Every year, several thousands of OUM learners don gowns and mortar boards to participate in the convocation ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. For many of them, it is an unforgettable experience – a moment of celebration with families and loved ones. It is also an opportunity to meet up with fellow learners, lecturers and support staff. Among them are international graduates who travel thousands of kilometres to join the special occasion, coming from as far as Bahrain, Yemen and Somalia as well as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

This year’s convocation saw the largest number of international graduates and delegates attending the event – more than 150 of them. For some, it was their first time in Malaysia. The convocation reinforced the graduates’ sense of belonging and personal connection to the University. The graduates symbolised OUM’s success in helping their countries to develop their human capital for social and economic growth.

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SIMAD University, Somalia, Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr Amina Omar Mohamud, said the university’s collaboration with OUM has given Somali youths and working people much-needed access to education for the growth of their workforce and nation. More than two decades of civil war had rendered many Somali institutions dysfunctional and a great number of Somali students had to go abroad for their studies or as refugees. Now that relative peace has returned to Somalia, there are greater opportunities for youths to acquire tertiary education as more universities are resuming operations.

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CEO of the International Institute of Health Sciences (IIHS) in Sri Lanka, Dr Kithsiri Edirisinghe

“We have a long history of civil war but the current leaders are determined to rebuild the country. Through the collaboration with OUM, Somali youths now have more opportunities to pursue higher education than before,” said Dr Amina.

She hoped that with better access to higher education, her country would be able to raise the capability and knowledge of the people in order to bring the country to the next level.

CEO of the International Institute of Health Sciences (IIHS) in Sri Lanka, Dr Kithsiri Edirisinghe, believes that collaboration with OUM has been life-changing for many of its nursing graduates who enrolled in OUM’s programmes.

“Nurses in Sri Lanka used to face problems in upgrading their qualifications as they could not find reputable institutions that met their learning needs. OUM’s flexible learning approach has enabled our nurses to continue studying without having to leave their jobs. This is a plus point that attracts many nurses to take up the bachelor and master programmes offered by OUM,” Dr Edirisinghe said.

Before establishing the collaboration with OUM in 2011, there were about 34,000 Government nurses who were stuck in their profession with little prospects for career development and enhancement. With professional qualifications, they could progress in their careers or take up nursing positions abroad.

Deputy Director-General of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, Dr Amal Harsha De Silva, said career prospects for nurses with higher qualifications are bright with many of them enjoying huge salary jumps, particularly if they work abroad. “The IIHS-OUM collaboration has been hugely successful partly because the degrees are internationally recognised. This makes OUM nursing graduates very marketable and it is not surprising to see many of them working abroad,” he added.

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Dr De Silva said the Sri Lanka Government has initiated a plan to “export” its nurses abroad, indirectly contributing to the national economy through the money that they send home.

According to Dr Edirisinghe, IIHS is looking at expanding its scope of collaboration to include the upgrading of teachers’ qualifications by leveraging on OUM’s expertise. “We plan to upgrade the qualifications of over 120,000 secondary school teachers in Sri Lanka and we are confident that this can be done with the help of OUM,” he said.

He views OUM as a credible partner in helping Sri Lanka to develop its human capital and achieve the aspirations set by the Sri Lankan government.

The students getting their graduation briefing the day before their graduation.

The students getting their graduation briefing the day before their graduation.