Several major UK and international universities have set up overseas campuses in Malaysia, a sign of the growing strength of the country's higher education sector
Malaysia's population of more than 30 million people is spread over two distinct regions, mainland Southeast Asia and part of the island of Borneo in the South China Sea. The capital, Kuala Lumpur - home to the instantly recognisable Petronas twin towers - was named the world's second most affordable city for students by QS in 2018.
Around half of Malaysia's population is ethnically Malay, but there are also many Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians and indigenous groups. Studying there will provide a great insight into this diverse and dynamic nation - not to mention giving you an unmissable opportunity to sample its stunning rainforests and beaches.
For practical information on travelling to and staying in Malaysia, see the UK government's foreign travel advice.
Universities in Malaysia are a mix of 20 publicly-funded and 47 private institutions offering internationally-recognised courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
In 2018, the country's higher education system was ranked as the 25th strongest in the world by QS, which also included 13 Malaysian universities in its 2019 global league table. The leading institutions are:
- University of Malaya (UM)
- The National University of Malaya (UKM)
- Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
- Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
- Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
There are also ten international universities with an overseas campus in Malaysia. From the UK, these include Heriot-Watt University, Newcastle University (medicine), The University of Nottingham, the University of Reading, and the University of Southampton (engineering). Australia's Monash University has a Malaysia campus too.
Degrees courses in Malaysia
There are more than 2,300 undergraduate degree-level courses available in Malaysia. They typically take between three and five years to complete. You'll need to have A-levels or equivalent in order to win a place - although specific entry requirements vary by course and university.
Intakes are in January, April or September depending on the course. Search for Malaysian Bachelor degrees at Study Malaysia - What to study and then apply on your chosen university's website.
Postgraduate study is offered at public and private universities, and at the overseas campuses of international universities. Find out where this level of study is available at PostgradMalaysia - Where to study.
You can enrol on postgraduate diplomas, taught and research Masters degrees. Taught courses involve lectures, tutorials, essays, group work and exams, often with the opportunity for work placements. Research programmes are centred on an original piece of research leading to an extended dissertation.
Full-time and part-time study is available. If you choose to study full time, a Masters degree will take you between one and three years to complete, depending on your course. A range of subjects are available, but Malaysian institutions have a particular focus on:
- digital broadcasting
- electronic commerce
- online information services
You can search for courses at PostgradMalaysia - What to study.
To secure a place on a Masters course, you'll generally need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. Some universities expect you to have achieved at least a 2:1 degree classification. Alternatively, you may be eligible if you have a degree in any subject and work experience in a related field.
Universities set their own entry requirements, so always check before applying.
Malaysia's government has placed a lot of emphasis on boosting its research output, so there are plenty of opportunities for international students to undertake PhDs at public and private universities.
To get a PhD in Malaysia you'll need to put together a substantial piece of original academic research, submit a thesis and present your findings to a panel of assessors. Entry requirements include a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree relevant to your chosen field of research.
If you study at a UK university that has a branch in Malaysia, or an association with a Malaysian university, you may be offered the option of taking a semester or a full year of your course there. Ask your tutors or student services to find out whether this option is available to you.
For other exchange programmes with Malaysian universities, check the institution's website to see what opportunities there are.
Tuition fees vary between institutions, but the costs associated with study at a Malaysian university are affordable when compared with countries like the UK, USA and Australia. Tuition fees for postgraduate courses average around 30,000 Malaysian Ringgit (about £6,432).
If you choose to study at an international branch campus, you'll usually pay a bit more in tuition fees. They tend to charge between RM50,000 (£10,270) and RM60,000 (£12,684). Studying for an MBA will cost extra.
Funding to study in Malaysia
Living costs in Malaysia are relatively low compared with 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 to you, make sure you get in touch with your chosen university.
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 funding available to international students can be found at Study Malaysia - Scholarships.
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.
How to apply
For postgraduate study you'll need to apply directly to the university you want to study at, as there's no centralised application system. There is no restriction on how many institutions you can apply to.
In most cases you'll need to complete an application form outlining your academic achievements and including a personal statement. However, application methods vary by university - with some requiring a letter and others a much more detailed academic history and, if applicable, your research proposal.
Most universities in Malaysia teach postgraduate courses in English, whereas undergraduate degrees are generally studied in the local language, Malay. If your course is taught in English and that isn't your first language, you may be required to take a test such as IELTS to demonstrate your proficiency.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Postgraduate qualifications from Malaysia are recognised around the world and should be accepted by employers - always confirm this with recruiters before applying for a job.
Meanwhile, undergraduate degrees are easily comparable with their UK counterparts. You'll be awarded a grade of Class I, Class II Division I or Class II Division II, which are equivalent to the UK's First, 2:1 or 2:2 system.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Malaysia.