BORN TO TEACH

Malaysia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

As the country's economy grows, so does the need to supply a highly educated workforce, which is why many countries look to internationally recognized universities to help fill that gap.

International higher education institutions are increasingly looking at Malaysia as a host location for their satellite campuses. Contributing to the growing global trend that is the internationalization of higher education, Malaysia today has over 10 foreign universities open for admission and over 100,000 international students.

Spearheading a trend, Australia's Monash University was the first to establish a foreign campus in Malaysia in 1998. Today, it has a population of over 6,000 students from over 70 countries and over 100 partner universities. Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus are some of those that have since joined the list.
A multicultural setting and strong government commitment to position Malaysia as a global education hub, in addition to lower cost of living are some of the features that have attracted foreign investment in Malaysia's education sector. “The widespread use of English, the education system, and a well-known and familiar legal system were all considered attractive features of the country. Malaysia was significantly outward focused and anglophile in nature and had massive ambitions for the growth of its education sector. It, therefore, became an obvious choice to make Malaysia a location for a campus,” explains Professor Christine Ennew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost/CEO of University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

EduCity is an initiative within the southern economic corridor of Iskandar Malaysia in Johor designed to further strengthen Malaysia's position as a hub for international education. Integrating higher education institutes and R&D centers as well as student facilities, it is one of the Entry Point Projects (EPP) under the Education National Key Economic Area (NKEA) of the government's Economic Transformation Program and is forecast to contribute RM1015.7 million to GNI by 2020 and provide 1,164 jobs. “The concept of EduCity was to bring the best faculties from around the world to cover the range of disciplines that were wanted,” explains Prof. John McBride, CEO of the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus, which was invited to set up an Engineering facility here. The list of confirmed foreign universities in EduCity also includes Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (UK), Raffles University (Singapore), Reading University (UK), and the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology. “EduCity definitely played a role in our decision [to come to Malaysia]” said Professor Tony Downes, Provost & CEO of University of Reading Malaysia. “Within the context of EduCity, we felt we could offer a university experience more in line with what we deliver in England.”

Foreign branch campuses make an important contribution to the country's research efforts and attract talent to Malaysia, as many international graduates stay to join the labour pool. They also lowers the temptation for local students seeking international credentials to migrate overseas, thus contributing to government efforts to create and maintain talent, and allows local students with a smaller budget to obtain a degree from an international university without having to move abroad. Furthermore, the presence of foreign universities in Malaysia increases the country's engagement with prestigious higher education institutions around the world, fosters bilateral relations, and contributes to capacity building.

In order to meet its ambitious goal of recruiting 200,000 international students by 2020, the government will continue to focus on luring foreign branch campuses. It is currently reviewing over 20 new applications from universities that have expressed an interest in setting up a branch campus in Malaysia, often representing these universities' first international venture. For the Asia School of Business (ASB), an initiative between MIT's Sloan School of Business and the central bank, Malaysia offered the opportunity to be innovative because it was the institution's first school that was being started from scratch. The ASB is expecting 50 students for its inaugural MBA program in 2016.