UK’s Nottingham sheds light on Najib’s degree but mystery remains

DAP's Chong Zhemin cast doubt on Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s degree yesterday, highlighting a video circulating online and alleging the latter did not complete his studies at the University of Nottingham in the 1970s. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
DAP's Chong Zhemin cast doubt on Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s degree yesterday, highlighting a video circulating online and alleging the latter did not complete his studies at the University of Nottingham in the 1970s. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — The University of Nottingham has confirmed that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak graduated from the UK university.

The university was responding to Malay Mail’s request to verify Najib’s academic qualifications, including if he obtained an undergraduate degree from the institution.

“The University of Nottingham’s records confirm that Mohammed N. Razak graduated with a BA Hons in Industrial Economics in 1974,” the university’s spokesman said in a brief email reply to Malay Mail last night.

Najib, who was born in 1953, was 21 years old in 1974.

Yesterday, DAP Perak’s Keranji state assemblyman Chong Zhemin cast doubt on Najib’s degree, highlighting a video circulating online and alleging the latter did not complete his studies at the University of Nottingham in the 1970s.

Chong also told Najib to disprove the allegation by publishing the transcripts of his examinations and a copy of his degree.

In 2017, whistleblower site Sarawak Report had also questioned the authenticity of Najib’s Nottingham degree.

What Najib said

When asked to clarify his academic qualifications, Najib yesterday told reporters at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya: “Of course my degree is legitimate.”

Based on the UK government’s official transcript of Najib’s April 13, 2012 speech, he had expressed his delight at having then British prime minister David Cameron visit the university’s Malaysia campus, saying bluntly: “It’s, of course, my alma mater”.

At the same 2012 event at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus, Cameron noted that it was the “first full campus of a British university overseas”, hailing it as a “pioneering partnership” that represents the “best of British and the best of Malaysia”.

“I know, prime minister, that developing this campus has long been an urge of yours when you were education minister. So I’m grateful to you, Prime Minister Najib, for your vision and your support over many years in helping to bring this about,” Cameron said then.

The university’s branch campus in Malaysia was established in 2000.

A screen capture of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website as archived in March 2018.
A screen capture of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website as archived in March 2018.

The curious disappearing listing

Najib has been widely reported to have an economics degree from the University of Nottingham.

Najib is also listed by the Encyclopaedia Britannica online as having “earned an undergraduate degree in economics” from the University of Nottingham, and is also listed on the World Economic Forum’s website as holding a BA (Hons) in Economics from the same university.

According to Malay Mail’s check yesterday of the section on the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus’ website that features a list of “prominent Malaysian graduates”, however, Najib’s name was not listed.

The list does include royalty, former ministers Tan Sri Stephen Yong and YM Tengku Tan Sri Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail.

But a search of internet archives via The Wayback Machine shows that Najib had been in the list of prominent Malaysian alumni as recently as early 2018. It is unclear when or why his name was culled from the current list.

The archived list and the current list of prominent Malaysian graduates are identical, except for the omission of Najib’s name and the addition of DYMM Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim.

A screen capture in February 2019 of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website.
A screen capture in February 2019 of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website.

In brochures such as its undergraduate prospectus 2016/2017 and postgraduate prospectus 2018/2019 to potential students, the University of Nottingham Malaysia includes Najib in its list of “notable alumni”.

Its postgraduate prospectus 2012/2013 for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences features a quote from the Malaysian campus’ then provost and CEO Professor Ian Pashby, who among other things spoke of the university’s long ties with Malaysia and involvement in the education of “many prominent members of Malaysian society, such as former kings, government ministers, and leaders of business and industry”.

“The current Malaysian Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, graduated in Industrial Economics from Nottingham in 1974,” he was quoted as saying in the prospectus.

A screen capture of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website, February 2019.
A screen capture of the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus’ website, February 2019.

That’s not all

Aside from the 1974 degree, Najib was also reported to have received an honorary degree at University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus in 2004.

The Malaysia campus’ website currently has a list of 23 “honorary graduates”, including Najib, former minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, Datuk Nicol Ann David, Najib’s brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak.