It is a long way from the sleepy English market town of Marlborough to the vibrant new metropolis that is springing up in Iskandar Malaysia, but for Marlborough College – one of the UK’s leading independent schools – Malaysia will become a second home.

The college is to open its first international venture – Marlborough College Malaysia – in 2012. It will provide a first-class education for some 1300 pupils, offering both International Baccalaureate and GSCEs to local and international students across the region. “English independent schooling is really highly regarded by the rest of the world. The new school will be based on the UK model, but it will have a very international feel to it,” says Nicholas Sampson, Master of Marlborough College. “Iskandar is a great spot. Malaysia has got a tremendous history of being a cultural crossroads. This is a statement of intent about our place in the world. We want to be able to connect with the growth and success of Malaysia and Singapore and we want to be able to appeal to people in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, so it seemed the natural choice.”

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Education is crucial to Iskandar’s plans to attract $100m in foreign investment by 2025 and in helping Malaysia to become a knowledge-based economy. The provision of international schools and universities will attract more people to Iskandar, says Boyd McCleary, British High Commissioner to Malaysia. “It is important to have these in place because it will attract expatriates who will come with their children and also Malaysians and other Asian nationals who have high aspirations.”

Iskandar Malaysia is developing EduCity, an educational hub for students from Malaysia, Asia and around the globe. At tertiary level, EduCity will attract faculties such as medicine, engineering, logistics, hospitality, multimedia and business studies, from universities and institutions around the world. These faculties will support the specific industry sectors being developed in the region such as health, tourism and financial services.

Hive of talent

The first university to stake a claim to EduCity was the UK’s Newcastle University. The NUMed Malaysia campus will open in 2012, offering degrees in medicine and surgery recognised by the UK General Medical Council, at about half the cost of the equivalent degree for an international student in the UK.

Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University says: “In a very far-sighted manner, the government of Malaysia is anchoring the Iskandar development with an educational centre. It is hugely attractive for us to be part of that and increases our international profile.”

Iskandar is making rapid progress in attracting further education institutions. Arlida Ariff, CEO of Iskandar Investment says: “We are in discussions with another five universities and educational institutions and aim to sign up at least two before the end of 2009.”