Cost-effective fees. Affordable costs of living. Education of high quality. If all three boxes are checked, maybe it’s not a reason to be surprised to learn that Malaysian universities are seeing an increase of international students applying for doctoral programs despite frequent lockdowns -also called the Movement Control Order (MCO) within the country in 2020 because of the COVID-19 disease.
Based on Education Malaysia Services (EMGS), 2021 saw an average of 11,161 applicants worldwide who applied for applications to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program at both private and public institutions. Compared to 2020, the number of applicants has nearly tripled, with just 6,348 applications being received during that year.
“Over the recent years, Malaysia has become the education hub of choice for international students seeking higher education,” read EMGS the statement. “It is interesting that many international students are currently pursuing Ph.D. in Malaysia.
Why do international students choose Malaysian universities to complete their doctoral studies?
Malaysia has set a target to attract 250,000 international students by 2025, as outlined in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. Source: Mohd Rasfan / AFP
One of the reasons international students can benefit from studying at universities in Malaysia is the variety of classes offered by Malaysian institutions. These comprise subjects in the humanities and law, social sciences general programs, according to EMGS.
Within Southeast Asian tertiary education institutions, Malaysian universities fare well in the global rankings. The University of Malaya, considered the most highly regarded public institution in the country, has been placed among the top 50 2022 Top Global universities in Asia by US News and World Report. Five areas are among the top 200 universities worldwide in the 2022 QS World University Rankings.
According to the data obtained from EMGS, the increase of foreign applicants from January and September 2021 mainly originates in the form of a Chinese student, which far surpasses applicants from other nations by thousands. In the wake of an increasing middle-class, China has become one of the top sources of international students, having over 700,000 studying abroad in 2019, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education.
At the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Chinese students began considering alternative educational options nearer to home, like schools in Malaysia and Singapore, because of the restrictions on travel and Beijing’s weakening relationships with Western nations, South China Morning Post reports.
The dramatic growth in international postgraduate applicants in Malaysian universities indicates the growing popularity as a hub for education. The tuition costs and costs of living in Malaysia are substantially lower than in Western countries like Australia or the UK. The cost of a Ph.D. program in the humanities and social sciences at the Malaysian public university can be found for as little as 7700 US dollars, which is affordable for students from abroad. English is also widely used as a second language making it unnecessary to study local languages to pursue research.
The price to live in Malaysia can be attractive for students. The cost of international students for food, as well as travel and accommodation, is around 14400 Ringgit (~US$3,440-US$4,600) each year. In addition, the country is placed at 23rd place according to the Global Peace Index, making it one of the most certain study abroad destinations in the world.
The flood of international students to Malaysia will allow Malaysia to meet its 250,000 international student enrollment in 2025. The target was laid out in Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025, set by the Ministry of Education. But, Malaysia is in a tough battle with neighboring countries since international frontiers have been reopened.
“We are losing to other countries in the region,” Elajsolan Mohan, President of the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napier) in Malaysia, was quoted as in The Star, referring to the flexibility of Australia’s study visa to extend post-study work rights as a way of attracting international students onto.