Medical school opens branch campus in London

A private medical school in Malaysia, Allianze University College of Medical Sciences or AUCMS, is to expand to Europe with the purchase of a major university site in London.

The 32-hectare park and buildings, which previously housed Middlesex University’s Trent Park campus, attracted international attention when it was acquired by AUCMS for £30 million (US$46.5 million) this year.

It was put up for sale last year after Middlesex University moved all its operations to a single site in Hendon, North London.

The site comes complete with a lake and nine buildings, including student accommodation, dining halls and lecture theatres.

A further £10 million to £20 million is expected to be spent on renovations – a historic protected building, Mansion House, sits on the site. But some facilities need little work, with amenities and equipment already in place.

Around 300 students are expected to be on campus by October.

AUCMS, based in Penang, has five specialist medical schools and around 3,500 students. It has also been expanding into business studies, accounting and hospitality.

While it aims to secure accreditation as a British university in order to be able to enrol British students, for the time being existing AUCMS students from Malaysia will spend time there.

In August, a UK private non-profit institution, the University of Buckingham, became the first private university in the country to be authorised to offer medical degrees. It will be allowed to exceed strict quotas imposed on public universities by the authorities in England on the number of international students who may be enrolled for medical degrees.

For a private university to grant medical degrees in the UK is an uphill struggle. The General Medical Council, or GMC, must still approve the University of Buckingham course which, according to reports from London, is likely to adopt an Australian curriculum.

The UK government has also tightened its system of accrediting overseas institutions wanting to set up in England.

AUCMS has been offering a medical degree in Malaysia, in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and one in conjunction with Indonesia’s Universitas Sumatera Utara. It is planning to build two hospitals in Penang by 2015.

The university has been trying to attract more foreign students to its Malaysian campus, mainly from Indonesia, Thailand and the Middle East.

AUCMS Chair Zainuddin Md Wazir said earlier: “With this campus we hope to expand our educational programmes, not only to our students in Malaysia, but also to international students.

"However, in the initial stages, we will have a credit transfer programme so our students in Malaysia will have opportunities to study here for three to six months in another environment. This will enable them to enjoy a totally different experience and will give them further exposure under the guidance of foreign experts.”

He said the university also has plans to expand in South East Asia – including in Cambodia and Laos – and in Central Asia.

Another private institution, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, was the first Malaysian university to set up a London campus in 2007. Limkokwing has branch campuses in Bali, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, China and Cambodia.