There are over 100 public and private institutions of higher learning in Malaysia – from universities and colleges to polytechnics and training centres – where students can pursue a local or foreign degree programme, embark on a skills and vocational training course, or join a twinning programme.
These options have made Malaysia an attractive education destination with over 127,000 foreign students studying here in 2019 – 70% of these students attended private higher education institutions.
Higher education in Malaysia
Public universities, colleges and polytechnics: There are 20 public universities in Malaysia offering diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate courses. These are grouped according to Comprehensive, Focused and Research universities and cover a wide range of courses.
Private universities: Private universities offer a wide range of programmes and often have the added advantage of active research programmes for postgraduate studies, purpose-built campuses and notable facilities for both academics and student life.
Satellite campuses: These are branches of foreign universities offering the same courses as the home campus, and the opportunity to do a year or semester abroad. There are currently 10 satellite campuses of Australian, British, Chinese and Irish universities in Malaysia.
University college: The main difference between university and university college is the size of the campus and student body. Foundation years and postgraduate courses are the focus here and twinning programmes with foreign institutions are readily available.
Training centres: These must be registered and accredited by the Department of Skills Development and offer technical and vocational training. Courses and qualifications are from professional boards like TAFE (Technical and Further Education) from Australia, City and Guilds from the UK and LCCI (London Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
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Benefits of pursing a degree in Malaysia
Recognition by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA): The programmes offered by Malaysian educational institutions must be accredited by this national body. Approval is based on the fulfilment of specific criteria and ensures that qualifications are accepted outside of Malaysia and by the public sector.
International degree programmes: There are many options for students to either enter courses that are part of twinning programmes in local universities (where they study locally then transfer abroad) or to enrol in the Malaysian campus of renowned foreign universities. Medicine, engineering, law and business studies are the most popular courses and offered by HeriotWatt University, University of Reading Malaysia, University of Nottingham Malaysia and Monash University Malaysia amongst others.
Wide range of courses and institutions: Degrees and qualifications (diplomas, certifications) are offered by various tertiary institutions – public and private universities, overseas campuses of foreign universities, private colleges and polytechnics. Students can choose from courses in engineering, medicine, education, humanities and social science, law, IT, journalism, mass communications, English, architecture, actuarial science, accounting and many more.
Courses taught in English: There are over 127,000 international students pursuing a course in tertiary education in Malaysia and a major reason for this is the fact that courses are taught in English; the general population is also well versed in the language. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities for students to learn and improve their language skills at English language centres before beginning and during their studies.
Lower fees and cost of living: This is one of the most attractive incentives for studying in Malaysia. For example – a medical degree at Monash University Malaysia will cost around RM580,000 for international students while the same degree in Australia is approximately double the amount when you take into consideration exchange rates and the cost of living. Student life in Malaysia is affordable with necessities like rent, food and transport being one of the lowest in the region.
Accessibility: Most tertiary institutions offering courses to international students are in Kuala Lumpur, which means easy access to the international airport and train station. Public transport covers all major areas of the city and is cheap and easy to manage. It’s also affordable to travel locally and students have great opportunities to visit well-known tourist destinations during their term breaks.
Cultural diversity: Malaysia is a rapidly developing country with a diverse population comprising a variety of cultures, religions and ethnicities. People are friendly and willing to help, and this is a big plus especially for students coming from other parts of the country or abroad.