Public versus Private Universities in MalaysiaChen Wan Lim
In Malaysia, there are 20 public universities, 33 polytechnics and 62 private universities, inclusive of both foreign and locally established institutions. The dilemma that often plagues school leavers and also working adults intending to pursue a postgraduate degree is the choice between private and public universities. While there are some obvious differences such as fee structure, both private and public universities in Malaysia have certain merits of its own:
The most noticeable difference between public and private universities is the course fees. Because public universities are able to receive government grants and funding for research and also government allocations for various reasons, public universities are able to charge a lower fee as compared with private universities. For example, the total course fee for an MBA programme in University Malaya would cost approximate RM29,000, whereas the MBA programme in a private institution could cost double that amount. With the continuous allocation from the annual government budget, the fees for public institutions are able to be kept at an affordable level.
Public universities are larger compared with private universities as it would need to cater to the tens of thousands who are enrolling into tertiary education each year. Public universities also tend to offer many varied courses, often providing courses covering social science, engineering, IT, medicine, veterinarian and other non-mainstream courses. In comparison, private universities typically offer a much fewer course with fewer faculties focusing on a few niche courses. For example, some private universities specialised in engineering courses and hence, provide mainly engineering related degrees.
3. Student demographics
In terms of student mix, private universities typically have a higher proportion of international and local students mix, whereas public universities largely consist of local students. This is due to the entry requirement where private universities accept various forms of entry qualifications while public universities favour local qualifications such as STPM.
5. Entry requirements
The common Malaysian perception is that public universities have higher entry requirements than that of its private counterparts. While this is true up to a certain degree, as public universities have stricter entry requirements and also due to limited spaces for each course, some private universities also have strict entry requirements but are more flexible in accepting various pre-entry qualifications. On a general basis though, entry requirements for private universities are more lax compared with public universities.
Although there are unsubstantiated perceptions that graduates from public universities are more ‘hardworking’ compared with private universities or that graduates from private universities are more ‘competent’ in the workforce, it ultimately boils down to the attitude of graduates during their stint in university and their attitude in the workplace.