Malaysia’s higher education and international students
With a median age of 24 it is obvious that studies and universities are an everyday topic in Malaysian families. According to the Ministry of Higher Education in 2011 more than a million students were enrolled in Malaysian universities.
A significant number of those students come from more than 100 countries around the world. To be specific, they account for 10% of all the students, which equals to an exact amount of 96.000. The largest proportions come from China, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Yemen, Bangladesh, Botswana, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan and many more. Of course there is a reason why such a large amount of students decide to come to Malaysia.
Why do international students choose Malaysia as study destination?
There are certain principal reasons why international students choose Malaysia. Firstly, there is the monetary factor. In case somebody from China or Indonesia would like to get a UK-degree, he or she has the chance to go to the United Kingdom, study for three or four years and get a UK degree. The living costs and the study fees are high and middle-income families struggle to bear this financial burden. Malaysian universities however meet this demand by entering into partnerships with educational institutions from the United Kingdom. The result is that Malaysian institutions can provide UK degrees at a much lower cost, that originate from lower living expenses but also from lower university fees.
Besides Malaysia is culturally very diverse. Its ethnicities are Malays, who are Muslims, Malaysian Chinese, who are Buddhists, and Malaysian Indians, who are Hindus or Christians. Therefore international students don’t need to overcome a huge cultural gap when they arrive and Indonesians, Chinese or students from the Middle East see somehow their own culture or faith in the country.
How important are international students?
Not only international students benefit from a stay in Malaysia. The country in the heart of Asia benefits from the bright foreign minds as well. Once again - seeing it from a monetary perspective - an extra source of income is generated. Students come from abroad, change their foreign currency into Malaysian Ringgit and finance their entire stay with it. They rent rooms, pay university fees, pay taxi drivers, eat the delicious food which Malaysia is renowned for and they once again - pay for it. Taking into consideration that those students stay for three to five years, it can be stated that a valuable income source is created. Not just for the government, it happens on a basic level as well, where ordinary people like cab drivers, restaurant owners and storekeepers are paid with money from international students.
On the other hand the presence of international students backlashes on local students. Even though Malaysia is already diverse everybody still knows that counterparts are from Malaysia. Thus, a basic identity and a common culture exists. In order to be prepared for an increasingly globally interconnected world students of any kind need to have the skill to deal with culturally completely different people. The huge amount of international students, their presence in classrooms and the interactions between local and international students helps to tackle everyday stereotypes and open up taboo discussions. As a result, tomorrow’s employees are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with culturally different customers, clients or colleagues who come from another part on earth.
In the long run benefits are projected as well. Students may opt to stay in Malaysia and are therefore going to be part of the workforce. Because those international students obtained a degree they’re considered to be highly qualified and they can get a job at a Malaysian company or a branch of an international corporation. Due to their activity within this company their company makes more turnover, more taxes are paid and Malaysia can invest more into public services.
On the other hand students may opt out to stay in Malaysia and go back to their home country. Somebody who stayed in that country for more than three years has undoubtedly made connections and contacts with locals and Malaysia’s culture. Thus, international students act as ambassadors of Malaysia and because of their knowledge and contacts they’re able to promote the nation in the middle of Asia. For instance, an Iranian student who studied IT in Malaysia, goes back to his home country and starts his own business is still in contact with his Malaysian fellow students and trade connections can emerge.
What is Malaysia’s target?
Due to the described benefits Malaysia wants to increase the number of international students from 96.000 in 2011 up to 150.000 until 2015. Improving the excellence of Malaysian universities has also priority. This includes the ranking of Malaysian universities, creating more ‘Malaysian Chairs’ at universities abroad and increase collaboration as well as cooperation with renowned universities from abroad. In order to increase the number of international students Malaysia has mainly two opportunities.
How to achieve that?
Malaysian universities are interlinked with a network of worldwide operating agents that recommend Malaysian universities in case there is a fit between the student’s needs and the course Malaysian universities provide. However, there are several problems that exist. Firstly, it is often difficult for those agents to provide objective information to students because of their commission based business model. Students might therefore end up in a university which does not suit them and which they only chose because of the agent’s information. Additional hassle is created and students might need to switch the university or decide to go to another country, which is the worst case scenario. Secondly, students around the world start looking for higher education by themselves. The technical development like the internet or the smartphone allows them to glean information online and choose the right university and course by themselves.
Due to this development several education portals emerged. In Asia, easyuni is considered the strongest with more than 1, 000, 000 visitors from mainly Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and plenty of others. The core service is providing all the necessary information of universities, courses and contextual information for interested students from abroad. This includes issues like entry requirements, fees or application deadlines.
Additionally the website provides accumulated contextual information about the country the student is interested in. This includes living costs, lifestyle, composition of international students in the specific country, ranking of the country’s universities, visa requirements, employment prospect and economic outlay, salary outlay as well as information about work opportunities while the student is enrolled. Potential students from abroad therefore have the chance to find the desired information about all the countries.
Established in 2008 easyuni has emerged to a powerful platform by constantly adding features that simplify the whole process from gathering information to applying to a university. Before that students had to go to the university’s websites in order to apply or even send enquiries. This has changed - with a single registration every interested visitor of the platform can send enquiries to get further information about courses or can even send a final application, which is directly send to a counsellor of the university.
All in all it can be stated that international students have a positive impact on Malaysia. They buy products in Malaysia, live in houses and pay monthly rents, pay cab drivers and pay university fees. Additionally local students learn how to interact with people from abroad and connections are established that can be worthwhile in the future. Platforms that help students finding the right course and the right university like easyuni expedite Malaysia’s desire for more international students by providing accumulated information and by simplifying the application process.