According to the Malaysian Government: “Higher education prepares students for specialised career choices or professions. After having completed their secondary schooling, a wide variety of options are now open to the student. Institutions available range from public local universities to private institutions established by foreign universities and colleges, while types of accreditation range from certificate and diploma courses to degree and professional courses. [Source: Malaysian Government]

At tertiary education level, institutions of higher learning offer courses leading to the awards of certificate, diploma, first degree and higher degree qualifications (at academic and professional fields). The duration of study for a basic bachelor degree programme is 3 years and the courses of study at this level are provided by both the public and private education sectors, attracting many international students.

Higher education opportunities in Malaysia are provided by 20 public universities, 24 polytechnics, 37 public community colleges, 33 private universities, 4 foreign university branch campuses and about 500 private colleges. There are also various other higher educational institutions from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand which offer twinning and franchised degree programmes through partnerships with Malaysian colleges and universities.

Tertiary education providers consist of two major groups: 1) Public (government-funded) institutions of higher learning, for example, public universities, polytechnics, community colleges and teacher training institutes. 2) Private (private-funded) higher educational institutions (PHEIs), for example, private universities, private university colleges, foreign branch campus universities and private colleges.

Government universities have been established around Malaysia to provide for the higher education needs of those seeking to progress beyond secondary-level education. They are: Universiti Darul Iman Malaysia (UDM), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia(USIM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Malacca (UTeM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia(UTHM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM),

Malay College in the northern town of Kuala Kangsar is one of Malaysia's top schools. Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur and the University of Science in Penang are also highly regarded.

Of the 60,000 jobless grads surveyed in 2005, 71 percent were female and 80 percent were educated with government loans, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.

Racial Mixing and a Lack of It at Malaysian Universities

At most Malaysian universities, Malays hang out with Malays, Chinese hang out with Chinese and Indians hang out with Indians. For the most part groups are mixed in the classroom but not outside it. For food, Malays flock to the counter offering spicy rice and curry, Chinese congregate at noodles stalls and Indians eat mutton stew. Sports too have traditionally been segregated, with Malays preferring soccer and Chinese playing badminton or relaxing at a swimming pool, a place usually off limits to Muslim women.

In an efforts to change that pattern, the University of Science in Penang has encouraged student to share rooms with a roommates not of their ethnic group. Sometimes the Chinese complain about being woken up by their Malay roommates at 5:00am when they wake up for morning prayers.

School textbooks teach tolerance. They were introduced to avoid violence like the riots in 1969. In July 2004, the government announced that university students would be required to pass a course on understanding other ethnic groups before they would be allowed to graduate.

For some time a quota system has been in place to make sure that certain groups—particularly Malays—are give a certain number of university positions even though other groups—particularly Chinese—may have higher entrance scores and be better qualified. There has been some discussion of getting rid of the system because of its inherent unfairness.

See National Economic Policy

Online Universities in Malaysia

In September 2012, AFP reported: Thousands of kilometers from Kuala Lumpur in Cameroon, doctoral student Michael Nkwenti Ndongfack attends his Open University Malaysia classes online and hopes to defend his final thesis by Skype. A government worker, Ndongfack could not find the instructional design and technology course he wanted in his own country, so is paying a foreign institution about $10,000 for the degree instead. “I chose e-learning because it is so flexible,” Ndongfack, 42, told AFP via Skype from his home in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde. [Source: Agence France-Presse, September 1st, 2012]

The Malaysian government said about 85,000 people took online courses in the country in 2011, both at web-based institutions and traditional universities offering Internet teaching. At Kuala Lumpur-based Asia e University, students download course materials from an online forum and virtual library. They are in contact with teachers and fellow students mostly through email, online chats, phone and text messages. Assignments typically include illustrating what they have learned with videos and other presentations made with smartphones, iPads or other devices and uploading them to YouTube.

Academics say such interactive learning helps students engage with the material more than they would sitting passively in a lecture hall, and opens a window to learning through a medium they know and love — the latest gadgets. “Everyone is a front-row student,” said Ishan Abeywardena, who teaches information technology at Wawasan Open University, based in northern Malaysia.

Students who might be too shy to ask questions or otherwise engage with their class in a traditional setting are much bolder online, Ishan said. “Can you imagine the iPad, iPod and iPhone generation today, who are going to enter the university say, in 15 years’ time, going for a chalk-and-talk kind of model of learning? You learn by doing,” said Ansary Ahmed, Asia e University’s president.

But even those in favor of online learning admit face-to-face interaction — which can also help keep students motivated and personally engaged — is lost. Ndongfack, whose web-only institution opened in 2000, said online studies were not easy, leaving him feeling isolated. “There is no one there to give you instant support,” he said.

Criticisms include inadequate regulation, allegations of poor-quality teaching, student cheating, and the fact that online degrees are still not as widely recognized as traditional ones in the marketplace, say industry experts. But Asia e University’s Ansary says such teething problems will be addressed over time, and in a few decades students will no longer attend just one university but several, picking and choosing from online offerings. “These are early days,” he said. “The window is just opening.”

Malaysian Students Abroad

In the 1980s and 1990s, Malaysian students were encouraged to study abroad. The Mahathir government gave them generous scholarships in an effort to embrace globalization and help Malaysians learn technical skills. Many students took up the call and studied in the United States, Britain and Australia. Many of those that have studied abroad haven’t come back, creating a brain-drain situation.

In 1998, there were 50,000 Malaysians studying abroad, of whom 15,000 were in full scholarship from the government. In the mid 1990s, private universities in Malaysia were allowed to open branches outside Malaysia and and foreign universities were allowed to setup branches inside Malaysia.

Foreign Students in Malaysia

The Malaysian international education sector has grown tremendously in Malaysia. Malaysia currently houses more than 50,000 international students from more than 100 countries and it is proud to be the study destination of choice, offering quality international education at an affordable cost. Besides the relatively low cost of education, many choose to study here because they recognise Malaysia as an ideal gateway to develop their Asian network and relationships. They are also able to learn from Malaysian’s great diversity, rapid economic development and peaceful and harmonious multicultural society! [Source: Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education]

No. of Valid International Student Passes (ranking, country, private higher education institutions and public higher education institutions, total): 1) China, 2,385, 7,970, 10,355; 2) Indonesia, 3,828, 6,192, 10,020; 3) Iran, 2,998, 3,247, 6,245; 4) Nigeria, 538, 5,516, 6,054; 5) Bangladesh, 418, 3,168, 3,586; 6) Yemen, 1,212, 1,846, 3,058; 7) Botswana, 4, 2,358, 2,362; 8) Sudan, 632, 1,407, 2,039; 9) Iraq, 1,186, 467, 1,653; 10) Pakistan, 175, 1,475, 1,650. [Source: Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education, International Students Statistics (As At 31 December 2008)

Reasons Foreign Students Study in Malaysia

Why Study in Malaysia? Students and their parents have many things to consider when deciding on where and what to study. In choosing Malaysia as a study destination, students benefit from: 1) An international standard and high quality education, which is closely monitored by the Malaysian Education Ministries through their quality control authorities and appropriate legislation such as The Education Act, 1996, The Private Higher Educational Institutions Act, 1996 and The Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act 2007. 2) Competitive course fees and an extensive selection of popular courses. 3) A wide range of study options and universities and colleges to choose from. 4) Twinning degrees & 3+0 degree programmes conducted in Malaysia, which offer a cost-effective route for quality education and qualifications from universities in the United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and France. 5) Foreign Branch Campus Universities operating in Malaysia, which enable students to acquire their prestigious university qualifications in a country that has lower living expenses. 6) Wide usage of English, which makes living and studying easy for students who are proficient in English while at the same time creating an environment for those who want to pick up the language. 7) Life in a multicultural society, where Malaysians of different races and religions live in peace and tolerance with each other.

8) The experience gained in providing education to the existing 50,000 international students from more than 100 countries, which testifies to the world-wide acceptance of Malaysia as a favoured destination for further study. 9) Hassle-free immigration procedures, which enable foreign students to have easy entry into Malaysian higher educational institutions. 10) Affordable living expenses, which can be as low as RM12,000.00 ( US$3,750) per year. 11) Student-friendly laws, which allow international students to work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours per week, while studying full time in Malaysia (subject to immigration requirements). 12) An economically sound and socially safe country, which has a stable government and a low serious crime rate. A geographically safe environment, with Malaysia situated in a zone free from most natural disasters. 13) A food paradise which has a huge variety of cuisines available including vegetarian, halal, ethnic and western, 14) An excellent transportation system, which allows for easy mobility and a huge variety of interesting places to visit for relaxation.

Comparative Costs for Foreign Students Studying at a Malaysia University

Another prime reason why many international students have chosen Malaysia to pursue their tertiary education is the affordable tuition fees. The following tables show the estimated tuition fees at various levels of education. (A) 1) Foundation or Pre-University Studies; GCE ‘A’, Level, UK US$3,140 - US$4,860 (18 months); 2) Ausmat, Australia US$2,570 - US$3,140 (1 year); 3) SAM, Australia US$2,570 - US$3,860 (1 year); 4) Canadian Pre-U, Canada US$3,430 - US$4,430 (1 year); 5) Pre-University, Malaysia US$2,290 - US$3,230 (1 year); (B) Preparatory Courses for English Proficiency Tests; Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) US$143 - – US$229 (2 months); International English Language Testing System (IELTS) US$129 - US$229 (2 months). [Source: Source: Challenger Concept Research Team (www.StudyMalaysia.com)]

(C) Bachelor’s Degree Programmes (Areas of Study, Cost in US$, and Paths of Study, Entire Degree Arrangement: A) Private College’s, 3+0 Foreign Degree, Programme (3 years); B) Foreign Branch Campus, University’s Degree, Programmme (3 years); C) Malaysian Private, University’s Degree, Programmme (3 years): 1) Business: US$11,150 - 14,290, US$13,710 - 24,000, US$8,570 - 11,430; 2) Engineering, US$12,860 - 14,860 (3 yrs, UK), US$21,140 - 40,000, (4 year - Aust) (3 year - UK), US$12,860 - 14,290 (4 yrs); 3) Information Technology (IT), US$9,710 - 12,860, US$13,430 - 25,140, US$9,430 - 12,290; 4) Medicine, US$-, US$114,290 (5 year), US$62,860 - 108,570 (5 year); and 5) Hospitality &, Tourism, US$13,710 - 18,570, US$12,000 - 14,290.

(D) Preparing Students for External Professional Examinations: 1) The Chartered Association of Certified Accountant (ACCA) US$3,290 - US$4,290; 2) The Chartered Institute o Management Accountant (CIMA) US$3,710 - US$4,570; 3) Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administration (ICSA) US$2,860 - US$3,430. (E) Postgraduate Studies Offered by Public Universities & PHEIs: Master Bisnis Dan Administrasi (MBA) US$5,710 - US$16,740 Ph.D US$3,000 - US$10,860.

The relatively cheaper cost of the education in Malaysia coupled with the availability of internationally-recognised qualifications highlights another significant factor why international students choose to study here. The following tables show the cost benefits of studying in Malaysia: An Example of Comparative Education Cost for a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (3 yrs):

At an Australian University, Campus in Malaysia: A) Tuition Fees: US$8,650; B) Living Costs: US$4,290 - 5,710; C) C) Health Insurance,: US$60; D) Average Education Cost (per year): US$13,670; E) Total Education Cost: US$97,330.

Australian University: A)Tuition Fees, US$17,000; B) Living Costs: US$14,290 - 16,430; C) Health Insurance: US$250;D) Average Education Cost (per year): US$32,440; Total Education Cost: US$97,330. [Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook published by Challenger Concept (M) Sdn Bhd]

An Estimation of Education Cost for a Bachelor’s Degree: Programme in Arts & Business (per year) in Various Countries (Country, Tuition Fees; Living Cost; Total Cost): 1) Australia (public) US$8,500; US$8,500; US$17,000; 2) Canada (public) US$7,500; US$9,000; US$16,500; 3) France (public), minimal, US$13,000; US$13,000; 4) Malaysia (private) , US$4,600; US$4,000, US$9,000; 5) New Zealand (public) US$10,000; US$11,500; US$21,500; 6) Singapore (private) US$6,500; US$10,000; US$16,500; 7) United Kingdom (public) US$14,000; US$12,500; US$26,500; 8) USA (public) US$13,000; US$12,000; US$25,000; 9) USA (private) US$22,000; US$13,000; US$35,000. [Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook (International Edition) & various related websites]

An Estimation of Study Cost for a 3+0 Foreign University Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Business Studies in Malaysia (per year) (Tuition Fees, Living Cost , Total Cost): US$5,000 US$4,000 US$9,000. {Source: Challenger Concept Research Team (www.StudyMalaysia.com) Cost of Living: Another attraction for international students to study in Malaysia is the relatively cheap cost of living. The total cost of expenditure for accommodation, either oncampus or off-campus, is reasonable and within many budgets. Depending on the location and choice, the average monthly rental for a single room (twin sharing) per student is between RM300 - RM450 ( US$86 - US$129). Other expenses such as food, transportation, laundry and other essentials, based on an ordinary lifestyle are mated between RM700 - RM950 ( US$200 - US$270) per month. Therefore, the average total cost of living will range from RM 12,000 to RM17,000 ( US$3430 - US$4860). per year.

First Malaysian in Space

In October 2007, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor became the first Malaysian in space. He lifted off in a Russian spacecraft on a mission to the international space station, where he spent 11 days in space and conducted scientific experiments with cancer cells, proteins and microbes of tropical diseases. Upon his return the bachelor became a national heartthrob. He the ninth Muslim in space and the first during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sundown. An orthopedic surgeon and university lecturer from Kuala Lumpur, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor said, before he left for space, he would try to observe as much of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in orbit as possible.

After his return to earth, AFP reported: “Two Russian cosmonauts and the first Malaysian in space returned to Earth in an unusually abrupt and off-target manner after leaving the orbiting the International Space Station, Russian mission control said. The Soyuz craft with Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who carried out experiments for Malaysia's Genome Institute, and Russians Yuri Yurtshikin and Oleg Kotov touched down on the Kazakh steppe at 1043 GMT, it said. "We could not say right now what caused the 'ballistic landing'," Energuia company official Vitali Lopota said, cited by Interfax agency. He said they would have to study the data before they could conclude why this type of landing occurred. Energuia built the Soyuz capsule. [Source: AFP, October 21, 2007]

A Russian mission control official cited by Itar-Tass agency called the landing "rare". "The landing area was 50-70 kilometres (31-44 miles) from where we had initially indicated," Russian Space Agency chief Anatoli Perminov told Interfax. The capsule landed around 200 kilometres (120 miles) away from where was initially supposed to in Kazakhstan after its trajectory was altered when it entered the Earth's atmosphere, ITAR-TASS reported.

The Malaysian astronaut, whose trip was paid for by the Malaysian government, left on the mission on October 10 with American Peggy Whitson, the new commander on the space station, and a Russian Yuri Malenchenko. The decision to include a Malaysian in a space mission was made four years ago, when Russia landed a multi-billion dollar order to supply Malaysia with 18 Sukhoi 30 fighter jets. A practising Muslim, the Malaysian celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan aboard the ISS. Among other experiments, Muszaphar examined the impact of microgravitation on the coordination of eye and head movements and the evolution of cancerous cells in weightless conditions.

In November 2008, Associated Press reported: “Malaysian authorities will investigate allegations that the country's first astronaut collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in lecture fees in violation of an agreement with the government, a report said Sunday. Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Fadillah Yusof said the ministry has received letters complaining that Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor has charged 8,000 ringgit ($2,222) an hour to speak at 150 corporate functions since his return from space in October, the national news agency Bernama said. [Source: AP, November 24, 2008]

“Under a contract expiring Dec. 31, Sheikh Muszaphar is prohibited from receiving any remuneration except from the government in connection with his pioneering space mission. "We urge the public not to come with only letters of complaint but to substantiate their complaints with solid evidence such as receipts as proof of payment, invoices and all written attachments or correspondence," Fadillah was quoted as saying by Bernama. He did not say who had written the letters.

The doctor-turned-astronaut has acknowledged that he accepted payments when he spoke at events but denied he imposed a fee. He said he has appeared at 200 schools and less than 10 companies. "I am a millionaire? I wish I were. (It) is absolutely untrue," he said of the allegations that he charged 8,000 ringgit an hour in an interview earlier this month with The Star newspaper. Sheikh Muszaphar's father told the newspaper that the contributions covered his son's travel and lodging expenses.

Malaysia Issues Guidebook for Muslims in Space

In October 2007, a Sheikh Muszaphar was preparing for his trip, Reuters reported: “Malaysia has come up with the world’s first concise and comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space. The book, titled Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station, teaches the Muslim astronaut how to cleanse himself the Islamic way, on performing ablution, determining Qibla (the location of Kaabah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia) and prayer times as well as on how to fast in space, reported Malaysia’s daily Star on Saturday. [Source: Reuters, October 6, 2007]

"The reason we formulated guidelines for Muslims in space is because we wanted to ensure our astronaut could fully concentrate on his mission, without having to worry about how he should perform his religious obligations in space," Abdullah Md Zin, a minister for religious affairs, was quoted as telling the paper.

The 18-page guidebook will be translated into English, Russian, Arabic and possibly more languages for the benefit of future Muslim astronauts, he added. Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who was the first Muslim in space, had said that although he managed to pray and fast, he was not able to face towards Makkah and could not fully kneel on the ground.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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