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Malaysia releases ambitious blueprint for HE sector growth

Malaysia’s Ministry of Education released a national ‘blueprint’ of higher education last week, which marks a new phase in the country’s efforts to compete on the higher education global scale.

The blueprint hopes to enable the country's HE sector to compete on a global scale. Photo: Thomas Wanhoff

"We cannot be the best in everything but we do offer certain areas of value and a unique position for people to come here"

Notably, it has reset the goal of hosting 200,000 international students in the country by 2020 to 250,000 by 2025, and is currently on track to meet this target, the government says.

Launched on 7 April, the Malaysia Education Blueprint (Higher Education) outlines a number of strategies to sustain and improve the growth the sector is already experiencing.

The document states that the Ministry’s main aspiration is to “create a higher education system that ranks among the world’s leading education systems and that enables Malaysia to compete in the global economy”.

“Our leaders do see the benefits of attracting international students into the country”

Speaking at the blueprint launch last Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he wants Malaysia’s higher education to “be among the best; if possible, be the top one-third of all the nations in the world.”

Edwin Tay, CEO of EasyUni, a university search portal for Asian students, said that the blueprint will help to “make Malaysia a destination that is hard to be ignored when choosing higher education in the region”.

“Our leaders do see the benefits of attracting international students into the country, not only for its immediate economic benefits via tuition fees, but also other long term benefits,” he told The PIE News.

“They understand that foreign students spending four years in Malaysia will get assimilated with its culture and lifestyle, thus have a higher propensity to come back and re-invest into Malaysia once they are more successful.”

Following the launch of the Malaysia education blueprint 2013-2025 (pre-school to post-secondary education) two years ago, the higher education version will build upon aspirations already proposed: access, quality, equity, unity and efficiency.

In order to achieve these aspirations, the blueprint contains ten ‘shifts’ – one of which will focus on global prominence.

The ten shifts outlined in the blueprint

The ten ‘shifts’ outlined in the blueprint

Yazid Hamid, CEO of Education Malaysia Global Services, the government-backed agency charged with processing visas and providing students services, said that although some individual institutions have been focused on internationalisation, a national strategy would make Malaysian education easier to market globally.

“We cannot be the best in everything but we do offer certain areas of value and a unique position for people to come here,” he said, speaking with The PIE News.

“For example, for international students who are looking at getting the best exposure, especially in tropical related sciences, this is the place to be.”

According to the QS World University rankings, five of Malaysia’s universities rank among Asia’s Top 100, with one ranking in the Top 200 globally.

“With every new idea, the devil is in the implementation”

Beyond reputation, the blueprint also focused on ‘globalised online learning’.

Higher learning institutes will be required to harness the use of technology, with up to 70% of undergraduate courses using blended-learning models.

“With every new idea, the devil is in the implementation,” said Tay. “For MOOCs, it’s not just the platform, rather the content plays as much important role and a critical success factor.”

Over the last 10 years, access to higher education in Malaysia has increased by 70% to 1.2 million, and from 1990 to 2010, there has been a six-fold increase in students enroling on a Bachelor’s degree.

With the new scheme, prime minister Najib says he aims to ensure the growing number of graduates are ready to compete globally.

“Our education system must be able to generate talent. How does one classify this talent?…A talent that is up to global standards. So you are benchmarking internationally. You want to be among the best,” he said.

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