UCSI University recently hosted the nation’s first Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) conference titled RCE Symposium Malaysia 2018.
The event was aimed at bridging academia with sustainable development by incorporating education as a method to achieve some of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which cover various global challenges.
The newly recognised RCE Kuching initiative in UCSI University’s Sarawak campus is proof that the University is taking strides in this direction, that is, by championing the SDGs.
This is the first time a private university in Malaysia is recognised as an RCE by the United Nations University (UNU) – the academic and research arm of the UN.
In the symposium, it was agreed that educational institutions play a pivotal role in raising pertinent issues such as Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11).
UCSI University’s Vice-Chancellor and President Senior Professor Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff said, “Teaching is important but we must also align ourselves through the SDGs to effectively and effusively connect with the community.
“It’s not just about having technical expertise but also about incorporating values and meaning into our lives.
“We must utilise the strengths and expertise in universities to move closer towards working together in a consortium,” he said.
To a question on how universities can align their goals with SDGs in a technologically-inclined world, President of International Association of Universities’ Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, who was one of the speakers at the symposium, explained that pursuing the agenda of SDGs through learning institutions intertwined with science and its advancement.
“RCEs serve to connect the community, education and universities together. Essentially they move the agenda of the SDGs where science is connected to the needs of the community,” said Professor Dzulkifli, who is also a UCSI University Council member.
Dr Zinaida Fadeeva, advisor from the UN Office of Country Representatives, India, who was also present at the event, highlighted the issues and challenges of RCEs in the present day.
To her, the first step in dealing with these issues and challenges is to “build a map which is elegant and ambitious while building analysis of activities already happening”.
“We need to have assessments, that is, to gauge whether the RCE community is impacting local and global practices,” she said.
Meanwhile, UCSI Sarawak’s chief operating officer Mukvinder Sandhu said her RCE team focused on the communities at the rivers south of Kuching, which are part of the Sarawak River (Kiri), to achieve a sustainable environment there.
“The area is strategic because the Sarawak River is not only a transportation hub and a place for recreational activities such as rafting but also where the tagang system is practised, which is a sustainable way of fishing,” she said.
RCE Kuching’s role is primarily in river conservation, sustainable community development and eco-tourism where their vision is framing the SDGs meaningfully into context. Among their strategic partners include Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Education and WWF Malaysia.
Representatives from RCE Penang, RCE Iskandar and RCE Central Semenanjung were also present at the symposium and shared about their respective initiatives.