by Lin Hao, Zhao Bochao
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- More than 180 students began their college lives on Monday at Xiamen University's newly-opened Malaysian campus, which will boost exchanges and ties among students and academics between China and Malaysia.
An opening ceremony was held to welcome Xiamen University Malaysia's (XMUM) first batch of students, marking the official opening of the first overseas campus set up by a renowned Chinese university.
Professor Wang Ruifang, president of XMUM, said the enrollment had exceeded their expectations, a sign that the new university was hailed by high school graduates and their parents in Malaysia.
"We thought we would only enroll less than 100 students," he told Xinhua.
Law Ying Ping, a local Malaysian Chinese student pursing a degree in international trade, said studying at XMUM would provide her with a deeper understanding of China.
"I have often heard about Xiamen University's beautiful campus and high academic level in various majors including International Trade and Finance," she said.
Xiamen University, based in China's southeastern city of Xiamen, was founded by respected Malaysian-Chinese leader Tan Kah Kee in 1921, making it the first Chinese university founded by an overseas Chinese national.
It is now among the top universities in China, ranking 37th in Asia and 275th globally in the "2016 Best Global Universities Ranking" published by U.S. News.
Xiamen University's Malaysian campus officially opened less than two years after a ground-breaking ceremony attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in July 2014.
Its origin had helped it garner support from the Malaysian-Chinese community. Among them were Robert Kuok, Chairman of the Kerry Group and owner of luxury hotel chain Shangri-La, who was widely known as the "Sugar King of Asia."
The campus covers an area of 150 acres near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and follows the unique "Tan Kah Kee architectural style" in line with the three campuses of Xiamen University in China.
The 180 freshmen will choose from seven programs on offer, including New Energy Science and Engineering, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese Studies, Journalism, Accounting, Finance, and International Business.
They are expected to be joined by a second batch of students in April, followed by another intake for bachelor's degree programs in September, according to XMUM.
The estimated number of student enrollment for 2016 will be more than 700 students.
Zhu Chongshi, President of Xiamen University, said XMUM aims to be one of the top universities in Malaysia and in the region, attracting students from Malaysia, Southeast Asia, China and beyond.
"We have two priorities," said Professor Wang, head of XMUM. "One is to emphasize both teaching and research, with an inalienable commitment to talent development."
"The second is to build a multi-cultural campus, so that the students - no matter whether they are local, from neighboring countries, or from China - can learn from each other," he added.
Ong Ka Ting, the Malaysian Prime Minister's Special Envoy to China, praised XMUM as being another representation of cordial bilateral relations between Malaysia and China in recent years.
Prime Minister Najib has asked him to convey his blessing to the new university on his behalf, Ong said. He expected XMUM and its future graduates to play prominent roles in furthering bilateral exchanges and cooperation, especially on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as part of the "Belt and Road" initiatives.
"XMUM will provide the students with a better platform and channel to grasp the development of politics, economics, as well as culture and technology in China," he said. "Its graduates, be they Malaysian or Chinese or of other nationalities, will become pioneers in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road."