The University of Malaya (UM; Malay: Universiti Malaya) is a public research university located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is the oldest and most esteemed university in Malaysia. The university's name was abbreviated as Malaya during the pre-independence period.
University of Malaya has its roots in Singapore with the establishment of King Edward VII College of Medicine on 28 September 1905. University Malaya was established on 1949 October in Singapore with the merger of the King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College (founded 1929). The growth of the University was very rapid during the first decade of its foundation and this resulted in the setting up of two autonomous Divisions on 15 January 1959, one located in Singapore and the other in Kuala Lumpur. In 1960, the government of the two indicated that the two divisions of the University of Malaya should become autonomous separate national universities, one located in Singapore (later becoming the National University of Singapore) and the other in Kuala Lumpur (retaining the name University of Malaya). Legislation was passed in 1961 and the University of Malaya was established on 1 January 1962.
Today, it has more than 2,500 faculty members. In 2012, UM was granted autonomy status by the Ministry of Higher Education. Presently, the University is divided into 12 faculties, 2 academies and 3 Centres, namely: Faculty of Law, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Built Environment, Faculty of Economics and Administration, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, Academy of Malay Studies, Academy of Islamic Studies, Cultural Centre, Sports Centre and Centre for Foundation Studies (University of Malaya).
In 2015, the QS World University Rankings has ranked UM at the 146th place in the world. Also in the same year, the university is ranked 29th place in the QS Asian University Rankings, 3rd in Southeast Asia and is the highest ranked learning institution in Malaysia.
The establishment of the university began with the issue of shortage of medical assistants in Singapore and Penang during the late 1890s. The problem was addressed in a report published by the Education Commission in April 1902. In the report, it was stated that the Commission was in favour of establishing a medical school to fulfil the demand for medical assistants in government hospitals. However, such view was not in favour among the European community.
Legislation was passed by the Straits Legislative Council in June 1905 under Ordinance No. XV 1905. The school opened on 3 July 1905 and began functioning in September. On 28 September 1905, Sir John officiated the school under the name ‘The Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School.’
The school was located in the old Female Lunatic Asylum near the Singapore General Hospital at Sepoy Lines off New Bridge Road, where four of the asylum buildings were converted into a medical school. In 1907, a lecture hall and laboratory were added. There were no library and room to keep pathological specimens.
In 1905, there were 17 medical students, four students attending the hospital assistant course. Five years later, the enrolments increased to 90 medical students and 30 trainee hospital assistants. The school had only one permanent staff which was the Principal, the teaching staff were employed on a part-time basis. The Principal was Dr Gerald Dudley Freer, who previously served as Senior Colonial Surgeon Resident of Penang.
The School Council wanted to gain recognition of its Diploma by the General Council of Medical Education in the United Kingdom to ensure that the Licentiate of Medicine and Surgery Diploma offered by the school would gain worldwide recognition. In 1916, the GCME recognised the Licentiate of Medicine and Surgery Diploma offered by the school. The licentiates were placed on the General Council’s Colonial List of the British Medical Register and were entitled to practise anywhere within the British Empire.
In 1910, Dr Robert Donald Keith became the second Principal of the School. The first two years of the five-year course were devoted to pure science studies. Physics, biology and chemistry were taught in the first year, followed by physiology and elementary anatomy in the second year. The remaining three years were attachment to clinical clerkships in medicine, surgery and midwifery, which covered pathology, hygiene and medical jurisprudence. Materia Medica was integrated into the fourth year, where practical pharmacy was taught.
Students were posted to several hospitals, initially at the Singapore General Hospital. From 1908 onwards, attachments were made to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (for medicine and surgery) and Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital (for midwifery).
In 1912, the medical school received an endowment of $120,000 from the King Edward VII Memorial Fund, started by Dr Lim Boon Keng. Subsequently, on 18 November 1913, the name of the school was changed to the King Edward VII School of Medicine.
In the first batch of 16 students of 1905, only seven made to the final and graduated in May 1910 while the remaining six students graduated in four months later and others resigned from the school. In 1919, the drop-out rate had risen to 35%, while in 1939 the number of students failed in their final examinations stood at 44%.
At this time a hostel was built to accommodate 72 male students from the Federated Malay States.
In 1921, the school was elevated in status to college. Between 1920 and 1930, the college went through a series of transformations, by replacing the old teaching staff with a younger generation of professionals and also nine new Chairs were created, the first in Anatomy in 1920, followed by Medicine, Surgery, and Midwifery & Gynaecology in 1922 and Clinical Surgery, Bacteriology, Biology, Bio-Chemistry, and Dental Surgery in 1926. And the tenth Chair for Pathology was created in 1935.
In 1923, the college’s new building at Outram Road was commenced. It was completed in November 1925 and officially opened by Sir Laurence Guillemard in February 1926. During the opening ceremony, the College conferred Honorary Diplomas on Sir David James Galloway, Dr Malcolm Watson and Dr Lim Boon Keng.
In 1929, Dr George V. Allen the new principal took the helm, succeeding his predecessor Dr MacAlister.
The establishment of Raffles College was a brainchild of Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Robert Morison. Sir Stamford, the founding father of Singapore, had knowledge of the Malay language and culture, while Morison was a distinguished sinologist missionary. Both men wanted to establish a centre dedicating to the study of Malays and Chinese at tertiary level.
On 5 June 1823, a site designated for an education institution had its foundation stone laid by Sir Stamford. Soon after that, Raffles left for England and Morrison left for China, thus the establishment of the school never happened. The school building was revived as an English school named the Raffles Institution.
In 1918, Sir William George Maxwell, the Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements chaired the Maxwell Committee to review the scheme to commemorate the centenary of the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford. The committee members were Roland Braddell, A.W. Still, Seah Ling Seah, Dr Lim Boon Keng, Mohammed Yusoff bin Mohammed, N.V. Samy, and Mannesseh Meyer. The working committee headed by H.W. Firmstone recommended the establishment of a college for tertiary education to commemorate the centenary founding of Singapore. On 12 July 1919, the Government decided to undertake the construction of the building with the cost not more than $1,000,000 and would contribute $50,000 as annual recurrent expenditure as soon as the Centenary Committee had collected $2,000,000 for the Raffles College Endowment Fund. On 31 August 1920, the Committee had achieved the figure, amounting to $2,391,040. On 31 May 1920, Richard Olaf Winstedt was appointed as the Acting Principal of Raffles College. The course offered was a three-year basis. The establishment of the school was seen far more systematic compared to the King Edward VII Medical College. The school was situated at a site called the Economic Gardens and was designed by Cyril Farey and Graham Dawbarn. And the construction took place in 1926.
On 22 July 1929, Raffles College was established to promote arts and social sciences at tertiary level for Malayans. The courses offered were divided into Art and Science streams. Four years later, the College Council proposed changes in the curriculum, so that the Diploma could be furthered to a Degree through external examinations in collaboration with universities in England.
In 1937, Sir Shenton Thomas declared the college would have a full-time Principal. The College had its fourth Principal, Alexander Keir, succeeding Frederick Joseph Morten. By 1939 war was waged in Europe, and had put a halt to the development of the college. The war in Europe came to Asia and Singapore was invaded by the Japanese in February 1942.
After the war, the school was reopened and W.E. Dyer was Principal. The future of Raffles College was uncertain, until 1948 when Dr George V. Allen (later Sir) who was formerly the Principal of King Edward VII Medical College posted as the last Principal of Raffles College. The college was amalgamated with the former, for the making of a university for the Malayans.
In 1938 the government appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Sir William H. McLean to study the higher education potential and progress in Malaya. The Commission concluded that Malaya was not ready to have a university, and that a university college would be more suitable. In 1939, the Higher Education in the British Colonies appointed a Commission led by Justice Asquith to further study the matter. The Commission shared the same opinion as the former McLean Commission.
In 1946, Dr Raymond Priestley, the Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University was invited by the British Malaya Government to continue the review of setting up a University for Malaya. The Priestly Commission shared the same opinion as the McLean Commission, which was to form a university college first.
In 1947, the Secretary of State for the Colonies appointed Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders to chair a commission to study the development of tertiary education in Malaya. Initially, the Carr-Saunders Commission shared the same opinion as the McLean Commission. However, after the report was completed (but not yet summited to the Secretary of State), Sir Alexander listened to the thoughts of the Alumni Association of the King Edward VII College and also the Medical College Students Union. He was impressed with the ideas of the President of the Students Union, Dr K. Shamugaratnam. In 1948, the Carr-Saunders Commission supported the establishment of a university for the Malayans.
As a result, a university named the University of Malaya was chartered under the Carr-Saunders Commission in 1949. The formation of the University of Malaya on 8 October 1949 in Singapore was under the merger of King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College, where the latters were established in 1905 and 1929, respectively.
In Carr-Saunders Commission’s report in 1949, it was stated that "the university shall act as a single medium of mingle for enhancing the understanding among the multi-ethnics and religions in the back than Malaya. The University too should be modelled after the tertiary educations in the United Kingdom of Great Britain in term of academic system and administration structure".
The Carr-Saunders Commission postulates “the principle that all children who show the necessary capacity should enjoy an equal chance of reaching the University; and, in particular, that no able child should be handicapped in climbing the educational ladder by race, religion, rural domicile, or lack of means.”
In 1959, the university was divided into two autonomous campuses, one in Singapore and the other in Kuala Lumpur. In 1961, the governments of Malaysia and Singapore passed the legislation to make the university a national university. As a result of such desire, on 1 January 1962 the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur was permanently located on a 309 hectare land and remained with the name. However, the campus in Singapore became the University of Singapore (today the National University of Singapore).
On 16 June 1962, the university celebrated the installation of its first Chancellor, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister. The first Vice-Chancellor was former Dean, Sir Alexander Oppenheim, the world-renowned mathematician who formulated the Oppenheim conjecture in 1929. When Oppenheim left in 1965 with no successor in sight, Rayson Huang who later went on to become the first Asian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, was asked to take over as the Acting Vice-Chancellor. He served in that capacity for 12 months but declined reappointment to return to academic pursuits.
Chin Fung Kee, an authority in geotechnical engineering, replaced Huang as Acting Vice-Chancellor until the university filling the position in 1967 by the appointment of James H.E. Griffiths. A distinguished physicist and a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, Griffiths was also the former head of Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University and one of the discoverers of ferromagnetic resonance.
The University of Malaya’s Coat of Arms was designed under a Council established in 1961,chaired by Tan Sri Y.C. Foo. The members of the committee involved in the design were the Chairman of the Council, Y.C. Foo, Professor A. Oppenheim (the Vice-Chancellor) and Professor Ungku Aziz (later Regius Professor). The Coat of Arms was officially chartered in April 1962 by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the university’s first Chancellor.
The Coat of Arms is divided into two parts, namely the Chief (upper part) and the Base (the remainder). The Chief is a bundle of seventeen strips of the leaves of Borassus flabellifer or the Palmrya palm. These strips were used as printed material for ancient books by the Malays, long before paper was invented. On the centre of these seventeen strips is the university’s motto ‘Ilmu Puncha Kemajuan’. The motto consists of ‘Ilmu’ derived from Arabic, ‘Puncha’ from Sanskrit, and ‘Kemajuan’ from Malay. These words mean knowledge is the source of progress.
In the centre of the emblem is a hibiscus of Rosa-Sinensis species encircled by three Malayan tigers. The tigers symbolise the three main races in Malaysia (Malays, Chinese and Indians), who work hand-in-hand to protect the nation and uphold the duty to serve the country.
University of Malaya has been ranked consistently among top 500 universities in the world according to reputed ranking publisher such as QS, ARWU, US News & World Report in the last few years. In 2015 it has been ranked 54th in Engineering & Technology in QS world ranking.U.S. News & World Report ranked University of Malaya 57th best university in the world in engineering by its subject ranking.
University of Malaya has produced many notable alumni, including two Prime Ministers of Malaysia that have contributed significantly towards the development of Malaysia and abroad.Syed Amin Aljeffri
Amani Williams Hunt Abdullah
Azalina Othman Said
Abdul Khalid Ibrahim
Mohamed Khaled Nordin
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Mohd Khalil Yaakob
Lee Hong Susan Lim
Lim Hock Siew
Mohd Sidek Hassan
Ong Pang Boon
S. R. Nathan
Mohd Shafei Abdullah
Zeti Akhtar Aziz
Nga Kor Ming
Ngeh Koo Ham
Satwant Singh Dhaliwal
Ahmad Shabery Cheek
Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Bryan Nickson Lomas
Abdul Gani Patail
Md Hashim bin Hussein
Chuah Hean Teik
Azmi Mohd Ali
Jamil Khir Baharom