Located in the heart of tropical southeast Asia, Malaysia has a growing higher education sector and plenty to offer those considering postgraduate study abroad

Malaysia can certainly be described as a land of opportunity. This culturally and geographically diverse country, separated by the South China Sea, is quickly evolving into a technologically-advanced, industrialised nation.

Affordable course fees and a relatively low cost of living are just a few of the many reasons graduates decide to further their education in Malaysia. With its welcoming multi-ethnic population and beautiful natural landscapes providing a fascinating contrast to modern city living, you will feel safe and at home here as you study for your internationally-recognised qualification.

This gateway to Asia is a true gastronomical paradise, with its culinary style drawing inspiration from Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Malay influences. It is also a place where celebration is just a way of life, with hundreds of colourful festivals taking place in the country every year.

Masters degrees

A wide range of Masters degree courses are 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 thesis.

Entry requirements will 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).

The academic year for universities typically begins in late February or early March. Full-time Masters degrees (MA, MSc/MS) usually last between two and six semesters (each consisting of 12 weeks), although this will depend on the course selected.

For an official list of Malaysian Masters degrees and to find out more about the courses on offer, visit Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Education Malaysia, is regarded as the official gateway to studying in Malaysia.

Malaysian universities

Already the 12th top global destination for international study, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data, Malaysia has grand ambitions to become the sixth-largest education provider by 2020.

Higher education institutions in Malaysia can be divided into:

  • Government universities - There are 20 public establishments (or IPTAs), including: the University of Malaya (UM); University of Science, Malaysia (USM); and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
  • Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs) - Often referred to as IPTS institutions, these universities and university colleges are established by private sector companies.
  • Foreign university branches - There are currently 10 university branches that have been set up by institutions based in other countries. These include: the University of Nottingham; Newcastle University; and Monash University (Australia).

A number of Malaysian universities are ranked in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, such as the University of Malaya (151) and the National University of Malaysia (NUM) (259).

Course fees

The costs associated with study at a Malaysian higher education institution are very competitive when compared with other countries around the world. Postgraduate tuition fees for international students are cheaper than the equivalent at a UK university.

An MA at a government-funded public university can be as low as MYR 3,000 (£538) per academic year, according to PostgradMalaysia.com.

The University of Malaya is one of the cheapest institutions in the country, with course fees for an international undergraduate costing an average of just 7,078 Malaysian ringgit (MYR) per year (£1,270).

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 60,500 (£10,845) in 2015/16. Students enrolling onto the same course in the UK would be expected to pay £23,000 in HEU fees.

Funding to study in Malaysia

Living costs in Malaysia are also 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 postgraduate level in a priority subject area 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.

A database containing the latest undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships available to international students can be found at Study Malaysia.

How to apply

Prospective students will need to apply direct to the 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 will also vary from institution to institution, although you will usually be asked to present your university transcripts, as well as details of any work experience you have gained.

If applying to a private university, it is important to make sure that they are licensed and approved by both the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Home Affairs to accept international students.

Language requirements

At private universities, all postgraduate 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.

Student visas

A visa, which takes the form of a student pass, is a mandatory requirement for international students wishing to study in Malaysia. Applications must be made through your chosen university who will submit your application to EMGS for approval.

To find out more about the process of applying for a student pass, visit Education Malaysia.

Malaysian exchanges and placements

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. Further information can be found at University of Malaya.

Doctoral programmes

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 in Malaysia.

The country boasts an impressive natural biodiversity making it an ideal environment for postgraduate research in science and technology. There is a strong focus on biotechnology, advanced materials technology, life sciences and microelectronics.

For a comprehensive list of the Malaysian institutions offering doctoral programmes, visit Education Malaysia.

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