BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) will soon have a new campus, moving from its existing location in Gadong to a permanent purpose-built campus in Temburong.

His Majesty the Sultan, who is also UNISSA’s chancellor,  made the announcement in his titah on Monday at the university’s eighth convocation ceremony held at the International Convention Centre.

The establishment of the permanent campus was first mooted in 2013, and will be allocated a $100 million budget under the 11th National Development Plan.

UNISSA was established in 2007 and its current temporary building in Gadong accommodates 1,400 students. Construction of the new complex expected to start in two years’ time, after the completion of the Temburong bridge in 2019.

The site for the new campus will be on a 310-hectare plot in Temburong district’s Mukim Labu, and will help meet an increase in the number of students as well as accommodate new faculties and programmes.

The monarch, in his titah prior to presenting 208 graduates with their diplomas, expressed hope that the new campus will elevate UNISSA’s reputation, with the aim of making it a hub of Islamic higher education in the region.

UNISSA graduates smile as they receive their diplomas during the university’s convocation ceremony on Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Infofoto

His Majesty called for the Islamic university to excel regionally, adding that it was time for UNISSA to gain a foothold in the regional and world universities ranking system, to prove itself a credible contender among other tertiary institutions.

The establishment of UNISSA was not merely to increase the number of universities in the country, he noted.

“UNISSA was established to offer pure and true Islamic religious teaching. Therefore it is important to make sure that its teachings do not deviate [from the true Islamic teaching].”

Brunei currently has three other universities, with UNISSA being the sultanate’s only Islamic higher education institution.

“Graduates need to be able to master knowledge and channel it towards [national] development. This is a 21st century challenge that we must not neglect,” His Majesty said.

The monarch added that UNISSA must focus on providing quality education and update existing academic programmes.

Students’ must be taught skills that will allow them to adapt to current and future needs, he said. Referring to UNISSA’s current curriculum, the sultan said it is important to make sure that all its programmes are in line with the country’s goals.

“For example, everyone acknowledges the virtues of law, but when it comes to Islamic law, there are those who look at it with distorted views.”

It is UNISSA’s obligation to correct this misleading and outdated perspective, he stressed.

“UNISSA must continue to empower Islamic education and learning. Strengthen your argument in the fight against falsehood,” he said, referring to the prevalence of inaccurate information in the media.

HM the Sultan, in his capacity as chancellor of UNISSA, confers an honourary doctorate in Islamic Finance to HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah during the university’s eighth convocation ceremony on Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Infofoto

“As Bruneians and as members of the UNISSA community, we must not overlook this. This [falsehood] is a poison that must be avoided. Defend the truth in religion, even though many do not like it. As long as it pleases Allah, then that is our choice.”

During the convocation, His Majesty also conferred an honourary doctorate in Islamic finance to His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The honourary degree recognises the crown prince’s contribution to expanding Islamic finance in Brunei, and leading the government’s drive to turn the sultanate into an international Islamic finance hub.