At the start of October, Malaysia’s borders were closed to students until December 31, before this was updated to permit existing students to enter the country if they didn’t come from one of the 23 countries including the US, India, Russia, several Latin American and Western European countries, Turkey, Bangladesh and neighbouring Indonesia.
“We’re currently in a position where any student who’s already registered can come back into the country unless you’re in one of these 23 countries,” said Chris Baldwin, CEO and provost at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia.
“We got most of our international students from years three, four and five back into the country in September and October,” he continued.
New students however have been hindered from returning by the lack of visa processing centres accepting student visa applications.
“The date that we’ve got is January 1, when they’ll start processing those visas and allow those students to come in”
“The date that we’ve got is January 1, when they’ll start processing those visas and allow those students to come in, unless they’re from the 23 countries,” Baldwin said.
“It would take four weeks to get their visa processed. Then they’ll have to fly here and do quarantine. So it probably won’t be till the middle of February before they get here.”
Students who can enter Malaysia are required to do ten days of quarantine, which they can book online. A “basic package” at a “modest, no-frills hotel” sets a traveller back £28 per night, while a luxury stay at a four or five star hotel starts from £107 per night.
As in many countries, international students who are supposed to be in Malaysia have grown increasingly frustrated by a lack of communication from authorities.
They said they had not been “provided with transparency during their enrolment and planning process for months on end” and “there is still no clear timeline for international students to work with” after a year of changing measures that have made it difficult for them to plan for the future.
Preventing the spread of Covid-19 has been a justification for barring international students among many governments, including China, Australia and New Zealand.
However, there are examples of countries allowing in international students and successfully tackling Covid.
“Right now we’re probably one of the few countries people can still have a normal life,” said Hsiao-Wei Yuan, vice president for international affairs at National Taiwan University, in a recent interview.
“Taiwan only opened the borders to degree students from 19 countries with a low risk of Covid-19. We had to present a name list to the Ministry of Education and they made sure those people could get a visa. Later on we opened to every country. It was like we practised with the first 19 countries and since the procedures went very smoothly we opened to all degree students.”