Image: Naassom Azevedo on

You may have heard the current debate on whether or not a college degree is worth it. According to a 2022 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor’s degree took home 68% more per week than high school graduates.

And those with BAs were unemployed at a rate of 2.3% as opposed to a 3% rate for all workers and 4% for those with a high school diploma.

Does big business embrace the value of a college graduate? One does for sure — the QI Group, so much so it founded its own institute of higher learning, Quest International University.

Founded in 2011 through a partnership forged between QI Group and the Perak government of Malaysia, QUI wasn’t driven by the pursuit of the next killer app, but by a more profound mission: nurturing well-rounded leaders who understand the human condition as much as the bottom line.

On its website, the institution touts its approach, believing itself a differentiator in higher education focused on technical skills.

“Any university can provide its graduates with a degree and an education,” Quest International University’s website reads. “But we’re here to produce graduates who change the game. Innovators who leave a legacy in their creations. Leaders who push for positive change. And above all, to produce good people — caring, responsible, respectable individuals who care for their fellow man and the world around them. They are the QIU legacy.”

This might seem like an eccentricity in a world obsessed with algorithms and initial public offerings. But for business partners Joseph Bismark and Vijay Eswaran, QI Group’s co-founders, men who built their empire on a foundation of shrewd business acumen, QIU represented a critical investment in the future — a future where technology and humanity would be inextricably intertwined.

What Is the Vision of the QI Group?

The vision of the QI Group is one that emphasizes humanitarianism through its various enterprises including lifestyle, entrepreneurship, and education.
Likewise, the vision for Quest International University wasn’t born in a boardroom. It stemmed from a personal belief that a purely technical education left a crucial gap in leadership. The QI Group founders, like many, had witnessed the hubris of tech titans who, armed with impressive engineering degrees but lacking social awareness, ended up creating products that alienated users or caused unintended social consequences.

In order to combat that, QIU’s mission is to support “researchers pursuing fields of study that focus on making a difference in the world. QIU academics work on projects like creating sustainable construction material using recycled material, using Malaysian flora to cure diabetes-related complications, and helping farmers increase crop yield. Students at the university benefit by gaining firsthand knowledge of groundbreaking research working alongside a dedicated team of educators.”

Perhaps this methodology to education comes from the foundations upon which QI Group was built. The umbrella company for QIU, it has diverse holdings across multiple industries and has shown it understands the importance of empathy, critical thinking, and effective communication — all hallmarks of a strong humanities education. These were the very skills the founders saw missing from the tech talent pool, and the ones they hoped to cultivate at QIU.

Rooted in Values

Quest International University wasn’t built to churn out a profit.

QI Group’s investment in Quest International University goes beyond constructing an educational institution to cultivating the leaders of tomorrow. The true strength of higher education lies not merely in the knowledge it imparts, but in the profound transformation it bestows upon individuals and communities alike. While there have, of course, been partnerships between the private business sector and the educational arena, they are often one-offs, not partnerships that define both entities.

 It was built to cultivate a different kind of currency: intellectual capital with a conscience. The curriculum, while rigorous, prioritizes critical thinking, effective communication, and an understanding of ethics — all essential ingredients for responsible leaders in the tech age.

QIU’s students delve into philosophy, literature, and history, not to fill elective slots, but to develop the very skills that the tech industry desperately needs. Imagine an engineer who can code a self-driving car and also anticipate the ethical and social implications of such technology. That’s the kind of graduate QIU aims to produce.

But the future doesn’t belong to engineers or humanities scholars in isolation. It belongs to those who can bridge the gap between these seemingly disparate disciplines. This philosophy is reflected in QIU’s unique partnerships with tech companies.

One such partnership involves co-developing a global events management system with the goal of not just streamlining event logistics, but also using that data to understand user behavior and predict future trends — a project requiring expertise from both tech whizzes and social science mavens.

The project was funded through QIU via QI Group.

This collaborative approach ensures that QIU graduates are both well versed in theory, and equipped with the practical skills to thrive in a tech-driven world.

That dedication to partnership is also on display when one examines the personnel whom QIU brings in to teach its students. The university hosts industry experts and professors with real work experience at real work companies like Leo Burnett Malaysia, Samsung, Intel, and British Petroleum, among others.

If QIU succeeds in producing a generation of tech leaders who are technically proficient and also ethically grounded and socially aware, it could serve as a model for universities everywhere, much as more technical elements were introduced into university curricula 35 years ago.

QIU offers degrees in computer science, engineering, life sciences, pharmacy, medicine, and business management, among others. All involve a level of technical acumen, but also require a high degree of human understanding. Virtually any industry vertical could, in one way or another, be described as a “tech” industry.

As the world hurtles toward an ever more tech-dependent future, the question isn’t whether we’ll need engineers and scientists, but what kind of engineers and scientists we’ll need. QI Group, through its investment in QIU, is betting on a future where technology serves humanity, not the other way around. And that’s a future worth rooting for.