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Branding Malaysia

The Star, 11 June 2006

THE Malaysia Education Promotion Centre (MEPC), the Higher Education Ministry's international promotions arm, provides a service to prospective international students by giving information on education, culture and lifestyle.  

The MEPC has four centres worldwide.  

“We have centres in Beijing, Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta. We hope to set up a fifth one in central Africa soon to cover the continent,” says the Higher Education Ministry’s International Education and Promotions director Dr Mohamed Nasser Mohamed Noor.  

With the new information kit, the MEPC aims to go all out in promoting Malaysian education.

The centres are set up to provide educational services as well as promote the country as a study destination. 

“For example, the one in Ho Chi Minh City has to cover not only Vietnam but the whole of South East Asia. It's the same with the Dubai MEPC which is in charge of the Middle East. The MEPC will organise roadshows, counselling and advertisements to promote Malaysia.”  

Students can also obtain information from the Malaysian embassies in their countries, where the centres were originally located before they were moved to more accessible venues. 

Dr Nasser, who took up office in the newly-created role at the Higher Education Ministry in January is upbeat about the efforts they are making in promoting Malaysia as a study destination.  

“Our first priority is to brand Malaysian education. We have to achieve a level where Malaysia is a centre of excellence so that people will believe in it. We have to package what is best, showcase it and promote it to create the right image,” he says. 

DR NASSER: Our first priority is to brand Malaysian education.

Dr Nasser adds that the ministry is collaborating with agencies such as the Malaysia Tourism Board and Matrade (Malaysian Trade Council) as well as a few private institutions to streamline efforts in promoting Malaysia in the target countries. A partnership with StudyMalaysia.com has also been forged to provide greater access to information on Malaysian institutions.  

Before starting the roadshows, a media blitz will be launched in the local dailies of that country, while brochures are sent to schools.  

“This makes it easier once we arrive in the country for our roadshow. We will also visit schools to give seminars and provide counselling,” Dr Nasser says.  

He adds that the effort is gaining momentum due to Malaysia’s quality education that is gaining recognition in the region.  

“From experience, any young student will choose the country, not the institution, unless it is an Ivy League or a top university. 

“Our institutions are now well known in the region. For example, when we promote our roadshows overseas, we are often asked how institutions like KDU, LUCT or IIUM are doing.  

“These institutions have created their own niche, which they have marketed effectively. And soon, with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), we will streamline our qualifications with international standards, making it easier for accreditation, credit transfer and others,” he says.  

At the end of the day, he says the ministry wants MEPC to be branded as a one-stop information centre for Malaysian higher education, just like foreign agencies such as the British Council or Australia Education International (AEI). Dr Nasser admits that the MEPC is unable to cover every nook and corner of the world.  

“We are in our third year, so I guess we have a lot of ground to cover,” he says. 

With a new information kit, the MEPC aims to go all out in promoting Malaysian education.  

“I think that we have not left any gaps in information; we have tried to cover everything – living costs, cultural background, scholarship assistance – it is all there.  

“That is why I’ll be surprised if students say there is not enough information in the kit. We have also made the kits visually more attractive and colourful,” he adds.  

“These kits have been sent to the MEPCs, embassies, the Malaysian Students Department, tourism offices and we hope to put more at MAS ticketing offices.  On the issue of education agents, Dr Nasser says the ministry does not have jurisdiction over them. 

He says anyone can be an agent as all they need to do is register as a company or operate as an individual. The ministry, however, is looking at creating a “Recommended List” of agents, which students can consult to check on their agent’s validity.  

More importantly, he says, students should take the initiative to verify all the information they gather.  

“If the agents are well trained, they will help students in every aspect, from immigration and housing to making sure they are picked up from the airport.  

“Only 206 of our institutions have been given the green light to take in international students. These institutions are required to ensure that the international students' needs are taken care of.  

“If there is any local institution that students are doubtful about, they can check the ministry's website (www.mohe.gov.my) or our partner’s website StudyMalaysia.com, or e-mail us.  

“You can get all the information you need as well as the search engines for the institutions. The website also has translations in languages such as Vietnamese, Malay, English and Arabic,” Dr Nasser says. 

And how far have we gone in our effort to brand Malaysia?  

“Quite successful. If you go to most countries in the region, we are known. That shows that we are getting somewhere with our branding. But we still need to work harder to promote Malaysian education,” he notes. – BY HARIATI AZIZAN