BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah called on authorities to expedite the construction of a new campus for Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), saying the project would spur the development of the once-remote Temburong district.

During an unscheduled visit to the university on Monday, the monarch said with the opening of the Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge — a 26km cross-sea link connecting the capital with Temburong — there should be no reason to delay construction.

“This project is very significant not only for Temburong but for Brunei Darussalam as well, as a symbol of how Islam is nurtured in this country,” he said.

“I do not want to hear any more excuses on why this project cannot be expedited.”

His Majesty said preparations should include “state-of-the-art university management and administration, empowerment of existing faculties, enhance the overall performance and quality of the academic staff, without neglecting the students’ accomplishments”.

“What is important here is that UNISSA must prepare for a new era,” he said.

UNISSA currently houses its 1,400 students in a temporary facility in Gadong, which has been used since the university was established in 2007.

The sultan speaks with UNISSA students during a visit on Oct 12, 2020. Photo: Infofoto

The sultan added that the Islamic university should consider creating a new agriculture faculty, given its future location in the heart of Brunei’s green district.

“It would be quite fitting for the university to have a new faculty on agriculture, since the sciences of agriculture, animal husbandry and the like are also part of Islamic teachings.

“Although we may not have a higher education institution for agriculture, having our own agricultural faculty is quite sufficient to meet the requirements,” he said.

The construction of a permanent campus for UNISSA was first mooted back in 2013, and the project was allocated a $100 million budget under the 11th National Development Plan.

The site for the new campus will be located on a 310-hectare plot in Mukim Labu to accommodate a growing student body as well as new faculties and programmes.

The Islamic university records a 10 to 20 percent increase in student enrollment annually, according to a 2018 report.

The figure also reflects a rising number of international students, especially through inter-university student exchange programmes.