PETALING JAYA - The successful negotiations to bring the Johns Hopkins Medical School to Malaysia is proof of the nation's appeal as a regional education hub, said Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general (private higher education institutions) Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir.
Dr Siti Hamisah, who was privy to details the negotiations between the local investors and Johns Hopkins University (JHU), said that convincing the commercial arm of the university, JH Medicine International, to set up a campus in Malaysia was a big challenge from the start.
"It is not common practice for world renowned universities to set up foreign campuses.
"So you can imagine the difficulty involved in getting them to commit to a medical school and teaching hospital here.
"There were many things to consider such as the feasibility of the move and the nature of affiliation the teaching hospital and school would have with the JHU," she said.
Dr Siti said several factors such as the country's strategic location, willingness to commit on the part of the investors and academic ambition ultimately turned the tide in Malaysia's favour.
"They were impressed by Malaysia's ambitions to become an education hub.
"In their eyes, Malaysia is considered to be among the most advanced nations in the region.
"The willingness to invest was another pull factor and negotiations were done as early as last year by the local partner," she said.
Dr Siti added that the medical school in Malaysia would adopt a three-pronged approach by focusing on academic affairs, research and healthcare, making its Malaysian involvement more significant than that in some other countries.
She said other renowned institutions could follow in the footsteps of JHU with greater promotion of the nation's three education cities in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), Pagoh and Kuala Lumpur.
"The Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia is currently the main draw of the IDR's EduCity and we are encouraged that other big names might come in," she said.
"We are talking about established universities that have existed since the 1800s."