologies. For example, the conservation of the natural resources of the state, through combined strength in computer science and IT, with expertise in molecular biology and biotechnology, have effectively synergized several collaborative research, both locally and internationally. The cultural diversity and social uniqueness of Sarawak communities offer opportunities for studies in health and medicine, by offering a look at the influence of environmental factors and socio-cultural practices on the interactions of various pathogens; as well as other issues related to community health.
UNIMAS’s commitment to research has already been recognized by the stakeholders and partners in the industry by the provision of endowments for the establishment of eight research chairs; these include the Tun Zaidi Chair for Medicinal Chemistry, the Tun Openg Chair for Sago Technology, the Shell Chair for Environmental Studies, and the Sapura Chair for ICT.