IBC 2008 Report from the Founder, Venerable Wei Wu
Released in Conjunction with IBC's First Convocation on August 20, 2008.
Introducing the History of International Buddhist College
International Buddhist College is an all-embracing multi-traditional Buddhist institution of tertiary learning. The idea of establishing the all inclusive multi-traditional college originated at the Than Hsiang Buddhist Research Centre (THBRC), Penang, Malaysia. THBRC, affiliated to Buddhist and PAli University (BAPU) of Sri Lanka, began running the Diploma courses of BAPU in 1992 and the B.A. program of BAPU in 1994. Prominent Buddhist scholars and educators including Prof Y Karunadasa were invited to teach at THBRC. During one of these visits in 1996, Prof Karunadasa was much impressed and amazed at the harmonious and colorful existence of the very pluralistic society of Malaysia which is marked by its multi-religious, multi-traditional and multicultural characters. This observation gave rise to the idea that a Buddhist institution of learning that is multi-traditional would have a diversity that is enriching and conducive to the development of inter-traditional understanding and supportive of mutual growth. The idea grew to be a vision shared by many including the writer, Professor Karunadasa, Venerable Professor Dhammajoti, Venerable Professor Anuruddha and Dr (then Mr.) Y H Lai. In 1999, the group met in Sri Lanka and agreed on establishing this multi-traditional Buddhist institution of learning in Thailand, a Southeast Asian Buddhist country that is supportive of Buddhist educational ventures. In 1999, Than Hsiang Foundation set up and registered its branch, Klintiendharm Foundation in Thailand to launch the project in earnest.
With the help of many well established academics and professionals in Thailand and Malaysia, Klintiendharm Foundation succeeded in obtaining the license in 2003. 110-acres piece of land near the township of Khlongae in the province of Songkhla was purchased for building the College. In October 2004, International Buddhist College opened with the first intake of students for its Bachelor of Arts Degree Program and Intensive English Language Training Program. The Thai Vice-Minister of Education officially declared open the College on July 17, 2005.
In connection with the successful establishment and commencement of the operation of the College, I would like to record my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to many who worked very hard for it and who have given their unstinting support in one way or another from the beginning until now. It would not be possible for me to list down all their names here; however, I would acknowledge the vital contribution from many, including Prof. Prasert Na Nagara, Prof. Udom Warotamasikkhadit, Khun Pravit, Dr Fa Qing and Dr Somboon Duangsamosorn.
Vision and Objectives
The College seeks not only to be a renowned modern centre of rigorous Buddhist practice, learning and scholarship. The College integrates the modern liberal with the monastic traditional approach to ensure a quality well-rounded education in Buddhist scholarship and practice with appreciation and full awareness of current global issues that such scholarship and ancient wisdom of Buddha acquired in the College can be used to resolve. The College aims to successfully educate, train and equip Sangha members and laity with Buddhist scholarship, critical and practical skills and wisdom for successful Buddhadhamma works in social transformation and resolution of conflicting issues at individual, societal or global scale.
Monastic Training and Growth
The College is also a training ground for Sangha members and laity as the College believes in balancing spiritual cultivation with formal education, balancing mental with physical growth. This balance is essential so that graduates from the College will be wiser and more useful citizens in their contributions to the society. International Buddhist College is thus residential with a strong monastic component. Monastic tradition of spiritual cultivation is incorporated in the daily life of its residents students and staff. The program consists of morning and evening chanting and meditation sessions, religious ceremonies and retreats.
The academic focus of International Buddhist College on promoting Buddhist Studies, developing scholarship, and training in Buddhist practices. The College now offers the following bilingual undergraduate and postgraduate degree and certificate programs:
A. Postgraduate Programs:
- Graduate School of Buddhist Studies
- Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies: 36-credit three-semester program; approved by Commission on Higher Education and introduced in 2006 academic year.
- Doctor of Philosophy in Buddhist Studies: 48-credit program; approved by Commission on Higher Education and introduced in 2007 academic year.
B. Undergraduate 120-credit 4-year B.A. Program.
- Faculty of Religious Studies
- Bachelor of Arts in Buddhist Thought: 120-credit program
- Bachelor of Arts in Historical and Cultural Studies: 120-credit program
- Faculty of Liberal Arts
- Bachelor of Arts in Scriptural Language and Literature: 120-credit program
C. Intensive English Language program
The teaching faculty and visiting lecturers of both Therav─üda and Mah─üy─üna traditions come from Belgium, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Canada and the United States. The diversity provides a multi-traditionally enriching living and learning experience. It also ensures a widely based education and teaching from different perspectives so that students get trained to be open-minded and progressive in outlook and approaches in viewing and solving contemporary problems.
The College began operation in October, 2004 with the first intake of about thirty students of Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan traditions from eight countries. Ten students from our first intake for B.A. program in 2004 successfully completed the program in the 2007 academic year. My heartiest congratulations to them for doing so well as pioneer students of International Buddhist College!!! Being a pioneer student who successfully completes the first academic program introduced, each one of you rightly occupies a special place in the history of International Buddhist College.
The first intake of eight full-time and three part-time students for the bilingual M.A. program in Buddhist Studies came from Malaysia, Thailand and China. The first batch of eight full-time students successfully completed the program according to schedule in the 2007 academic year. These are the eight graduands to whom we are awarding the certificates today. I give them my heartiest congratulations for doing so well.
When first introduced in 2007, the 48-credit Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies attracted about ten applications from Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
The student roll for all the programs offered stand at 68 for the current 2008 academic year, breakdown as follows:
- by academic programs: 31 students in M.A. program: 30 students in B.A. program: and 7 students in Intensive English Language Program.
- by ordination status: 78% sangha members; 22% lay.
- by gender: 37% female; 63% male.
Progress and Achievement in Academic Programs
Through the years, the College continues to improve and diversify its academic programs, strengthen its academic faculty, organise and participate in Buddhist conferences and meetings, and build up its teaching facilities and equipment.
On academic programs, the College commenced with introducing the undergraduate B.A. program in 2004, building up the postgraduate programs and introducing the M.A. in 2006 academic year and launching the Ph.D. program in 2007 academic year. IBC academic programs continued to be offered in Malaysia.
In promoting Buddhist scholarship, the College participated in various Buddhist conferences and organised academic conferences on Buddhist Studies. With support from Than Hsiang Temple and Tung Lin Kok Yuen Foundation, the College successfully organised two international conferences on Buddhist Studies, one in 2006 and another in 2007, both held in Penang, Malaysia. At each conference, more than 20 papers were presented by scholars from various aprts of the world to several hundred international participants. The College contributed its experience in Buddhist education in Buddhist conferences held in various countries including China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. The College is active in networking with institutions of Buddhist learning. It is a member of the International Association of Buddhist Universities and Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities.
Looking ahead, the College is planning to expand its academic programs to meet the increasing demands for professionals trained in Buddhist practice and teachings to serve in social-welfare organizations and educational institutions that are growing in increasing numbers worldwide. The new programs will include undergraduate social-welfare and educational programs, and also the Research Postgraduate program at postgraduate level. To initiate these new programs, the College will establish another faculty and introduce a new research-based postgraduate program soon. The College is moving towards upgrading its status to that of a full-fledged university.
The College recognizes the value of networking in tapping resources to make substantial progress in its development. National and international networking will continue. The College will continue to build up exchanges and networking with Buddhist scholars from Hong Kong and elsewhere. The program on recruiting good and highly learned scholars and lecturers to strengthen its faculty and good students for its academic programs will continue.
At this stage in its growth, the future looks exciting.