Winning Their Hearts

UMT has become a university of choice for TROPIMUNDO students

By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Behara Satyanarayana, Local Coordinator of TROPIMUNDO

When it comes to a popular international programme funded by the European Commission and offered by 17 universities throughout the world, UMT is the proud holder of one record.

UMT was the first institution in Asia to welcome this unique programme. After acquiring a full-partner status in 2014, UMT has received 135 students from 46 countries. With this number, UMT has topped the list among participating universities exclusively for the Semester 2 curriculum.

For the past nine years, UMT has become the university of choice for international students enrolling in the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Programme of Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems, or TROPIMUNDO (

Erasmus Mundus programmes aim to enhance the quality of higher education through dialogues and understanding between people and cultures from both developed and developing nations.

TROPIMUNDO, one of its programmes, not only brings together world’s higher education institutions with longstanding expertise in tropical rainforests, woodlands, and coastal ecosystems, but also provides knowledge on tropical ecosystems’ biodiversity and environment to postgraduate students.

TROPIMUNDO is a unique mobility programme that receives overwhelming responses from students all over the world. The MSc degree is designed for four semesters and is worth 120 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits. Implemented by the European Higher Education, ECTS is a tool that allows students to study in a different country and have their academic qualification and study periods abroad recognized.

TROPIMUNDO is currently offered by nine institutions in European countries, namely Belgium, France, and Italy, and by eight institutions in non-European countries, which include Cameroon, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Kenya.

Though new students may choose any of the seven non-European institutions for their Semester 2 enrolment, UMT’s good reputation, spread through word-of-mouth from former students, has been winning the hearts of most of them and made these students come to Malaysia every year.

At UMT, the Institute of Oceanography and Environment (INOS) has coordinated TROPIMUNDO since 2015.

Courses Offered

To meet the core objective of this EC-funded programme, UMT offers six courses, which are Mangrove Field School (15 ECTS), Remote Sensing & GIS (3 ECTS), Tropical Oceanography (3 ECTS), Estuarine & Mangrove Ecology (3 ECTS), Conservation of Marine Endangered Species (3 ECTS), and Lake & Terrestrial Ecology (3 ECTS).

UMT received the first cohort of 16 students from 12 countries in 2015. This was followed by the second cohort of 16 students from 11 countries in 2016, third cohort of 20 students from 12 countries in 2017, fourth cohort of 17 students from 12 countries in 2018, fifth cohort of 16 students from 11 countries in 2019, sixth cohort of 18 students from 11 countries in 2020, seventh cohort of 3 students from 2 countries in 2021, and eighth cohort of 9 students from 5 countries in 2022. The ninth cohort of 20 students from 14 countries are currently here completed the programme.

The successful run of the TROPIMUNDO programme at UMT, with a consistant number of international students coming every year, clearly shows the university’s potential as a world-class institution having high academic standards.

Although TROPIMUNDO students come to UMT with a mission of exploring the tropical biodiversity and ecosystems, they are also given the opportunities to engage in activities with the local communities, thanks to the way the course curriculum is designed. They share their knowledge when they join awareness campaigns on viral infections transmitted by mosquitoes, plant mangroves in association with the Forestry Department, visit schools to educate children on the importance of natural resources, among others.

Students also conduct interviews with local stakeholders to form suggestions for improved management options for mangrove habitats, marine endangered species, tourist-centric islands, etc.


Immersed in the Local Culture

Besides learning and doing field activities, students have the opportunity to take part in local cultural events as well. By having the students mingle with the local communities, UMT achieves one of the fundamental values of TROPIMUNDO, which is to have intensive contact with different cultures and languages.

TROPIMUNDO students have had good things to say about their time at UMT. According to them, UMT extended a warm welcome, provided ample opportunities to learn new knowledge, and helped them take part in various extracurricular activities, some of which were beyond their anticipation. Believing UMT is a good destination for TROPIMUNDO students, they suggest that others will not want to miss the chance of studying at the university.

One of these students is Giovanna Wolswijk from Italy, who came as the fourth cohort in 2018.

“My TROPIMUNDO semester at UMT gave me a life-changing experience,” she said.

Giovanna later registered at UMT for her PhD study as she thought the university was an ideal place to conduct research on mangrove habitats. Now she is working on the carbon stock of Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve with different aged vegetative stands. She hopes to land a suitable career at UMT once she has graduated from her PhD study.


UMT Buddies

UMT normally partners TROPIMUNDO students with UMT buddies, most likely postgraduate students who share the same supervisors as them. This helps the international students acclimatize to a new environment, with the buddies showing the students around and helping them complete things, such as registering for courses. The supervisors often ask the buddies to help with the short-term thesis works TROPIMUNDO students have to prepare.

Oftentimes, TROPIMUNDO students and their buddies become very close, and some of them still remain connected with their helpful local friends even after leaving Malaysia. In some cases, they have helped each other with career planning and development.

Nur Hannah Abd. Rahim is one of the local students who has been involved with the TROPIMUNDO programme a few times.

“It is always a wonderful experience to associate with the programme as a UMT buddy,” said the PhD student.

She has helped a couple of TROPIMUNDO students with their research in Malaysia, providing language translation for socio-ecology topics. In the process, she said she also gained new knowledge regarding her research methodology, data analyses, and interpretation skills. She in fact learned how to use R, a free statistical software, from her TROPIMUNDO friends.

“Some of us constantly update each other on the progress of our studies,” she said. “I believe this kind of programme creates a more supportive environment that is crucial for postgraduate students.”

UMT’s diverse courses and lecturer’s commitment have made the campus the best choice for TROPIMUNDO students. This trend looks to continue well into the future, ensuring that UMT remains in the good books globally.


Professor Mazlan and Professor Fadzil distributing the Certificate of Attendance to TROPIMUNDO students after their successful completion of Semester-2 study at the UMT

UMT top management and INOS support staff with the 9th cohort of TROPIMUNDO students in 2023

Giovanna Wolswijk standing next to a high-grown red mangrove (Rhizophora apiculata) tree at Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve in State Perak, Peninsular Malaysia

A thrilling experience for TROPIMUNDO students after learning about the community-based mangrove management and ecotourism initiatives at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

Mr. Winfred Marshal, PhD candidate at INOS, joining and helping TROPIMUNDO students on their field excursion

Hannah with TROPIMUNDO students from Columbia and Morocco