By Waleed PD Mahdini in London
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has always stressed on the importance of education, particularly higher education, amongst the people of Brunei Darussalam and this virtue alone has garnered him admiration and a profound respect, not only within the Sultanate, but also from the rest of the world, in his quest to promote better living standards and care for the welfare of his people and, more importantly, the country's future and prosperity.
This recognition was none more so apparent than the conferment of an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from one of England's oldest and most prestigious universities - King's College London that is ranked as one of the world's top 25 universities and voted the UK Sunday Times University of the Year - to the monarch yesterday.
"The success of any nation relies on the intellect and skills of its people," His Majesty noted, adding, "Bruneian graduates continue to make significant contributions to success and nation-building."
His Majesty delivered the titah before the senior officers of the college, Bruneian senior government officials, as well as students and in-service training officers of the Sultanate at the Strand Campus of King's College, which houses the School of Arts and Humanities, Law, Natural and Mathematical Sciences and Social Science and Public Policy. Dressed in the Doctor of Laws robe of red and yellow, the monarch's arrival into the Council Room was announced by a lone trumpeter.
The monarch acknowledged the mission of the university "to promote the continued advancement of knowledge", which is held in high regard and reputation "for producing graduates who excel". His Majesty also recalled that the first time the monarch attended the university was in January 2005 to witness his daughter, HRH Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah's, Master's Degree graduation.
"Little did I anticipate that six years later, I would be here again to be awarded with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws," quipped His Majesty.
Lord Duoro, Chairman of Council of King's College London, acknowledged the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation's efforts in 1992, whereby "King's College was chosen by His Majesty for his scholars". Since 2005, Lord Duoro noted that 25 scholars from the Sultanate have undertaken their education at the university, supported by the foundation every year, primarily in medicine and dentistry.
Recalling the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between Universiti Brunei Darussalam and King's College London in January 2011, Lord Duoro also noted His Majesty's efforts "to raise the standards of Brunei's citizens to enhance its competitiveness in the international community whilst maintaining its Islamic culture and heritage", as well as for achieving a "94 per cent literacy rate in Brunei Darussalam".
The principal of the university, Professor Sir Richard Trainor said: "His Majesty's acceptance of the award also confers honour on King's College." The conferment of the Doctor of Laws is the highest honour that King's College can bestow.
Honorary degrees of King's College London are awarded in recognition of an individual's conspicuous merit as demonstrated by their outstanding distinction, acknowledged Ms Katherine Barnes, International Press Officer of King's College London.
"His Majesty is head of state and of the Executive of a famously prosperous and successful country. It is particularly appropriate that he should receive an honorary degree from King's College because he has done so much to promote education at all levels. For example, he has not only made it possible for Bruneian students to pursue their advanced education abroad, but has also established in Brunei two new universities and a university college to meet the increasing demand for higher education."
Amongst the 23 of the Sultanate's students that attended the ceremony yesterday was YAM Pengiran Anak Naafi'ah Khairul Bulqiah, daughter of HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who is in her second year reading BA Geography.
Dk Nurhidayatul Fitri binte DP Hj Othman, a Sultan's Scholar in her fifth year of medicine at King's College London said, "It's quite an honour that His Majesty has been conferred with this award."
Ms Patricia Perez, a second year Linguistics international student and one of the student ambassadors of the university that was founded in 1829 noted: "It's an honour for us and acknowledges King's College as a global university for distinguished guests to be honoured in such a way."
Aside for the conferment ceremony yesterday, the monarch is also in the United Kingdom to attend another graduation ceremony - the Passing Out Parade of HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst this morning.
- Borneo Bulletin
(15th April 2011)