Education shapes the industry

Education shapes the industry

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In all likelihood, the person you come across in Malaysia with qualifications in geospatial sciences, would be a pass-out of Universiti Tecknologi Malaysia (UTM) or had at one time or the other been attached with itProf Mohd Ibrahim Seeni Mohd
Prof Mohd Ibrahim Seeni Mohd
Dean, Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Engineering, UTM, Malaysia

In all likelihood, the person you come across in Malaysia with qualifications in geospatial sciences, would be a pass-out of Universiti Tecknologi Malaysia (UTM) or had at one time or the other been attached with it; more specifically the Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Engineering. The soft-spoken Dean of the Faculty, Prof Mohd Ibrahim Seeni Mohd, a man of Remote Sensing expresses genuine optimism over the growing market of geo-spatial sciences while he talks with GIS Development : –

Q. Tell us something about the faculty, its inception and the courses?

The Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Engineering (formerly known as the Faculty of Surveying in 1972) started offering courses in Bachelor of Surveying (Land), Bachelor of Surveying (Property Management), Diploma in Land Surveying and Diploma in Valuation in Kuala Lumpur. The faculty shifted to Johor Bahru campus in 1985. Realising the growth of technology that were emerging at that time such as Remote Sensing, GIS and GPS, academic staff were sent for further studies which led to the introduction of postgraduate programmes and research activities in these fields.

The Bachelor degree courses that we are offering since 1996 are as follows:

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Geomatics),
  • Bachelor of Science (Remote Sensing),
  • Bachelor of Science (Geoinformatics),
  • Bachelor of Science (Property Management), and
  • Bachelor of Science (Land Administration and Development).

The duration of study for the above courses is four years. At present, we have about 950 students in the Bachelor degree programmes and 320 students pursuing the Master and PhD courses. The staff strength is 93 out of which 30 staff have PhD degree and another 23 are pursuing their PhD degree.

Q. What are the career prospects after completing the education in geomatics, remote sensing and GIS courses?

The number of students who enroll into our programmes are in-line with the requirements of the job market. Graduates in Geomatics have no problems in getting jobs since this course is an established professional course and has been offered for the past 35 years. However, Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics courses are fairly new and the market has only started to grow over the last 15 years.

As far as the trend goes, most of the graduates do not face much difficulty in getting jobs in various government agencies, local authorities and private sectors since these sectors have started to implement projects that utilize remote sensing and GIS related technologies.

Q. Is it not premature to start remote sensing and GIS courses when the market is yet to take shape?

No. Remote sensing and GIS courses were offered after taking into account the man power requirements in these fields. I believe education in these areas shapes the industry. Introducing education in new technologies gives a push in the market. Those graduating in these courses introduce new ways of decision making and planning which may otherwise not be known to those heading the organizations. This is the way improvements can be made to make the organization more effective and efficient.

Q. How do you see the status of remote sensing and GIS education in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, UTM is the only university that offers B.Sc. programmes in remote sensing and Geoinformatics. In other universities, remote sensing and GIS are offered as subjects in their Bachelor and Diploma programmes. For postgraduate programmes, five universities offer M.Sc. and PhD programmes in these fields.

I think the present state of education is satisfactory. As far as UTM is concerned, we have always tried to keep ourselves abreast with the latest developments. Majority of our staff are trained overseas. Our standards and quality match with those of western countries. After every five years, we revise our curriculum and introduce new things that are required. We have advisors from well-known universities who assess the performance of various courses. Professors from foreign institutions come on regular basis to teach and spend time with the staff. UTM is also now promoting employment of suitable academicians from overseas.

Q. What policy decision would you like to suggest that may give impetus to remote sensing and GIS education in Malaysia?

In order to operationalize remote sensing and GIS technologies successfully in various agencies, we need well trained graduates who are capable in implementing these technologies in the related fields. Agencies that use these technologies should employ these graduates by appointing them into suitable posts.

In order to attract more students to pursue degree programmes in these fields, the career path for these graduates should be established by creating posts/ schemes especially in the government sector to be filled by these graduates.