In 1900 the colonial government mooted the idea of an institution of higher learning in the then British Malaya. The idea resulted firstly with the establishment of Raffles Institution in Singapore, followed by the setting up of a medical school King Edward VII in 1905. In 1929 Raffles College, to cater for arts and sciences education, was set up. In 1949, the two colleges merged to become the University of Malaya, based in Singapore. A branch campus was set up in Kuala Lumpur in 1959, named University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur.
In 1954, while still in Singapore, a publication committee was set up, with the Vice-Chancellor as chairman and the Librarian as secretary, with representation from Council and Senate. A representative from Ministry of Education and Oxford University Press respectively completed the quorum. The task of the committee was to ensure the day to day running of the press run smoothly and thereby achieving its objectives. In 1959, the size of the committee doubled with the inclusion of counterparts from University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur branch. In the same year the secretariat was moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
In 1960, the University of Malaya Press was registered as a private limited company, operating with funds from both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur branches who were its shareholders. University of Malaya Private Limited Company had a board of directors, headed by the Vice-Chancellor of Kuala Lumpur branch. Other members included the Vice-Chancellor of Singapore branch, two members from Council in Kuala Lumpur and two from Singapore. An accounting firm was appointed as the secretary to the board. In 1961, University of Malaya Press Pte Ltd began to publish scholarly works for both branches, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
According to its Memorandum and Articles of Association, University of Malaya Press was started with a paid up capital of RM50,000 consisting of 50,000 shares valued at RM1.00 each share. Each branch subscribed 24, 997 shares, with the remaining three shares to be subscribed by three individual from each of the two branches, making up the total of 50,000 shares.
From its inception up to 1969, Oxford University Press played a direct role in the publication program of the University of Malaya Press. The main function of the Publication Committee of University of Malaya Press was to select manuscripts for publication. Manuscripts accepted by the committee were sent to Oxford University Press for editorial, lay-out, production, sales promotion and distribution processes and activities.
Oxford University had Press provided training and supervisory facilities. This arrangement enabled the University of Malaya Press to produce 27 titles which became the impetus to build its future publication programmes. Oxford University Press, through its local and international marketing network, was also responsible for the distribution and sale of books published by UM Press.
In the early years between 1963 and 1968, UMP bought printed sheets from Oxford University Press and Yale for the purposes of compiling and publishing as imprints of UMP. In 1963, the two branches of UM, in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, had agreed to form two separate committees so that each could decide its own manuscripts to publish. The Chief Librarian of each of the two branches was appointed secretary. The two committees submitted their respective manuscripts for publication by the UMP.
In 1963, two representatives from The Association of American University Presses, Harold E. Ingle from John Hopkins University Press, and Leon E. Seltzer from Stanford University Press visited UMP:. Their visit paved the way for international cooperation. UMP purchased printed sheets from Yale University Press and East-West Center Press.
On 31 October 1969, Oxford University Press terminated its agreement with University of Malaya Press and ceased to distribute its publications. As a result Koperasi Kedaibuku Universiti Malaya was then appointed the sole distributor of UMP’s publication, both for local and international markets. Sales were also made through mails to clients outside Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. Later, the University of Singapore also terminated its cooperative venture with UMP to set up its own imprint. This decision was made at the Board of Directors meeting on 10 March 1970.
When Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz began his administration in 1968, he initiated moves towards the establishment of a printing unit so as to accelerate the development of academic book production in the country. The printing department, placed under UMP, was equipped with state-of-art printing technology and personnel well-versed in typesetting, layout, film, plate, printing and binding.
University of Malaya Press which was set up as a private publishing entity had to carry out its own printing works. The aim was to be cost effective. Being a private entity had its own advantages, such as relative freedom from university control, flexibility to solicit sponsorship and freedom to enter into contractual agreement with a foreign publisher, and to accept or reject a manuscript. But it had its disadvantages as well, such as being subjected to income tax, company tax, and not getting any grant from the university.
Beginning from 1970, a full-time staff was appointed to oversee the organisation of production division. The appointment had made it possible for University of Malaya Press to directly involve in book production, especially after the formation of production unit. There were several innovations in production technology, like composition work by IBM-MTST composer and low cost materials.
In 1970, UM Press changed its name to Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd. The name change was executed as to comply with the requirement of National Language Act. It was also around this time that the company started its printing unit.
In 1971 the share capital was enlarged to 150,000, with an addition of another 100,000 shares. University of Malaya became the sole owner when it bought over the shares and rights owned by University of Singapore (which previously was known as the University of Malaya in Singapore).
Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd ceased to operate from March 1982. University and University College Act 1974 made it unlawful for a university to own equity in private companies. To overcome the situation, University of Malaya’s Council set up a Department of Publishing to take-over the function of Press so as to ensure the continuance of publication of academic books at the University of Malaya.
At the Annual General Meeting held on 30 December 1988, the members of Board of Directors of UMP took the decision to “voluntarily wind-up Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd and appointed Mohd. Yusoff Haji Shamsudin of Messers Yusoff Shamsudin & Associates as liquidator and paid a winding-up fee of RM3000 plus other costs.” The liquidation of Penerbit was made final by the Vice-Chancellor in his capacity as the chairman of Board of Directors Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd.
At its voluntary liquidation meeting on 10 July 1990, the Management of Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd, passed the following resolution:
1. To donate all its assets to JPUM
2. To make an offer of sale to OMNIKON
3. To write-off UM’s investment in UMP (B.3001 [24.6.1986]
The Department of Publication, which succeeded Penerbit Universiti Malaya Sdn Bhd, is currently operating to provide continuity in University of Malaya’s academic publishing.