Minister launches 'Pearl' building at ITB
Bandar Seri Begawan - Significant steps are currently being made on the educational front following an announcement made by one of Brunei Darussalam's university yesterday as it makes its way towards providing even better education for the country's people.
During the launch of the 'Pearl' building, Institut Teknologi Brunei's (ITB) latest B$1,581,279 instalment situated on its campus, an event attended by Minister of Education Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of ITB, Dr Hjh Naemah binti Hj Basir said that the university "will, for the first time, offer a fully local four-year degree programme" in Chemical Engineering as of August next year, subsequently replacing the current arrangement that sees students attending the University of New South Wales (UNSW) for their third and fourth years under an agreement signed between the two academic institutions.
This initial move, she explained in her welcoming note, was made possible through the support provided to them, among them being the commissioning of the new Petroleum and Chemical Engineering (PCE) building that was co-funded by Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), and Shell Eastern Petroleum and Upstream International Asia as well as investments offered by the Ministry of Education for another facility that is currently under construction.
"The new building will provide the necessary infrastructure and space required as the PCE programmes develop over the next eight years," she said.
"ITB in its role as an agile organisation has applied the blue ocean management strategy to identify and target three main indicators in which the programme area will develop, which are teaching, research and social engagement."
Elaborating further, Programme Leader for the PCE programmes under the Faculty of Engineering, Associate Professor Dr David Hassell, explained that this positive change will enable the oil and gas as well as downstream industries the opportunity to recruit locals who are of high calibre as ITB's Chemical Engineering Programme is aiming to reach international recognition as early as 2018.
"It is the hope that before 2020 we can get the chemical engineering course accredited by the Institute of Chemical Engineering from the United Kingdom to ensure the standard of the degree course and to get people confident in that we are providing good education," he said.
This process, he further explained, will first require graduates who have studied at ITB for the entire programme duration and "the earliest we can do this is by 2018," following the first graduates from the fully local chemical engineering degree programme in 2017.
"The very fact is that an opportunity like this does not come along very often and it is very rare for a university to start up a new degree programme, to develop the infrastructure and to be able to do that is very exciting" but the end result, he said, "would be a lot more gratifying."
Realistically, "there are obstacles to overcome in terms of staffing, but there is no reason that ITB cannot successfully train enough high quality chemical engineering staff to teach the full four years."
For their Petroleum Engineering Course, the twinning programme with UNSW will still continue due to challenges in recruiting staff familiar with the course literature but optimism is still running high especially with the backing that ITB has been receiving from industry players.
Sharing that BSP and Brunei LNG (BLNG) have been actively participating in the progress of ITB's programmes, including the providing of technical expertise and curriculum development, he said that the funding provided by BSP has given staff "peace of mind almost knowing that you have the finances available.
"The fact that they show an interest increases the morale of staff and students," and in the long-term, it is hoped that such support can be extended to aid in the field of research.
Despite the challenges that come with a demanding programme, Dr Hassell said that the number of students who have enrolled into the PCE course in ITB has increased from 25 students last year to a total of 42, attributed to increased interest and MoE's strengthening confidence in the university's academic prowess in this particular field.
In recognition of BSP's encouragement, the new building, meanwhile, has been named 'The Pearl,' a name chosen following a competition held for students.
"Acknowledging BSP and its contribution, a pearl is something of much value which is sometimes found in a shell in nature. This building represents BSP's value added to ITB through their continuing support for its engineering programmes and we feel that the name accurately captures this," said Dr Hajah Naemah.
"It is envisaged that this new building," a double story edifice that accommodates two classrooms, a computer laboratory, separate PCE laboratories and other amenities constructed within eight months, "will act as a focal point for local external stakeholder participation with PCR through various initiatives" that will target school children, adults and government partners as a means to provide Brunei's society with knowledge and expertise.
The future will see the building as a focal point for multidisciplinary research within PCE and as the oil and gas sector plays an "important role in securing longterm financial security," ITB expects "PCE to take a leading role in developing new technologies to ensure that this security can be maintained".
Other additions in ITB's portfolio include the recently introduced Higher Diploma in Process Engineering "designed to provide suitable qualified graduates for various positions within the oil and gas industry" whose first intake will graduate in 2015.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin