How being a postgraduate student today different from being one 20 years agoChen Wan Lim
Back in the 1990s, there were only approximately 46 public universities and private universities including foreign universities with local campuses operating in Malaysia. The courses offered were also largely traditional, covering the common faculties that the industry needed for that period. However, over the turn of the century in the 2000s, the number of tertiary education institutions in Malaysia skyrocketed, almost doubling in amount to 86 universities. The courses offered were also more dynamic in nature covering more advanced sectors catering to the next quantum leap in science and technology. So what has changed between then and now?
Access to resources
One thing’s for sure is the access to resources, study materials and information. Back in the day the physical library is possibly the one and only source to obtain information and knowledge, spending hours browsing through books to complete assignments. Students then had to also browse through journals, sieving through each journal and reading articles after articles trying to get a citation which relates to the matter at hand. However, with the widespread use of the internet and the digitisation of reading materials, everything now is but a search engine away. To make things easier, students today do not even need to leave the confines of their rooms to search for journal articles and information. Today, the internet penetration rate in Malaysia is close to 70%.
Foreign student participation
If you were a student in Malaysia during the 1990s, you would have most likely enrolled into a public university where the number of foreign students was limited and when foreign private universities in Malaysia were still new. Today, it is uncommon to see twenty or more nationalities in a lecture room. Having foreign students increases ones exposure to ideas and broadens one’s horizon.
Back in the day, courses were conducted with more emphasis towards academia and achieving good grades above all. Today, good grades are still important. But greater emphasis is placed towards graduates’ soft skills such as communication, presentation and ethics. In addition, universities today are collaborating even more with the industry to share insights and to facilitate knowledge transfers between academia and the industry. Students benefit by getting acquainted with the industry thus increasing their chances of getting hired upon graduation.
High tech courses
If you already have a postgraduate degree from the 1990s, perhaps you might want to consider getting another one now. Today’s world has changed rapidly with technology dominating almost every sector in every industry. Back in the day, courses were more traditional in nature but today, most courses have incorporated some sort of modern technology inside with more industry exposure. Even MBA programmes today are more dynamic, exposing candidates to more modern set of issues and problem solving methods.