There was a time when the choices for tertiary education in Malaysia were either to attend a public university or go overseas. In 2016, it was reported that there were over 130,000 foreign students in institutes of higher learning with the number steadily increasing annually. Malaysia is aiming to be one of the top destinations in the region for students and offers a wide range of options from international schools and technical training to vocational school and private universities. Courses encompass diplomas, professional certification, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and Doctorates.
The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) is the government ministry responsible for all institutes of higher learning, while the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) ensures quality control. Accreditation by this body is a formal recognition of the standards of the programme and is taken into consideration by the Malaysian government for employment in the public sector. Professional bodies also use this accreditation as a form of acknowledgement and recognition for registration purposes. For example, engineering graduates can register as a professional engineer under the Board of Engineers Malaysia.
There are many colleges and universities offering diploma courses in Malaysia covering an extensive range of subjects including accounting, culinary arts, education, multimedia design, architecture and engineering. A diploma narrows down the field of education, and sets the path towards a Bachelor’s degree. Popular diploma courses in Malaysia veer towards business and accountancy, journalism and mass communications, and hospitality and tourism management.
There are several private institutes that are known for certain fields of study and are therefore popular with students and parents. HELP University offers recognised accountancy qualifications with graduates having the option of continuing to a degree course in accountancy and finance with selected British universities. For those interested in communication and media, Sunway University offers a solid programme designed to prepare students for real life challenges. Job prospects for this course are good with graduates usually entering the fields of public relations, advertising and broadcasting. The Berjaya University College of Hospitality is a renowned private college with international accreditations specialising in culinary arts, hospitality and tourism, and business management.
Private Or Public?
Higher education in Malaysia is either public or private, whereby public institutions are funded by the government. There are three types of public learning institutions – research universities, focused universities and comprehensive universities – offering Bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate programmes. Public universities are open to international students, although not all courses are available to them. Notable public universities like Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) offer many degree options and very reasonable fees.
UKM began with only three faculties but has since expanded to achieve a 5-star rating for excellence by the QS World University Rankings. They have also partnered with universities globally for special programmes, giving students opportunities for international exposure. UM is a research university and Malaysia’s oldest institute of higher learning. It was recently listed as one of the Top 100 universities in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2019. The engineering faculty is popular here and all courses are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Council (EAC), which comprises the Board of Engineers of Malaysia, the Institution of Engineers Malaysia, Industry Employers, the Malaysian Qualification Agency and the Public Service Department. UPM is also a research university and is known for its agriculture and forestry courses and has been acknowledged as a Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Education.
Private universities are sustained by corporate investments, alumni and student funding. While most private universities provide a wide variety of courses for all students, the Ministry of Home Affairs only permits some private institutions to recruit international students. There are over 40 private universities here including overseas campuses of Monash University, University of Nottingham, Curtin University and Heriot-Watt University; as well as institutions offering twinning programmes with established universities abroad. Business, accountancy and engineering are the most popular degree choices, with medicine, computer science and biomedical sciences also being top-tier options.
For example, business courses offered at Monash University is research-focused and industry driven; and with campuses and partnerships in Australia, South Africa and China, their reputation as a research institute is well known. Sunway University’s accountancy programme is recognised by global professional bodies and validated by Lancaster University, which means that graduates receive dual certification. The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham is one of the best in the region and the degrees awarded are the same as the those given in the UK. HELP University is one of the most prominent private local universities with degrees offered in psychology, business, communication, economics, education, IT and law; as well as an American degree transfer programme.
Technical and vocational education offers an alternative to those who want to take a skills-based route towards their career. These schools are more hands-on, provide practical training and are equipped with facilities to maximise learning in the specific fields. Popular courses include culinary arts, tourism and automotive services.
KDU University College offers courses for the culinary arts, tourism and hospitality for both diploma and degree levels; and graduates receive certification from both KDU and the International Management Institute of Switzerland. Institutes like UniKL and Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) offer professional training and certificate courses in subjects like administrative skills, design, safety management and IT.
This third level of education plays an important role in how your child’s future and career path turns out. Plan ahead to maximise opportunities, do your research, be prepared financially and take into consideration what course your child wants to pursue and what subjects they are proficient at.