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Malaysia’s Senior Fellows Network: connecting educators, cultivating excellence

01 Mar 2024 | Dr Jaya Kumar Karunagharan Dr Jaya Kumar Karunagharan reflects on the newly established Malaysia Senior Fellows Network, its achievements so far and its potential moving forward.

Establishing the Malaysia Senior Fellows Network (SFN) together with Advance HE has provided opportunities to formulate how Senior Fellows in Malaysia could further influence and impact their higher education institutions (HEIs), to collaborate in building a network of practitioners determined to achieve excellence in teaching and learning, and to celebrate best practices across the education sector within the region.  

The SFN is the first of its kind in Malaysia and the idea was welcomed with much enthusiasm by existing and aspiring Senior Fellows across the country. The response was clear that having a community of practice consisting of senior colleagues could be a way to contribute to the progress of making Malaysia’s higher education sector highly reputable and of excellent quality. 

The SFN was launched in Sunway University on 17 July 2023 following fruitful preliminary discussions between academics in Malaysian HEIs and Advance HE, and after the setting up of the Senior Fellows Working Group (SFWG). The SFWG, which is tasked with overseeing the organising of SFN related activities, also met for the first time on that day. 

Members of the Senior Fellows Network working group.
Members of the Senior Fellows Network working group are: Back row, from left to right: Zhiyuan Chen, Head of School of Computer Science (Associate Professor) University of Nottingham; Carrie Ho, Senior Lecturer, Programme Coordinator (Civil & Construction Engineering) Curtin University; Caroline Yap Yu Li, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Sunway Business School Sunway University; Arual Dewi P Arunasalam, Assistant Professor, Edinburgh Business School Head of Psychology University of Reading; Joanna Matthan, Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Education Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia. Front row from left to right are: Kay Hack, Advance HE, Jaya Kumar Karunagharan, Director of Nottingham Recognition Scheme (UNM), Head of Foundation in Science (Assistant Professor) University of Nottingham and working group Deputy Chair; Annyza Tumar, Head of Academic Enhancement Division Sunway University and working group Chair, and Dan Sheratte, Advance HE.

Establishing a good foundation 

The SFWG was formed to continue building a strong base from the solid groundwork that preceded the launch of the SFN. Some important questions were asked and answered at the inception regarding the purpose, vision and mission of the Malaysian SFN. At its core, the SFN provides a collaborative forum for sharing intelligence, interest, experience and knowledge to address the Malaysian HEI sector challenges and priorities as well as enhance sector, institutional and individual performance. The role of the SFN, however, is not limited to information dissemination.  

The vision of the Malaysian SFN is to be a catalyst for globally-recognised educational excellence, fostering a culture of collaboration, continuous learning and problem-solving that leads to transformational advancements in higher education. The mission is to cultivate excellence in higher education practices by: 

  1. Empowering educators through professional developments, mentorship and resources that promote growth and innovation. 
  2. Building a vibrant, supportive community that encourages collaboration, sharing of best practices and networking among educators. 
  3. Advocating for educational equity and inclusivity, ensuring that every student has access to high-quality learning and teaching.
  4. Researching and implementing evidence-based teaching strategies and technologies to enhance student outcomes. 
  5. Nurturing a culture of reflection and adaptability to address the evolving challenges and opportunities in education. 

Organising a hybrid forum 

With the foundation being laid and goals set, the Malaysian SFN focused on organising its inaugural event, a hybrid forum, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia on 10 November 2023, bringing together distinguished educators from Malaysia and Singapore. The event served as a platform to discuss a shared commitment to advancing educational practices with a focus on “Elevating Education – Strategies for Impactful Influence.” A distinguished group of panel members were brought together to discuss how to grow influence as educators and Senior Fellows, as well as how to make a greater impact in HEIs.  

At the forum, Daniel Sheratte, International Partnerships Manager at Advance HE, set the tone by delving into the benefits of Senior Fellowship and inspiring Senior Fellows to consider next steps towards impacting their HEIs.  

Dr Samuel Adeyinka-Ojo from Curtin University Malaysia then provided examples of some specific areas that Senior Fellows can impact within their HEIs. This was followed by two panel members, Dr Joanna Matthan (Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia) and Dr Steven Hoo (Heriot-Watt University Malaysia), sharing their experience of the UK's National Teaching Fellowship pointing out how it can have an exceptional impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession. 

Overall, it was a great opportunity to have outstanding senior colleagues across the sector discuss the opportunities to influence HEIs. On a more personal note, there was an opportunity to be connected to and mentor a colleague from an HEI that has no accredited programme or pathway to obtain Fellowship with Advance HE. The forum provided that colleague with the inspiration and support she needed to progress with her Senior Fellow submission. It was such a pleasure to see how the forum became a platform to network and establish connections across HEIs in Malaysia. What an impetus to move us along in the work! 

Optimistic as we move forward 

In the pipeline for the Malaysian SFN is the suggestion to provide an avenue for sharing of best practices in education. Outstanding colleagues could mentor others and help raise the standards across the board. Considering that Senior Fellowship in Malaysia has seen exceptional growth recently, there is a wealth of expertise and excellence in academic leadership that could be tapped into. There is also a lot of space to expand the capacity of the SFN to create networks for the purpose of mentoring other colleagues towards Principal Fellowship.  

There’s a lot of optimism all around regarding the direction of the SFN in Malaysia as it sets the tone for other networks like it in the future. With that optimism fuelling the work, the immediate plans for the SFN are to have a hybrid session on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in teaching and learning which has garnered a lot of attention in recent times.  


Dr Jaya Kumar Karunagharan is an Assistant Professor in Biology/Psychology and Head of the Foundation in Science programme at University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM). He is also the pioneering Deputy Chair of the Malaysian Senior Fellows Working Group and the Director of the Nottingham Recognition Scheme at UNM. 

Join our free online panel session which will see discussions around Rewarding and recognising teaching excellence in Southeast Asia on 21 March 2024. Book your place now.

Find out more about the Global Fellowships Relay – #FellowshipsRelay2024.

If your institution is interested in building your Fellowship communities, find out about the range of support we have to offer here

Fellowship Application Builder  

7 May 2024, Virtual

A short online course designed to enable participants to develop an application for Fellowship. Find out more.


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