Malaysia’s aspiration to be a global education hubChen Wan Lim
Malaysia is one of the most favoured countries for higher education in Southeast Asia, attracting over 160,000 students from over 160 countries. According to Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Jusoh, approximately 80% of foreign students are enrolled in higher education institutes. The target for 2020 is to attract 200,000 students, in-line with Malaysia’s aspiration to be a global education hub. Malaysia currently has 123 higher education institutions inclusive of both private and public universities and polytechnics.
Under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 for higher education, the government aspires to (i) increase the tertiary enrolment rate from 36% currently to 53% by 2025 and; (ii) to increase the quality of graduates, institutions and overall system.
Here’s how Malaysia is being positioned to becoming a global education hub:
Diversity in languages
Malaysia boasts cultural diversity in culture and languages. The national language Bahasa Malaysia is widely used for official and everyday purposes while English is used as a delivery medium at most institutions of higher education. This makes Malaysia suitable for international students seeking higher education opportunities here, especially those intending to study in an Asian environment. Apart from that, Malaysia attracts many students from China as the Chinese language is the second most widely used language across Malaysia.
In addition to diversity in languages, Malaysia is a religiously-tolerant country with many faiths and religions practised. Islam is the official religion of the country and as such, attracts many Muslim students from the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and other parts of the world. In addition, many Asian parents who have concerns about the liberal culture of the West see Malaysia as a great alternative destination for tertiary education.
Cost of living
In comparison with regional education hubs in Southeast Asia, primarily Singapore, Malaysia’s costs of living is comparatively cheaper in terms of accommodation rental, transportation, food, entertainment and general expenses. In addition, tuition fees are also generally cheaper in Malaysia compared with that of the island state.
According to the QS Higher Education System Strength ranking, Malaysia is ranked 27th in the world in terms of education strength. The ranking takes into consideration access to education, performance of leading universities in the country, access to funding and the impact of national investments in higher education. There are currently nine top ranked universities in Malaysia, with University Malaya holding the highest spot at 351 globally.
In a push to be a serious contender in the regional education sphere, Malaysia has invested heavily in the sector. One of the more recent and prominent investments is the investment in branch campuses in the new EduCity development in Johor. Due to complete in 2018, the 350-acre campus will be shared by eight international branches run by leading universities from around the world. These include the UK’s University of Reading, the University of Southampton and Newcastle University Medicine, as well as the Netherlands’ Maritime Institute of Technology, Singapore’s private Raffles University and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts from the US.