BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) announced Wednesday that it will be shortening its undergraduate degree programmes to three years, as part of efforts to make its graduates more “agile and competitive”.

UTB said its internal research showed that four-year programmes were less attractive to prospective students compared to three-year programmes offered by comparable universities in the UK, Australia and other countries. 

“The restructuring of our academic programmes would align us with other universities in the world and make collaboration with them easier,” said Professor Dr. Hjh Zohrah Hj Sulaiman, vice-chancellor of UTB.

“The shorter duration of study will also provide students early entry into the job market, giving them an edge over students in four-year programmes.”

The vice-chancellor added that shorter courses would make the university more attractive to prospective students — both local and international — and would be a competitive strategy to help boost enrollment to UTB.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing a lot of uncertainty, more local students will not be able to study abroad, so we want to present the best possible options to them.”

Among 569 respondents polled for a UTB survey — comprising prospective students, industry professionals and members of the public — an overwhelming 79 percent said they would prefer three-year degrees over four-year programmes.

“It would shorten the time required for academic study and produce more professionals for industries where there is a shortage of skilled workers, such as ICT,” said Professor Dr Zohrah. 

“Our objective is to provide our students with shorter courses that are relevant, agile and more fitting to the work in relevant industries. We want to ensure that the skills and knowledge learnt here are still relevant after three years, and not quickly forgotten.”

UTB graduates waiting to receive their diplomas during a convocation ceremony. Photo: Infofoto

Which programmes will be affected?

For the 2021/2022 intake, the duration of study will be reduced to three years for the following programmes:

  • All Bachelor of Business (Hons) degree programmes at the School of Business.
  • All Bachelor of Sciences (Hons) degree programmes at the School of Computing and Informatics; School of Applied Science and Mathematics; and the School of Design.

The duration of study will also be reduced to three years for the current cohort of BSc (Hons) Architecture students from the 2018/2019, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 intakes.

UTB introduces new degrees in fashion design, agrotechnology

The university will also be offering six new programmes in 2021: BSc (Hons) in Fashion Design and Technology; BSc (Hons) in Agrotechnology; BSc (Hons) in Mathematical Finance; BSc (Hons) in Communication; and both full-time and part-time study for MSc in Communication (by coursework).

As the first local higher education institute to offer fashion design, prospective students would be “pioneers” in Brunei’s budding fashion industry, said assistant professor Dr Ahmad Syamaizar Haji Ahmad Sabli, dean of the School of Design.

“This course is a pathway for them to become entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.

“Globally, the fashion industry is valued at US$3 trillion. This programme will directly support the creative industry in Brunei and has the potential to expand regionally and globally.”

Dr Ahmad Syamaizar said future students have shown keen interest in the course with over 50 percent of survey respondents saying they would be interested in enrolling in the programme.

UTB established the School of Design in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of UTB

In another first for Brunei, UTB will be offering an undergraduate degree in agrotechnology, with a view to creating more local experts for the sultanate’s emerging agriculture sector.

Dean of the School of Applied Sciences and Mathematics, Dr Namasivayam Navaranjan, said the growth of agribusiness is expected to be “significant” in the coming years.

When asked how UTB’s degree will be different from agricultural programmes offered at vocational schools, the dean said the course will provide students with more understanding of the impact of global and local policy on the agricultural economy, in addition to providing students with practical experience and field work.

“An undergraduate programme in agricultural technology is currently not locally available to provide graduates to the growing manpower demands in the sector.

“Our agrotechnology programme provides the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge in agribusiness, as well as in traditional and modern technology of sustainable agriculture.” 

Agriculture is an emerging industry in Brunei with revenue reaching $436 million in 2018. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The School of Applied Sciences and Mathematics will also be introducing a new undergraduate degree in mathematical finance, where students will learn mathematical and statistical techniques to analyse financial data.

“The financial sector has become more skill-intensive than the rest of the economy,” said Dr Namasivayam. “Employability in the modern financial industry requires technical skills to analyse financial data and build mathematical models.” 

He added that graduates will be qualified to start careers as financial analysts, research associates, quantitative traders, actuaries, and they will possess a competitive set of skills for jobs where quantitative analysis and data-handling is vital.

Singapore’s Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean speaks with UTB students during his visit on Oct 3, 2019. Photo: Courtesy of UTB

The university’s Centre for Communication, Teaching and Learning (CCTL) will also be expanding its courses to include a BSc in Communication and a MSc in Communication (by coursework). 

The undergraduate programme aims to develop students’ communicative ability through verbal and non-verbal outlets, while exposing them to the current communicative theories and practices, said Dr Norihan Abu Hassan, dean of CCTL. 

The masters programme focuses on the development of critical thinking and equips graduates with a higher level of professional knowledge, she added.

“These courses are intended for those who want to be skilled writers or speakers and exceptional communicators.

“The emphasis would be on messaging, branding strategies, media production, strategy and communication, effective write ups and critical analysis of issues.”

Dr Norihan said the university decided to introduce the communication programme after feedback from stakeholders in public relations and corporate communications who revealed that there was a very small pool of people with the right aptitude and skill set for a career in professional communications. 

“As demands for communication capability rises in many sectors, it is important that we have quality graduates in this field,” the dean said.

Graduates could work in a wide variety of careers, ranging from media and public relations to corporate management, advertising and human resources.