Dato Professor Joseph Adaikalam
Founder and Executive Chairman, The Binary University


The Binary University started out in 1984 as a college from a three-room set up. Thanks to the vision and enterprise of its founder and executive chairman, Dato Professor Joseph Adaikalam, the University has received a very rare 5-Star rating from both the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education and the Malaysian Qualification Agency. More significantly, the kind of courses being offered at Binary is unique, and for budding entrepreneurs worth exploring. He responded to our questions soon after the 5-Star rating was conferred

DATO ADAIKALAM: Making a difference

The year 2012 has been special for you. Binary has received a full university status and a 5-star rating that has come like a crowning glory. Please tell us more about it?
Yes, you are right.2012 was one of the most significant years in the history of our university. After 28 years since its inception in 1984 as a college, we were finally elevated to a full-fledged university status by the Government of Malaysia. We had to meet stringent requirements set by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA).To be a full-fledged university, we had to meet both the research excellence criteria and the academic excellence (teaching and learning) criteria. The 5-Star rating is the highest rating accorded by MOHE ad MQA to any public, private or overseas branch university. The rating of 5-Star is a testimony of the quality of teaching and learning at Binary University and of the great team we have here.

WORLD CLASS CAMPUS: An aerial view of the Binary campus in Malaysia that is coming up on 45 acres of land overseeing a 60 acre lake with a 18-hole golf course

You started out nearly 30 years ago. Please tell us about your background, and how the journey began.
I am a Chartered Accountant by training and went on to complete my postgraduate studies in management at Edinburgh. I am a people person with an extremely high degree of compassion for the human race. Somehow I knew very early in life that I can make a difference to humankind through education.
I chose to dedicate my life to higher education as my passion was in creating greater access for youths to pursue quality higher education at an affordable cost. I knew the value of higher education and how it can transform one’s life. When it came to higher education, I had to invest in myself as I had no financial support from my family beyond high school. It is a decision I will never regret because had I not invested in myself, thousands of students from all over the globe would not have benefited from the millions we have given in scholarship through the Binary Global Scholarship Fund.
When I started in 1982, there was no private higher education sector in Malaysia. There were only a handful of institutes and all were offering the same courses, namely basic level qualifications leading to certificates in secretarial, book-keeping and business. No banks were willing to lend finance to someone like me who wanted to start a college in a non-existent industry. So I set-up a 3-room education centre and offered a service that nobody was providing then. I named it Oxford Home Tuition Services and offered home tuition services where I sent out qualified graduates to homes of rich people to provide home tuition in academic subjects leading to the O and A level examinations. I later came to realize that offering home tuition as a business service had created a new sub-sector within the education industry!!!
As it was a recession period, there were thousands of unemployed graduates who were desperate for jobs. I hired them and paid a monthly salary. I developed quality assured teaching materials and a system to keep track with the student’s progress as well as keep parents in the loop. Quickly I added a corporate training arm and this became another source of income as my clients were rich people and they occupied important positions in the corporate sector. I changed the name of the firm to Oxford Learning Centre. Some of the biggest companies in the world became our corporate training clients. Oxford LC became a runaway success but it attracted many competitors as there were minimal barriers to entry. I knew it was time to move on to a college level where there were lesser competitors and a bigger market. Moreover, I didn’t need the loan from the bank as I had saved enough money to move up the next level!!!


Minister of Higher Education and the Director General with international students at Binary University. Currently Binary attracts students from over 60 countries. Binary University emerged as National Champions in the National Entrepreneurship Inter-Varsity Competition

So I applied for a college license which was very difficult to obtain those days as there was a no specific laws that governed colleges. With God’s grace I obtained the license in 1984. I was asked to change the name of the proposed college as the name “Oxford” was disallowed by the Ministry. So we came up with Binary Business School, the first specialist private college for business and IT education. Our name, Binary which was the system by which all computers work, was ahead of its time as IT was in its infancy then. During this same time, we partnered with British and Australian universities to offer twinning programmes. Students could now do a professional qualification or a degree through BBS with the option of completing their studies in UK or Australia. We started going overseas to attract international students and within the first 5 years of going global, we had students from about 12 countries patronizing us because of our unique offering of industry-relevant skills as part of the degree as well the huge number of world awards that our students had won. In 1994, we introduced the MBA and MSc in IT thus making BBS a pioneer in postgraduate education in Malaysia.
They say, history repeats itself. Colleges started mushrooming and by 1998, about 697 private colleges existed in Malaysia. I was faced with the same problem again—too many competitors. I knew it was time to move up. As luck would have it, with the financial crisis hitting Asia, the Malaysian Government wanted to stem the outflow of funds by allowing private colleges to offer the full overseas degrees locally. Only 10 out of the 697 colleges will be able to obtain a special license (3+0 license) which will be issued by the then Minister of Education, Rt Hon Dato Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak who is the current Prime Minister of Malaysia.

You do believe strongly in the Spirit of Enterprise. You yourself turned into an entrepreneur. What is it that you believe that an entrepreneur has, that is important to society and mankind?
Entrepreneurs are the engine of growth of any nation. They create new wealth. They create new jobs. Without entrepreneurs, all innovations and inventions cannot be enjoyed by humankind. Entrepreneurs have the resilience to succeed and almost always a great sense of passion in what they do. Many entrepreneurs are noticed based on their monetary success but the journey to that often will reveal the determination and hardships they had to go through to reach that status.
Many successful entrepreneurs that I have met globally tell me of mistakes they have made in their journey, often because they lacked a formal education. What we need in the world today is for a greater number of Professional Entrepreneurs because the world today is much more complicated than it was decades ago. Better educated entrepreneurs will also help create more ethical entrepreneurs.

Excited students during convocation

We understand that you only allow those to lecture your students who have been entrepreneurs, and not just armchair professors in your course for entrepreneurs. Is that true?
Our School of Entrepreneurship Development or SEED has a strict policy on the delivery of entrepreneurship programmes at Binary University. Firstly, we do not believe that entrepreneurship can be taught in the same way as teaching accounting or IT. About 80% of our lecturers teaching entrepreneurship are real entrepreneurs. Secondly, SEED has invested heavily to build a Comprehensive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem which brings across the board all kinds of stakeholders including people, associations, industry champions, Government agencies that have an interest in creating youth entrepreneurs. That makes our entrepreneurship programme unique and very practical-oriented. SEED offers the 3 year BA (Hons) in Entrepreneurship and the 2-year Diploma in Entrepreneurship, both of which have been attracting international students globally since 2004. Successful entrepreneurs who wish to groom their children to take over their business should consider one of these two courses.

Please tell us about your core strengths, and USP…
As a specialist university, there are two things that we do that set us apart from all other universities globally. Firstly we transform our graduates to become Industry Specialist Professional graduates or ISPs. All our bachelor and masters students graduate with industry specific-skills in addition to an academic qualification which means that all our students graduate with two qualifications. To produce ISPs, we had invested in millions of dollars to design with industry players the Intellectual Property that can bridge the gap between academia and industry.
Secondly, we have embedded very high entrepreneurial contents that are practical-oriented into each one of our degrees thus helping to transform our graduates into entrepreneurial managers, entrepreneurial IT professionals and entrepreneurial accountants using the comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem that we have established.
We strongly belief that when graduates are entrepreneurial, they can become more innovative, creative and productive. Often universities fail to harness the entrepreneurial spirit within youths and this leads to not capitalizing their fullest potential .In this respect, Binary University as the first entrepreneurship university in the region is extremely well positioned to bring out the best entrepreneurial talents of youths and help create a difference to the nation’s development from where the student is coming from.

What kind of courses do you have for executives and managers?
Apart from the Binary MBA, one of the most successful courses that we offer globally is the Binary DBA which is open to CEOs and Senior Managers. The DBA or Doctorate in Business Administration allows one to complete a PhD level programme without leaving their jobs. The program is an applied research program that equips one with contemporary thinking in management.
Other Executive Development Programmes in HRM, Marketing, Finance and Entrepreneurship which are between 2-8 weeks duration are also available for executives.

You are coming with a world class campus amid scenic settings. Could you elaborate kindly on this?
Our new purpose-built campus is to be developed on a 45 acre land overseeing a 60 acre lake. Beside the campus is a 18-hole golf course and directly opposite the campus is the commuter train station which will be able to take anyone into KL city within 40 minutes. So the campus is not just scenic but easily accessible to all major cities in Malaysia. The campus is slated to be operational by March 2015.

You have won top awards, and are in elite councils and bodies. Please let us know about those…
I was appointed to National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) of the Prime Minister Department. The NEAC was the coordinating body that chartered the New Economic Model of the nation whose main objectives is to transform Malaysia to be a high income nation by 2020.I was appointed by the Minister of Higher Education into the National Higher Education Council, which is the highest policy making body for higher education in the nation. I was also appointed to be in the National Entrepreneurship Council which has been mandated to transform entrepreneurial education in Malaysia. I am also the Sectoral Head of Education for Malaysia-India Business Council.


January 2013

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