In conversation with Dr. Azlin Mohd Azmi: UiTM’s Journey with TEA-LP

By  Andrea Fitzpatrick, Nomanesi Makhonco & Jiska deGroot, 20 October

Phase 2 of the Transforming Energy Access Learning Partnership (TEA-LP) marks the expansion of the partnership into South Asia and the Indo-Pacific. We are excited to introduce one of our new partners, the University of Technology MARA (UiTM), based primarily in Shah Alam, Selangor in Malaysia. In this special interview, Associate Professor Azlin Mohd Azmi gives us a deeper insight into UiTM’s exciting Master’s programme, and their collaboration with the TEA LP, which will include the adoption of two TEA-LP courses, and their membership of the TEA LP Network for Southern Expertise.

Associate Professor Azlin Mohd Azmi (4th from the right) with colleagues at the UiTM solar plant. Source: Dr. Azmi

Interviewer: Could you please give us a brief background to your Master’s programme into which the new TEA-LP courses will be incorporated?

Dr Azmi: The Master of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering Management is our latest graduate-level programme at UiTM, which was initiated in March 2023. Situated within the School of Electrical Engineering at the UiTM Pulau Pinang Campus, it’s designed to merge advanced engineering knowledge with crucial management and leadership skills. Although we started with just 25 students, our vision extends further, with plans to explore other Master’s programmes to expand the reach of TEA-LP courses to students from various engineering schools

Interviewer: Which TEA-LP courses have you selected to take up in your Master’s Programme?

Dr Azmi: We have included two TEA-LP courses into our programme: Local Solutions for Energy Access and Appliances for Off-Grid Communities. These courses will offer a paradigm shift to our students by introducing them to the relatively unexplored domain of energy access in Malaysia, particularly for underprivileged people. They will equip our students with the expertise needed to make meaningful contributions in this field as future entrepreneurs, engineers, or policymakers.

Interviewer: How do you plan to customise the TEA-LP courses?

Dr. Azmi: We intend to enrich these courses with Malaysian-specific case studies and examples. This will assist our students in understanding the specific challenges and opportunities that exist in our region. In addition, we intend to include guest lecturers and field trips to introduce students to real-world applications in Malaysia.

Interviewer: Do you foresee any challenges with the implementation of the courses and how do you plan to overcome these?

Dr Azmi: We anticipate potential issues related to curriculum integration and financial obstacles. To overcome these, we’ve worked very closely with UiTM’s postgraduate office and coordinators to understand local academic requirements and accreditation and secure an upfront loan to ease external parties’ payments.

Interviewer: What do you most look forward to by joining the TEA-LP?

Dr Azmi: We are thrilled about the opportunities for international collaboration, networking and knowledge exchange within the TEA-LP community. This programme offers a platform for us to learn from the global community of experts and contribute to the field of energy access, both locally and regionally. We look forward to enriching our programme with diverse perspectives and experiences.

Interviewer: What kind of collaboration within the TEA-LP would be of most interest to you?

Dr Azmi: We greatly welcome the opportunity to share curriculum and pedagogy ideas, co-host workshops, and have guest lecturers from other TEA-LP partners, either physically or virtually. We feel that this exchange of knowledge and experiences will substantially improve our programme and broaden students’ horizons.

Interviewer: What steps do you believe are essential to foster inclusivity in Malaysia’s universities, especially in teaching and learning?

Dr Azmi: The most urgent thing to address to foster inclusivity in Malaysia’s universities in terms of teaching and learning is the importance of balancing theoretical knowledge alongside industry needs. While theoretical knowledge forms the basis of academic learning, the incorporation of relevant industrial applications prepare students for the workforce, helping them transition smoothly into professional roles upon graduation. This also ensures higher education stays inclusive, relevant, and responsive to the ever-changing expectations of the industry.

Dr Azmi:  The most important thing the sector must emphasise is on initiatives that address the issues, needs, and well-being of disabled employees and students. This involves the development of accessible physical and digital infrastructures, inclusive recruitment processes, conducive accommodations, and hassle-free financial aid choices for these students. These approaches enable an inclusive atmosphere in which disabled people have equal opportunities to achieve academically and professionally, while also encouraging diversity and equity.

In parting, Dr Azmi shared some invaluable advice for students who are just starting their journey in academia or research:

Dr Azmi: I would advise to always follow your heart and choose a path that genuinely interests you. Start with the right and sincere intentions to make meaningful contributions to your field. Work with people who share your passions, seek out mentors who can impart their knowledge and experience, and, most importantly, don’t forget to maintain a work-life balance as it is an equally crucial aspect of your journey.