Monash looks to Malaysia
Monash had been interested in Asia since it began, with many academics focusing on the region, and its relationship to Australia. Monash had proportionally more Asian students than any other Australian university.
Jeffrey Cheah helped formalise the relationship. Born in Pusing, near Ipoh in Malaysia, Jeffrey Cheah grew from a shy village boy into one of Malaysia’s most successful business and educational entrepreneurs. He studied accounting at Footscray Institute in the 1960s. Back in Malaysia, he began his career as an accountant, until one day he spotted an unusual business opportunity.
From a British tin-mining company he bought the lease on 350 kilometres of apparently useless mining land at Bandar Sunway, south of Kuala Lumpur. Cheah developed a business empire based on this land, first mining it for the last deposits of tin, then quarrying the site for limestone. Having half-destroyed the place, Cheah then set about restoring it. Residential houses were built, and a tropical theme park. On its rim perched two towering tourist hotels and a shopping mall.
The jewel of Cheah’s empire was the five-storey Sunway College. ‘I believe in upholding Asian family values,’ Cheah explains. Education is at the core of his business philosophy. He began the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation in 2007, which manages all of his educational ventures, including Monash University Malaysia.
In 2008, Cheah was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)