All overseas students will have to take out medical insurance, issuance of a standard student card and proof of acceptance from a higher education institution before they can apply for a visa.
They will also need to take a Malaysian language course during their first year of studies to help them interact better with Malaysians.
“Previously, a student could enter Malaysia before joining an institution,” the minister of higher education, Mohamed Khaled Nordin, said. “Now all matters pertaining to foreign students involving the Immigration Department will be handled by EMGS.”
Malaysia is one of Asia’s fastest growing education hubs – home to top international branch campuses such as the University of Nottingham and some 95,000 foreign students (a figure it wants to raise to 200,000 by 2020).
However, some claim Malaysia’s student visa system is too lax and being abused by those who come to the country to partake in crime, such as drug trafficking.
In a right-leaning op-ed this week in the Malaysia Star, journalist M Veera Pandiyan wrote: “With “international” colleges even operating out of shop-lots, the reality is, many foreigners…are exploiting the “student route” to stay, work illegally or commit crimes in the country.
“The exact number of bogus students is unknown but there is no question that the number of colleges is mushrooming, especially in smaller towns.”
“The exact number of bogus students is unknown but there is no question that the number of colleges is mushrooming”
Others see the problem as less severe; Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president, Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh, has been quoted as saying that there are probably fewer than 10 institutions having bogus foreign students.
EMGS will seek to control impropriety, enforcing the new restrictions and checking students have sufficient funds for their education before issuing visas.
Likened to the British Council, it will also coordinate the promotion and marketing of Malaysia’s higher education as well as the recruitment of and support services for international students.