UNITEN - The Origin Story

With the proclamation of Vision 2020, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) felt that there was a great necessity for a revision of what top notch human capital development is, specifically in the areas of engineering and management and its social obligation towards nation building.

Therefore in 1994, the top man at TNB at the time, Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr.) Ani Arope envisioned that Institut Latihan Sultan Ahmad Shah (ILSAS), the training arm of TNB, would be upgraded to Institut Kejuruteraan Teknologi Tenaga Nasional (IKATAN). Consequently, personnel training and development were then increased to diploma, bachelors and masters levels.

One of the approaches utilised to meet those ends was the running of twinning programmes with world renowned higher learning institutions such as Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Ohio University, Lincoln University and Universiti Malaya.

In the late 1990s, however, this region was seriously affected by the Asian financial crisis. Due to the austerity measures taken to soften the financial blow to the country, this unfortunate event led to the government’s decision to scale down on the number of scholarships given out to outstanding students intending to pursue their higher education in top British and American universities. This, in turn, resulted in a shortage of available places in public universities.

To overcome this, the then Minister of Education, Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak, invited TNB and two other government-linked companies to set up their own private universities. TNB duly excepted the challenge and in 1997, IKATAN was upgraded to Universiti Tenaga Nasional to become one of the first privately funded higher learning institution in the country. And it has never looked back since.


The UNITEN Putrajaya campus, in effect, began to take shape in 1995. Involving three stages of development and construction covering an area of 483 acres, it was the beginning of a quest to fulfil the hopes of a nation. Its close proximity to the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and the federal administrative centre Putrajaya simply added to UNITEN’s air of auspiciousness. According to Dr. Tajul Arus bin Noh, the first Rector of UNITEN, “The university’s primary mission is to provide quality education and training in engineering, information technology, business and related fields for Malaysians and other nationals.”

By 1999, student enrolment in this state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment had reached an impressive 5,000.

About a year later, on 29 June 2000, the Malaysia Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad officially opened the UNITEN Putrajaya campus.

This further spurred the university to reach greater heights which saw it move from strength to strength consolidating its stature as a university of choice. That same year also saw the first intake of students in UNITEN’s very own bachelor’s degree programme.

The Founding Fathers & Leadership

Tenaga Nasional Berhad, or in the early days known as the Central Electricity Board (CEB), has always been committed to the betterment of education in Malaysia. Excellent students were sponsored to pursue their degrees in overseas universities who then serve the company upon the completion of their studies.

1976 - 1993

Under the leadership of Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr.) Ir. Abu Zarim Omar, the National Electricity Board’s (NEB), vision of establishing an institution of higher learning to train future corporate leaders was translated into reality. In 1976, the Institut Latihan Sultan Ahmad Shah (ILSAS) was set up for the development of the staff potential and intellectual capital. The main purpose of ILSAS was to be the in-house training centre for NEB and to provide manpower training to fulfil the nation’s industrial needs.

1994 - 2000

In 1994, Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr.) Ani Arope, envisioned something greater for ILSAS. He was the driving force behind the upgrading of ILSAS to Institut Kejuruteraan Teknologi Tenaga Nasional (IKATAN). He was instrumental in establishing twinning degree programmes between IKATAN, Lincoln University, New Zealand, IUPUI and Ohio University, USA and University Malaya.

The Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s forced the government to reduce the number of scholarships for students to be sent overseas. The three government-linked companies namely TNB, Telekom and Petronas, were invited by the Minister of Education Malaysia in 1996 to set up their own private universities. Tan Sri Dr. Ir. Ahmad Tajuddin Ali who then was the Executive Chairman of TNB played an important role in accepting the invitation and coming up with a plan to face the challenge. He was also instrumental in coming up with the name Universiti Tenaga Nasional or UNITEN and the infrastructure development of the campus.

On 1 September 1997, Universiti Tenaga Nasional Sdn Bhd began its operation in Putrajaya Campus.

2001 - 2006

In 2001, Dato’ Prof. Ir. Dr. Zainul Abidin Md. Shariff took over the duties of running the university from Dr. Tajul Arus bin Noh. The new Vice Chancellor served the university with distinction until his retirement in 2006.

Another significant occasion took place in 2005 when His Excellency Tun Dato’ Seri Utama (Dr.) Abdul Rahman Abbas, Yang Dipertua Pulau Pinang was proclaimed as UNITEN’s Chancellor. In addition, Tan Sri Leo Moggie and Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr.) Ir. Abu Zarim Omar were appointed as UNITEN’s Pro Chancellors.

2007 - 2014

Dato’ Seri Prof. Mashkuri Yaacob took over the helm as Vice Chancellor on 1 January 2007 and continued where his predecessor had left off. One of his goals was to further strengthen the unity among the staff of UNITEN and he achieved it through the use of the term “sahabat” (companion) when staff address one another, regardless of position or designation.

2015 - Present

The incumbent Vice Chancellor, Dato’ Prof. Ir. Dr. Kamal Nasharuddin Mustapha took office on 5 May 2015 and immediately set out to take UNITEN to greater heights. He initiated the drive to transform the campus into a vibrant hive of scholarly and social activities while being “green” at the same time. In the same year, Tan Sri Dr. Ahmad Tajuddin Ali was appointed as UNITEN’s Pro Chancellor.

Rector & Vice Chancellors of UNITEN (1997 - PRESENT)


Dr. Tajul Arus bin Noh
UNITEN First Rector, 1997-2000

Dato’ Prof. Ir. Dr. Zainul Abidin Md. Shariff
UNITEN Vice Chancellor, 2001 - 2006

Dato’ Seri Prof. Mashkuri Yaacob
UNITEN Vice Chancellor, 2007 - 2014

Dato’ Prof. Ir. Dr. Kamal Nasharuddin Mustapha
UNITEN Vice Chancellor, 2015 - Present