Name: Wan Ahmad Saifuddin
Position: Managing Director
Wan Ahmad Saifuddin has a wealth of experience in the Education, eBusiness, Management Consulting as well as Corporate Transformation sectors, and he has donned various roles from an Entrepreneur, Head of Unit, Project Leader, Senior Management and CEO. He has built a strong reputation in the field of Education, eLearning and Knowledge Management, having set-up an eLearning company for PETRONAS from ground up.
Before he joined EduCity as a Managing Director in 2019, he was the Executive Vice President of Special Projects in Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB), focusing on the Corporate Transformation of the IIB Group of Companies, as well as its Digital Strategy.
Now he leads EduCity, a catalyst development driven by IIB. As a fully integrated education hub, EduCity is expected to be a feeder of talents to support Iskandar Malaysia’s various economic activities whilst grooming future generations of leaders. Partnering with luminaries in education from around the globe, EduCity with its institutes of higher education, R&D centres, student accommodations and recreational and sports facilities is the first of its kind in Asia.
I think EduCity is very different from other education hubs around the world. EduCity exists within the context of Iskandar Puteri, Johor; an effort by Khazanah Nasional and the state government, to develop the area. If you look at any city’s development, education is always one of the pins in the foundation because people will always consider schools and institutions when moving or investing in. These schools and institutions are also the generators of talent and workforce for the region.
Most education hubs would invite universities or institutions over, so the initial investment would be higher. Whereas, what we do is to just invite one of the faculties to come. The first university to actually commit was the Newcastle University. They focused on just bringing their medical faculty here.
Another attractive factor is that is while we invite universities to open, we also provide shared facilities. There’s no need for universities to invest extra on facilities such as sport complexes, student accommodation and more. It’s like a plug and play solution.
What is the most important element in running an education hub?
Our sustainability really comes from the rental of facilities and sale of land. In the grand scheme of things, we have to balance the revenue that we get collectively with the cost of running the area. Our presence has a ripple effect towards the surrounding developments. EduCity is not just a hardware play, or real-estate play. To make a city or a micro city successful, you have to have all sorts of elements such as social experience. We have to ensure that the student experience is good here because the best ambassadors to EduCity are the students themselves.
What are among the facilities provided?
The sports complex itself consists of 3 main facilities which sits on a 21.5 acre site with a total seating of 14,000. We have an outdoor stadium which is accredited by IAAF (6,000 seats), a football pitch worthy of international standards, indoor arena (1,500 seats), as well as an aquatic centre (50m Olympic size pool).
The most unique one is the canopy that covers all three facilities, which are suitable for outdoor events and which acts as another hub of meeting point as well.
The new student hub will be a 24-hour accessible facility which will benefit the students as it will include a whole floor dedicated to the students.
A part of EduCity is. On one hand, we want to maintain a safe and secure environment for the students, so there is limited access for public in certain areas, especially on campuses. This is of course governed by the safety and security of each institution. However, the sports complex is a public area. The public are invited to use the amenities and facilities there.
How does EduCity facilitate students’ current and future needs?
One thing we are increasingly trying to do is that this is the first year we are establishing a cross-institution student representative council. We want students to not only study at their own universities in EduCity but we want them to mix and mingle with students from the other universities here and organise events together. This is an advantage in education where students can pick up soft essential skills in organising and managing things.
In our new student hub, which will be ready by the end of the year, we get students to decide what they want to be included in there such as food, amenities, and more. There will also be a co-working space which will nurture the students to start their own thing or serious businesses. They will be able to learn new experiences and how real life businesses work, as well as mingle with the businesses that would take up space there.
This would also give the students the hands-on opportunity to test out their entrepreneurship skills. For example, we have the Henley School of Business under the University of Reading that has an entrepreneurship component.
What are the CSR activities conducted by EduCity?
We organise CSR activities with the students, hopefully to produce caring communities that gives back. The engineering students have built water filters to keep the water clean and they have even built drones to help farmers map areas. It’s a higher level of CSR by empowering students to apply what they have learned in their faculties and help the community while at it.
What’s your take on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)?
Well, I’m educated as an architect and I think the embodiment of STEAM is actually architecture because half the subjects you do are arts based and the other half are science based. I think, sometimes in this world there are too many specialisations that people don’t venture across disciplines. The approach to STEAM is good. I am fully in support of any cross-discipline initiatives because there are bound to be expectations as such in the real working world. The most important thing in education is honing the capability to keep on learning because you can never stop learning.
This is my 13th job and 5th industry that I have been involved in. That flexibility comes from not being afraid of doing things you’ve never done before and secondly, once you’ve committed to it, you’ve got to learn and pick it up quickly. People worry about the jobs of today and how it’s going to change, but that’s not a problem if you adapt quickly and are brave to try new things.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend time with my family and make the most out of it.