(Speaker's notes, may differ from delivered version)
Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A warm welcome to you all, and thank you for joining us for this very special day.
Education truly is at the heart of the bilateral relationship between the UK and Malaysia. That is evident in the hundreds of partnerships between UK and Malaysian universities, colleges and schools; and in the number of UK educational institutions with campuses here in Malaysia. The roll-call now includes the University of Nottingham, Newcastle University Medical School, University of Southampton Engineering School, Marlborough College, the University of Reading, Heriot-Watt University, Epsom College, with others to follow. I’m delighted that we are joined today by representatives from the Universities of Nottingham, Reading, Cardiff and Bangor.
But the most obvious, the broadest and most significant aspect of that education relationship, is the nearly half-a-million Malaysians who are alumni of UK universities and colleges. Prime Minister Najib and some 44% of the Malaysian Cabinet studied in Britian. There are currently around 15,000 Malaysian studying in the UK and we await this year’s figures with interest following an 18% increase last year. And here in Malaysia, there are 58,000 individuals studying for a UK tertiary qualification – more than any other country in the world.
Malaysian students also add to the vibrancy and cultural diversity of the UK university community and help to build international links - The Duke of Cambridge remarked during his visit here in 2012: “This is not just important for educational or commercial reasons. When our students share the same curricula, and strive for common qualifications, we are building invaluable links between our younger generations that will continue to enrich and strengthen the relations between our countries for years to come.”
Last year the High Commission launched a UK-Malaysia Alumni Initiative to help us keep in touch with all those alumni. The initiative was launched by our Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire with the support of Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, another UK alumnus.
Working together with the British Graduates Association of Malaysia and the various freestanding alumni networks, we aim to strengthen our strategic engagement with Malaysian UK Alumni, whilst creating and enhancing mutual commercial, diplomatic and cultural opportunities for both countries.
Alumni are a key part of the UK’s ‘soft power’ – their future success, and their (we hope) positive attitude towards the UK and British education help to strengthen the ties between our two countries.
So we are very glad to be able to organise and host this Graduation UK Event. Two years ago, the Foreign Office and the British Council in the ASEAN region established the UK-Southeast Asia Knowledge Partnership, in order to promote the UK as a partner of choice for education, research and innovation across Southeast Asia, and to support enhanced collaboration at multilateral and regional levels. The concept of Graduation UK was developed by the Partnership, following an in-depth study to determine the feasibility of engagement with UK alumni in the region. Malaysia was selected as the pilot country for this event precisely because of all the strong education ties that I’ve referred to.
It has been an enormous pleasure to see the positive response from so many of you, which testifies to the positive memories you have of your time studying in the UK, and to your commitment to maintaining a relationship with your institutions and with Britain.
Graduation is perhaps the most symbolic part of the university experience, and we are delighted to be able to help you share that special moment today, here in Malaysia, with friends and family. I congratulate you all on your educational experience and academic success, and on the success you have all made in your subsequent careers.