Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ University of Malaya

On October 8, 1949, the University of Malaya was founded in a grand ceremony held at the Oei Tiong Ham Hall at Raffles College, Singapore. The university would primarily serve citizens of Malaya, Singapore and Borneo and it was hoped that it will become a great centre of learning, enlightenment, culture and humanity for Southeast Asia.

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In 1948, three years after the conclusion of World War II, the British Military Administration formed the Federation of Malaya out of British Malaya’s peninsular states, but re-created Singapore as a separate colony from its northern neighbours, while maintaining British North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak as British lands. Socially, economically and historically, the ties between the peoples of those areas cited as “Malaya” have not been quite so bounded, and it was not until 1963 that they became contained together in a geo-political scheme known as “Greater Malaysia”. The ideological basis of the university was therefore a sustained manifestation of “pan-Malayan” imagination activated since the colonial period especially within social and trade networks in the archipelago, rather than of any political conurbation.

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It becomes the first national university still bearing the name “Malaya”.

2 Comments on “Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ University of Malaya

  1. Considering the establishment of a university as a symbol of decolonization has a profound meaning both in political sense and in architectural sense. It would be interesting to see how the construction of a university related to its nearby urban context. How is the location and the layout of the university designed? Does it embody any urban idea like functional city? How spatially is the university responding to a decolonizing country?

  2. It would be interesting to see the architectural design of the university itself at that time, if there are any close up photos. Given that this is claimed to be the symbol for decolonization, it would be interesting to see the style of the architecture, as it would reflect the mentality of such ‘decolonization’ at that time. Judging from the aerial photo, the architectural style actually looks quite British. Then what does this paradox means during that time? Does it reflect a value of ‘the west as more civilized’ or similar among local Malays as well?

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