With its developing higher education sector, low tuition fees and reasonable cost of living, Malaysia has plenty to offer those considering postgraduate study abroad
Located in the heart of tropical southeast Asia this culturally and geographically diverse country, separated by the South China Sea, is increasingly popular with international students.
As a student in Malaysia you'll be able to take advantage of the country's quality education system and study for an internationally recognised qualification in one of the world's most safe and stable environments.
Other Malaysian attractions include its welcoming multi-ethnic population, beautiful natural landscapes and modern, metropolitan cities. Popular student destinations include Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru.
Food lovers will find a true gastronomical paradise, with Malaysia drawing inspiration from Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Malay cuisines. It is also a place where celebration is just a way of life, with hundreds of colourful festivals taking place every year.
Higher education institutions in Malaysia offer courses at certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate level, in a variety of subjects.
Institutions can be divided into:
- Public higher education institutions - government-funded institutions, which include public universities such as the University of Malaya (UM); the University of Science, Malaysia (USM); and the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), polytechnics and community colleges.
- Private higher education institutions - established by private sector companies, these include private universities, private colleges and foreign university branch campuses, such as the University of Nottingham, Newcastle University, and Monash University.
A number of Malaysian universities feature in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17, these include the University of Malaya (UM) (133rd), Universiti Putra Malaysia (270th) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (288th).
For a full list of courses and institutions see Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS).
The academic year typically begins in late February or early March.
Postgraduates studying at a UK university with a branch in Malaysia, or one with an association with a Malaysian institution, may be offered the option of studying at the foreign campus for a semester, or even a full academic year. The cost of this placement will be decided by your chosen university.
The University of Malaya Student Exchange Programme (UMSEP) gives international students the chance to study taught or research courses at the campus for a single semester. The University also offers a summer programme for international students. Further information can be found at University of Malaya.
Bachelors degrees are available in a range of subjects covering humanities, science, business, technology and medicine. Undergraduate courses typically take three to five years to complete.
Entry requirements generally include GCSEs and A-levels (high school leaving certificate) or a pre-university or foundation qualification.
There are a variety of Masters courses available from quality-assured Malaysian universities and foreign university branches.
These are equivalent to UK qualifications as the system is largely based on the British model. Study may involve a combination of teaching, coursework, a dissertation/research report or submission of a thesis.
Entry requirements depend on the postgraduate course you want to study, and the university you'd like to attend. However, a recognised undergraduate degree in a relevant field is required for most postgraduate programmes. You will also need to meet the financial and medical stipulations to gain your student pass (visa).
Full-time Masters degrees (MA, MSc/MS) usually last between one and three years. Those studied on a part-time or distance learning basis will take longer to complete.
The majority of Malaysian Masters degrees are awarded by public universities, where you may need some knowledge of the local language, although most postgraduate courses are taught in English. At private universities all Masters programmes are taught in English.
For an official list of Malaysian Masters degrees and to find out more about the courses on offer, visit Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) - Courses and institutions.
With the Malaysian government placing such a strong emphasis on research and development, those looking to embark on research projects will find plenty of PhD options at both public and private universities.
To be admitted onto a doctorate programme you'll need a Masters degree in a related field. PhDs focus on academic research and to achieve the qualification you'll need to produce a thesis.
Tuition fees vary between institutions but the costs associated with study at a Malaysian higher education institution are cheap when compared with other countries around the world, including the UK.
For example, the country's highest-ranked institution is also one of the cheapest, with course fees for an international undergraduate costing 7,078 Malaysian ringgit (MYR) per year (£1,307). International postgraduates will pay 11,706 MYR per year (£2,162).
In terms of the cost of studying at an international branch campus, a full-time MBA course at The University of Nottingham's Malaysia Campus will cost MYR 63,530 (£11,737) in 2017/18. Students enrolling onto the same course in the UK will pay £24,975 in fees.
Funding to study in Malaysia
Living costs in Malaysia are relatively low compared to many other destinations, but as international students are unable to work during term time, many decide to seek out alternative means of funding through scholarships, fellowships and grants.
Universities award funding to prospective postgraduate students depending on a range of factors, so to find out what funding might be available for you, make sure you get in touch with your chosen university.
The Malaysian government also offers some scholarships for international students. For example, students from Commonwealth countries who are looking to study at either undergraduate or postgraduate level in a priority subject can be nominated for the Malaysian Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) at the Ministry of Education Malaysia. Eligibility requirements include having a minimum of a 2:1 at undergraduate level.
Postgraduate and PhD students may also be eligible for the Malaysian International Scholarship (MIS), an initiative from the Malaysian government to attract the best minds from around the world to pursue advanced academic studies in the country.
A database containing the latest undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships available to international students can be found at Study Malaysia.
How to apply
There is no centralised application system for international students so you'll need to apply directly to your institution by completing an application form or via an online system (if available). There is no limit to how many universities you can apply to.
The documents required vary from institution to institution, although you will usually be asked to provide:
- certified copies of academic certificates
- photocopy of a valid passport
- four to six passport-sized photographs
- medical health report.
In most circumstances you'll also need to pay an application fee. These differ between institutions so check with the university's international or admissions office before applying.
If applying to a private university, it is important to make sure that it is licensed and approved by both the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Home Affairs to accept international students.
Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of the country but at private universities all programmes are taught in English. While some undergraduate degrees at public universities are taught in Malaysian, most postgraduate courses are still conducted in English.
The need to pass the IELTS examinations will depend on the course you are interested in. See the specific entry requirements for further details.
All international students wishing to study in Malaysia need a visa, which takes the form of a student pass. Applications can be made online but the majority of universities will apply for a student pass on your behalf once you've accepted their offer of a place.
The student pass lasts for up to a year, so you'll need to renew it annually if your course lasts for more than 12 months.
To apply for a student pass on your behalf your university will need:
- a passport-sized photograph
- a copy of your passport
- a copy of your university offer letter
- copies of academic certificates and transcripts
- a pre-arrival medical examination report
- a personal bond.
To find out more about the process of applying for a student pass, visit Education Malaysia.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees studied in Malaysia are comparable to their UK counterparts.
Qualifications gained in the country are recognised around the world but check with potential employers in your home country to make sure that they'll accept your degree before applying.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Malaysia.