The decision came in response to growing concerns over terrorism in Malaysia, with the police force announcing they had detected a syndicate bringing in foreign terrorist fighters through the student visa system, and several heavily reported incidents also linking study visas to suspected terrorism.
“During the screening, we look at the student’s application; if they are not qualified or are on Interpol’s list, they cannot enter our universities”
EMGS chief executive Rujhan Mustafa said in a statement his organisation took national security seriously and urged universities to keep a close eye on their student cohorts and report suspicious activity.
“There are several processes and screening involved in the processing of international student pass including continuous co-operation between the agencies involved in the exchange of information to determine the effectiveness of student management,” he said.
“Before receiving any recommendation from EMGS for approval of [a] student pass by the Immigrant Department of Malaysia… every course offered to international students must obtain full accreditation from the Malaysia Qualification Agency.”
Since the cooperative efforts, which follows similar actions in 2015 to help law enforcement quickly identify international students, higher education minister Idris Jusoh said the number of dubious student visa applications had dropped and fewer crimes were committed by international students.
“During the screening, we look at the student’s application; if they are not qualified or are on Interpol’s list, they cannot enter our universities,” he told reporters at a recent charity event.
Increased scrutiny was not the only change undertaken to Malaysia’s student visa system last month, with a pilot program for electronic visa approval letters announced.
Malaysian educators told The PIE News that while it was still too early to comment on the trial, which could increase visa processing times significantly (a topic covered in Edition 15 of The PIE Review), early signs were promising.
There are currently over 170,000 international students within Malaysia, predominantly from neighbouring and Middle Eastern countries, with a target to reach 250,000 by 2025. Earlier this month, the country announced a moratorium on foreign universities.