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How is Malaysia doing as an international education hub?

Malaysia’s international education sector has grown considerably during the past decade, driven on by its fast developing economy and relatively high quality, low cost education. The country welcomed 86,000 international students in 2010 to its universities, colleges and language schools.

International students in Malaysia

“International pathways have always been a driving force of the education market"

It has also pioneered “twinning” (bringing foreign education onto home soil), with a growing number foreign universities setting up branch campuses or teaming with Malaysian institutions to deliver franchised degree programmes.

With such growth under its belt, it has naturally set it sights higher, aiming to become an international centre of higher educational excellence by 2020. Achieving this would mean being able to deliver higher education on a par with international standards and increasing international student numbers to 200,000 – no mean feat given the development challenges its HE system still must overcome and the growing competition it faces from other study destinations.

Can Malaysia meet these goals? The yay-sayers believe the country’s attributes could make an increasingly easy sell in the coming decade. The most powerful of these is its location – in the midst of South East Asia, the world’s biggest international student market, and in the orbit of fast-rising markets of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The breakdown of international students it attracted in tertiary education in 2010 reflects this, with more than 25,000 coming from the Middle East, 13,000 from African countries, around 10,000 students from China and Indonesia each, and 6,000 from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

With its five foreign branch campuses (their number is set to grow) and improving homegrown universities, Malaysia could offer international students quality on their doorstep for far less than found in Europe, Australia or North America.

This is both in terms of fees, with courses ranging from M15,000 to 20,000 ringit per year ($4,700 – $6,300), and living costs, which the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) estimates at M12,000 to RM17,000 ($3,430 – $4,860) per year.

Professor Ian Pashby, CEO and Provost of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) says that the campus attracts international students who would not have had the opportunity to study in the UK. “Programmes offered at UNMC, although identical to the ones offered in the UK, cost approximately 30 per cent less in tuition fees. This is… whilst enjoying the lower living costs in Malaysia as compared to the UK.”

“Programmes offered at UNMC, although identical to the ones offered in the UK, cost approximately 30 percent less”

The widespread availability of English-medium education in Malaysia is another reason not to go West. Reflecting this, the country’s English language school market is growing and becoming more competitive.

“Many international students come to Malaysia with minimal English proficiency and therefore need to brush up on the language to gain entrance to universities,” says Sean Chee, director of ELS Malaysia which now runs its Certified Intensive English pathway programme (recognised by 25 Malaysian universities) in five locations across the country.

“International pathways have always been a driving force of the education market for students seeking to use Malaysia as a stepping stone to other destinations.” [more>>]

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