Malaysia is morphing into a key destination for foreign universities, with 25 applications received to set up campuses here.
Interest in the tertiary education sector has shifted to a higher gear, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin. The latest applicants allowed to set up campuses here were University of Reading and Heriot-Watt University, both from the United Kingdom.
“We’ve even received applications to set up new private universities from established players although their internal policies don’t allow them to set up branches abroad. “There are also foreign investors who have no affiliation with any university, but keen to set up new universities in Malaysia.”
The Manipal International University and Vinayaka Mission International University College were instances of new foreign universities in the country.
Universities that involve foreign entities are the Al-Madinah International University, INTI International University, Perdana University, Malaysia Institute for Supply-Chain Innovation and Raffles University Iskandar Malaysia. Khaled said many of the applications came from developed nations like the United States, Britain, Australia and Switzerland as well as from the United Arab Emirates, China, India, Nepal and Singapore.
He said he expected to receive more applications, especially from Europe and West Asia, following economic uncertainty and political discord in some of these places. “Investors set their sights on nations that promise good returns and stability for their investments. Malaysia offers these as it has a stable political and economic climate and is free from natural disasters.
“We have a strong quality control system via Malaysia Quality Framework, undertaken by the Malaysia Quality Agency. We also have tax incentives and a liberal higher education policy.”
Malaysia has ranked 11th as the chosen destination for international students to further their studies. It controls two per cent of the total international students’ market. Khaled said the country had much to offer with its strategic location, infrastructure, large land deposit for development, lower operational costs and with English spoken widely as the second language.
“We have the Iskandar Development corridor in Johor and the Kuala Lumpur Education City in Negri Sembilan.” As such, Khaled said the higher learning sector was poised to be the key engine of growth as Malaysia moved towards a developed and high-income status.
This had boosted the country’s reputation as one that possesses quality higher education on a par with developed countries and becoming Asia’s leading education hub, he said. “Foreign universities are careful and sensitive in their selection of locations to set up their campuses abroad.
“When Malaysia is chosen by several world-renowned universities, it shows that our tertiary education sector has reached a higher level.” By 2015, more than 150,000 international students were expected to pick Malaysia as their choice, he said.
On whether having foreign campuses would threaten local institutions of higher learning, Khaled believed this would create competitiveness among universities. Most developed nations exported their higher learning products to expand their networks of cooperation to reach those in the developing and Third World countries, he added.
To strengthen and boost the competitiveness of local universities, Khaled said the ministry had awarded autonomy status to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia.