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The project, EduCity@Iskandar, is part of the Iskandar Malaysia development zone, a large government undertaking announced in 2006 to increase investment in the country. The entire development zone is scheduled to be completed in 2025 and will include a large manufacturing area, new financial and civic districts, a medical village, amusement parks and residential housing.
EduCity is spread over 123 hectares, or 305 acres. It will be the base for at least seven institutions of higher learning. The purpose of EduCity is to offer world-class universities. The plan includes a sports complex with a stadium, as well as an international students village that will offer housing to 4,000 students. The entire development zone covers about 222,000 hectares.
For now, the new education hub is modest, with only a few buildings almost finished for the University of Newcastle Medicine Malaysia. But several other institutions have committed to opening campuses, and Iskandar Investment, the government-controlled developer of the whole Iskandar project, is seeking more international universities.
Khairil Anwar Ahmad, the chief executive of Education@Iskandar, which is part of Iskandar Investment, said he planned to soon announce the signing of a deal with a “prominent U.K. university for an engineering school.”
He said Iskandar Investment has also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with an American film school with a view toward setting up a partnership with a local private university and is also in negotiation with an Australian hospitality school. “Hopefully a deal should be announced next year,” Mr. Khairil said this month while showing foreign journalists around the construction sites.
The projects already scheduled include the University of Newcastle Medicine Malaysia, to be completed next September; a campus for the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology, set to open in 2012; and a campus for the Management Development Institute of Singapore, which will open in 2013.
The Malaysian government started the Iskandar development with the hope of attracting 335 billion ringgit, or $106 billion, of investment to the area over two decades. Once completed, the project could be three times the size of Singapore.
N. Parameswaran, chief executive of Iskandar Investment Singapore, which seeks support from local investors, said investments in the Iskandar Malaysia zone have reached 63.77 billion ringgit. Mr. Khairil estimated that 500 million ringgit of these investments were for EduCity.
Mr. Khairil said the universities setting up a campus there would act as “feeders” into the various businesses being developed in Iskandar Malaysia. For example, students who graduate from the film school could find work in the nearby Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studio, scheduled to open by early 2013. Some students from the hospitality school could find jobs in the hotels planned in the area of the Legoland Malaysia Theme Park, expected to open next September.
The medical facilities at the Newcastle University campus are nearly complete, and the university plans to start moving in next May, the provost, Professor Reg Jordan, said in an e-mail.
NUMed Malaysia recruited over 40 students in September, adding to its existing student body of 24 from its first enrollment in 2009. The current students will complete their first two years’ of the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programs in Newcastle, England, but will move to Malaysia to complete the remaining three years. Newcastle has plans to expand its annual intake to 1,000 students by 2017, Mr. Jordan said.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology, which will offer degrees in marine transport, shipping, seafaring, maritime and logistics management, will be able to serve 2,500 students a year.
Other international schools considering opening in Iskandar include Raffles Education, a large private education group with schools around the Asia-Pacific region that is conducting a feasibility study with a view to offer undergraduate programs in business, technology, arts and design, health science, education, and social science specializations.
“If Raffles comes in, they will take the largest plot in EduCity — 65 acres,” Mr. Khairil said.
In addition, Marlborough College Malaysia, an international boarding school with ties to the school in Britain of the same name, will also be opened in Iskandar Malaysia by 2012. It will be in a location not far from EduCity.
“We had originally planned for EduCity to host 12,000 students when it’s completed,” Mr. Khairil said. “But judging by the response, I think we will end up with 16,000 students.”