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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.

Malaysian universities

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.

Masters degrees

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:

  • biotechnology
  • digital broadcasting
  • electronic commerce
  • online information services
  • telemedicine.

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.

Student exchanges

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.

Course fees

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.

Student visas

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.

Language requirements

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.

Malaysia is one of the most vibrant countries in Southeast Asia. The rich culture, amazing food, bustling metropolises, lush green tropics, amazing shopping and dirt-cheap prices are some of the reasons why Malaysia has earned the slogan “Truly Asia”. Here are our top 5 reasons why you should think about studying in Malaysia. 

1. Malaysia is Asia’s Emerging Higher Education Hub

Malaysia is quickly becoming a top study destination for students from all over the world! Photo by Pexels / CC BY

Malaysia is quickly becoming a top study destination for students from all over the world, ranking 9th on UNESCO’s top countries for international students in 2015. Studying in Malaysia will give you a better understanding of Asia’s growing importance in today’s globalized world.

2. Malaysia has Great Universities

In KL, students gain a top-notch education and the experience of living in a modern metropolis. Photo by Chuttersnap / CC BY

Malaysian universities are getting better and better. Our partner university Universiti Putra Malaysia is ranked as the second-best university in Malaysia (Times Higher Education 2016) and acknowledged among the top 400 universities in the world (QS World Ranking, place 376).  Located in Kuala Lumpur, students gain a top-notch education and the experience of living in a modern, wonderfully varied metropolis.

3. There’s No Language Barrier

Malaysians will appreciate a lot if you try to communicate with them in their own language. Photo by Mimi Thian / CC BY

The official and national language of Malaysia is Malaysian, which is a standardized form of the Malay language. However, since the majority of the people in Malaysia understand and speak English very well, there is no crucial need for you to master the Malaysian language. A semester or two in Malaysia gives you a great opportunity to improve your English skills.

4. High Quality of Life at Low Cost

In Malaysia, you can live a luxurious life for very little money. Photo by Tianya1233 / CC BY

Western students are often amazed by how low the living expenses in Malaysia are. In Malaysia, you get high quality of life at a low cost. As an international student, you can live comfortably with just about 1100 MYR a month, inclusive of food, accommodation, and other daily expenses. Swimming pools are not a rare sight. Interested in affordable five-star hotel luxury accommodation even as a student? In Malaysia it is possible! 

5. Culture and Diversity

Taman Negara is the world´s oldest rainforest, a must to visit when you are in Malaysia. Photo by Woren76 / CC BY

Malaysia is a country of contrasts and surprises, a bubbly blend of people and ideologies. The laid-back, friendly Malaysians love to socialize and welcome you to their country with a smile. The stunning variety of attractions and free-time activities in the thrilling metropolitan area of Kuala Lumpur and the natural wonders of Malaysia such as Langkawi, Taman Negara, and Cameron Highlands ensure you will never run out of things to see and do.

Sounds interesting? Convinced? Find more information by clicking on the link below!

Below are some very good reasons why Malaysia is the top choice  of many international students:

1. Modern Amenities

Live Comfortably as a student here in Malaysia. We have very good transportation system with world-class highways that connect all the States in Peninsula Malaysia. Travelling within the city is very convenient with light rail system, buses and taxis.

2. Weather
Malaysia is blessed with warm moderate weather all year round. No 

3. Reputable Universities
Malaysia is a top choice of many international students who wants to obtain good reputable degrees atm very low fees.

4. No language Barrier
The majority of the people in Malaysia understand and converse well in English.

5. Places of interest
There are lots of interesting places to visit: ranging from nature (beach, mountains, jungles, rivers and caves), historical places, cultural destinations and shopping.

6. Food heaven
Malaysia being multi-cultural has a large variety of food, cooked in a lot of different styles that have been influenced by the various cultures that exist in the country including popular food from neighbouring countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Also there are many western food available in Malaysia too.

7. Living expenses are very low
International students can live comfortably with just RM1100 a month inclusive of food, accomodation and other daily expenses.

8. Low crime rate
Malaysia is relatively stable politically. With its low crime rate, Malaysia is a safe place to study.

9. Friendly people
Malaysians are very friendly making your stay here a memorable and enjoyable one.

10. Diverse Culture
As an international student, you can experience student life in multi-cultural Malaysia.

Why make Malaysia your destination of choice when studying abroad

1. 12th most preferred education destination in the world among international students

ADVERTISEMENTUNESCO (2014) statistics reveal which places around the world attract the most overseas students to their universities. Malaysia is ranked 12th.

2. Wide choice of courses and institutions for international students


Private universities57
Private university colleges29
Foreign university branch campuses8
Private colleges195

Note: Only institutions that have obtained approval from the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs can recruit international students.

3. Multiple pathways to other international universities

Private colleges and universities in Malaysia could be your pathway to other international universities through the American Degree Program, credit transfer programmes, and advanced standing arrangements.

4. 8 foreign university branch campuses to choose from

Students study for the same qualification but pay lower tuition fees; they also have the opportunity to spend one or more semesters at the main campus overseas.

5. Malaysia is currently home to more than 172,000 international students

According to NST, In Malaysia, as of Dec 31, 2016, there were 172,886 international students in our higher education institutions, private and international schools, and language centres. In higher education alone, there are 132,710 international students.

6. Transnational degree programmes at its best (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand)

  • “2+1” twinning degree programmes
  • “3+0” foreign bachelor’s degree

7. High quality education that is assured by legislation such as the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act 2007

These programmes can be considered for recognition by the government for the purpose of employment in the public sector. Accreditation is a status or achievement as a result of quality assessment by MQA. It is a commitment by MQA to all stakeholders in higher education i.e students, parents, employers that the programme accredited by MQA is quality-assured. Source:

8. English as primary medium of instruction

English is used as the primary medium of instruction for all courses conducted at private higher educational institutions.

9. Kuala Lumpur ranks #1 in QS Top Universities ‘Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2016′

KL gained a near perfect score for affordability, with a winning combination of low living costs and relatively low tuition fees (averaging US$3,900 a year), according to QS Top Universities ‘Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2016’.

10. Average cost of Living in Malaysia is lower compared to other popular study destinations

The 2014 HSBC report also found that the average cost of living in Malaysia for international students is lower compared than other popular study destinations such as Australia, the UK and the US.

11. The Mercer 2016 Quality of Living Rankings lists Kuala Lumpur among the top 10 cities in Asia-Pacific

In the Mercer 2016 Quality of Living Rankings, which looks at factors such as safety, health, education and public services, Kuala Lumpur was listed among the top 10 cities in Asia-Pacific, 2nd in South-east Asia, and 86 overall out of 230 cities.

12. Malaysia ranked 28th in the Global Peace Index 2015

Malaysia is also a politically stable and geographically safe country that enjoys a warm and humid tropical climate throughout the year. Learn more about Malaysia rankings in Global Peace Index 2015.

13. The diversity in Malaysia makes international students exposed to different cultures and traditions

The diversity in Malaysia means that international students are exposed to multiple languages, cultures and traditions as well as a wide variety of culinary treats and places of interest to explore.

14. Malaysia is a food haven and recreation is abundant

There are just so much to choose from, from local food courts to restaurants with regional favourites. Recreation is abundant in Malaysia with shopping malls, cinemas, gymnasiums, sports complexes, and more

15. Extensive international student support services:

  • visa applications
  • institution representative meets student at airport
  • accommodation arrangement
  • social and recreational activities

16. Simple and hassle free system for international students to gain entry into Malaysia

Obtaining a visa and a student pass for full-time study in Malaysia is a quick and easy process.

17. Gateway to Southeast Asia

With the 9th best airport in the world, students will find it easy to explore the nearby ASEAN nations, such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines, as well as further on, like China, Japan and Australia.

18. Affordable travel

Malaysia provides affordable travel within the region for students with low-cost airlines like AirAsia, AirAsia X, Cebu Pacific, Malindo Air, Tiger Airways, Scoot, and Jetstar Asia.

19. Work while you study

All international students with a valid student pass are allowed to work part time for a maximum of 20 hours per week during semester breaks or holidays of more than 7 days in specific sectors.

20. It’s easy to get around especially in larger cities like Kuala Lumpur

  • Light Rapid Transit (LRT)
  • Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (to be completed soon)
  • Taxis, Uber and GrabCar
  • KL Monorail
  • KTM Komuter
  • MyRapid buses












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