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Pre-U Programmes in Malaysia

by on March 12, 2015 | Pre-University Programmes & Foundation Studies


Private Education Route


Malaysian private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) have been preparing students for study in top universities worldwide since the 1970s. Today, these private institutions offer a full range of internationally recognised pre-university programmes which include the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) for 'A' and 'AS' Levels; Edexcel International for London Examinations GCE 'A' levels; the South Australian Matriculation (SAM); the Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT); the Canadian Pre-University Programme (CPU), Malaysia's Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and various universities' own degree foundation courses conducted in Malaysia

Therefore, there are many types of pre-university programmes available which are designed to accommodate the different learning needs of students aiming to pursue Bachelor's degree programmes in the universities.

The pre-university certificate is the basic qualification for grade 11 holders (SPM or GSCE "O level school leavers) en route to universities' year one (1) Bachelor's degree programmes. The duration of study is between one to two years depending on the learning needs of the students.

Many International Students who pursued their Pre-University programmes in Malaysia have gained placements in reputable universities in the world.

Some Renowned Providers

There are many well - established providers of pre-tertiary programmes in Malaysia which are acknowledged internationally for their various achievements. Some of them are:

Taylor's College is one of the world's largest Pre-university centres, providing uncompromised British, Australian and Canadian education. The largest independent centre for Cambridge 'A' Levels, Taylor's College also runs the South Australian Matriculation (SAM) / SACE International (SACEI). Taylor's College also offers the Canadian Pre-University (ICPU) programme.

Edexcel International accorded the Centre of Excellence award to HELP University for exceptional delivery of the London Examinations GCE 'A' Levels, in recognition of HELP's superior facilities, outstanding quality of teaching by qualified and experienced lecturers, and for the excellent pastoral support available to their students. Currently HELP is the largest centre for the London GCE A-level examination outside the UK.

Sunway University is the largest provider of AUSMAT in Malaysia and also has the largest Year 12 student population amongst all Western Australian schools providing students with internationally recognised TEE qualification for University Entrance. Sunway University College is the only higher educational institution in Malaysia to provide the MUFY (Monash University Foundation Year) programme on behalf of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Their students who followed the Cambridge GCE 'A' Levels are now studying in top universities and colleges such as: Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, London School of Economics, Durham, Southampton, Harvard, Princeton, Duke, California Institute of Technology, Boston, Stanford, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Monash, National University of Singapore and Osaka.

Programme Route to University Worldwide

Once the International Students have the basic academic entry requirement, the next step is to decide on which pre-university programme route to take:

Types of Pre-University Programmes

Basically, the pre-university programmes in Malaysia can be grouped into 3 types:
  • International Pre-University Qualifications by the External Examination Board
  • University's Internal Foundation Programmes
  • Malaysian Post-secondary Qualifications by the Malaysian Examination Board

A. International Pre-University Qualifications by the External Examination Board

The common types of externally accredited pre-university courses available to students with the GCE 'O' level or its equivalent, to prepare them for higher level of studies such as Bachelor's Degree programmes or professional courses (ACCA, CIMA, etc) are as follows:

GCE 'A' Levels by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
After GCSE 'O' levels, students have a choice to continue with the GCE 'A' Levels programme (UK's post-16 qualifications) offered by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) which is part of the Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate (UCLES). Many private colleges in Malaysia prepare students to sit for this examination which is a popular option among Malaysians as well as international students. It is internationally-recognised for admission into universities worldwide including professional courses.

The A-level syllabuses are divided into Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced Two (A2) levels, each contributing 50% towards the final A-Level grade. AS Level is the first half of the course and forms the foundation of A-Level. A2 Level is the second part of the syllabus and covers more difficult topics. There are normally between 2 to 4 A-level subjects and General Paper or English is compulsory. The duration of study is usually 15 to 18 months (3 semesters). Both the 'AS' and 'A2' levels are flexible and students have the freedom to select the subjects that they are interested in, either to study a broad variety of subjects or to specialise in a particular area.

For assessment purposes, students can choose any one of the following options:

  • Take all papers of the 'A' levels in one sitting, usually at the end of the second year of study, or
  • Take the 'staged' assessment route, that is, to take the 'AS' level in one examination session and the final part of the assessment 'A2' level at a subsequent session, or
  • Take the 'AS' level only, either at the end of a one-year or two-year course.

It is 100% external examination-based. Both the 'A2' and 'AS' level examination sessions occur twice a year, in June and November, with some subjects only available in June or November. Results are issued in August and February respectively.

GCE 'A' Level by the London Examinations Board
International Students can also take up the 'A' Levels programmes conducted by the prestigious London Examinations and delivered by the Edexcel International. The London Examinations GCE Advanced Levels are exactly the same as the examination in the UK. International Students sit for the same examination papers as students in the UK and candidates are awarded certificates of the same standard regardless of where they are in the world.

The London GCE 'A' Levels is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) of the United Kingdom. The qualifications consist of two sets of three units; Advanced Subsidiary (AS) units, generally studied in year one, and A2 units, studied in year two.

Both Science and Arts subjects are available for students who have just completed their SPM or 'O' Levels examinations (or their equivalent). The programme is flexible and may be completed in 18 months (3 semesters). Students may take the examination in stages or in one final sitting. Most subjects comprise 6 modular units. Students are also allowed to re-sit a unit for an unlimited number of times and only the better grade will be counted. There are two examinations conducted per year (in January and June). Most combinations of at least 3 subjects are acceptable as entry qualifications to many universities in the world into their undergraduate programmes.

South Australian Matriculation (SAM)
The South Australian Matriculation, or SAM, is an internationally-recognised Australian pre-university matriculation programme which is set and administered by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA). This is a statutory authority of the South Australian Government with the sole legislative responsibility for the curriculum and assessment of senior secondary education in that state. SAM has been offered to students outside of Australia since 1984 and is accepted by many renowned universities in Australia, the UK, the USA, New Zealand and India into their undergraduate programmes.

SAM has a unique assessment pattern, in which 50% of the final mark is derived from the final examination while the other remaining 50% is internally-awarded through continuous assessment of coursework and tests, thereby assessing the student's overall performance. It offers students the flexibility to complete over an extended period although the normal duration of study is one year. The curriculum consists of five subjects and students must take up English as a Second Language Studies or English Studies. Students can alsorepeat subjects without a penalty. Students will be awarded  the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE).

The intake for students is only held once a year. The minimum qualification for admission into the SAM programme is the 'O' Levels or equivalent qualifications, with at least 5 credits totaling not more than 30 points, including credits in English and Mathematics / Science.

Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT)
The Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) is the final year (Year 12) of the secondary school programme offered by the government of Western Australia to enable entry into year one Bachelor's degree programmes of most universities around the world, such as Australia, the UK, New Zealand, the US, Canada, and private universities in Malaysia.

The AUSMAT is an internationally-recognised pre-university programme administered by the Curriculum Council of Western Australia on behalf of the Western Australian government. Students are graded based on their performance throughout the year, i.e. 50% course and project work and 50% final examination. This arrangement not only helps to remove pressure of the single year-end assessment, but also provides opportunities for the usage of a variety of assessment techniques in determining students' standards of achievement.

The entry requirement into AUSMAT is SPM, 'O' Levels or other equivalent qualifications, with a minimum of 5 credits in subjects of Science and Mathematics. The student intakes are in January and March. The course duration is between 8 to 10 months and students are required to take up five subjects including either English or ESL.

Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP)
The Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP), which is also known as the Canadian Pre-University Programme (CPU) is the final year of the secondary school programme in Ontario, Canada. It was established in 1990 and has since grown to become the largest Canadian Matriculation programme in the world. It is designed based on the course guidelines and standards of the Ministry of Education and Training of the Ontario Province. Upon meeting all requirements of the programme, students will graduate with the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

CIMP is a one-year (1) course based on an Ontario Curriculum and students take a total of six subjects which include one English subject, that is, either ENG4E or ENG4U. Assessment comprises 70% coursework and 30% final examinations. Intake is three times a year i.e. January, March and July. The minimum entry requirement is five (5) credits in SPM, O-Level or equivalent.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is another recognised pre-university qualification for entry into degree courses of the world's leading universities. Created in 1968, this Diploma Programme is a comprehensive 2-year curriculum, primarily aimed at students aged 16 to 19. This programme requires students to study both the humanities and science subjects. There are altogether 6 subjects which include English, Maths, a foreign language, science, social science like history or geography and a creative subject like drama or art.

It is fast becoming a preferred pre-university course. This is because the programme offers a broad and balanced curriculum related to real world issues and problems. Wherever possible, subjects are taught from an international perspective. The programme is open to Malaysians and International Students and the entry requirement is SPM or GCE 'O' level.

A. Malaysian Post-secondary Qualifications

SPM school leavers in Malaysia can opt to continue for pre-university qualification awarded by the Ministry of Education Malaysia. The Malaysian authorities offer two types of Malaysian post-secondary or pre-university (post-secondary) programmes. The programmes are:

The Sixth Form (Malaysian High School Certificate)
The Sixth Form prepares the SPM (equivalent to O-level) students to sit for a common public examination leading to the award of a high school certificate, namely Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (or better known as STPM). This qualification is equivalent to the General Certificate of Education (GCE) 'A' levels certificate. STPM programmes offer two streams – science stream and arts stream.

Form Six comprises the lower form and upper form and is conducted over a duration of one and a half years. The examination body, Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia, allows students to enroll for the examination with a minimum of one (1) subject and a maximum of five (5) subjects (including General Studies). There is only one intake per year in the month of May.

Besides the local universities, the STPM certificate is accepted by the world's leading universities for entry into degree programmes.

Matriculation Programme
The Matriculation Programme is another pre-university qualification conducted by the Matriculation Colleges under the Ministry of Education, which award the pre-university certificate. The Matriculation programme offers two streams – science stream and accounting stream.

Each stream offers at least six subjects and the duration of study is two semesters totaling one year. The intake of students into Matriculation Colleges is conducted once a year in March or April.

These qualifications prepare SPM leavers for entry into local public universities, private colleges, private universities, foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia, foreign universities overseas and other kinds of higher educational institutions or alternatively, into the workforce. STPM and Matriculation qualifications are awarded by the MOE and are recognised by the government as the entry requirement to Malaysian public universities.

C. University's Internal Pre-U Qualifications

Many private higher educational institutions, especially those offering twinning degree programmes have developed their own internal university foundation programmes. These courses are usually accredited by the Malaysia quality assurance agency (MQA) and recognised by the respective foreign partner universities and also accepted by many other overseas universities as an equivalent to pre-university qualification in their respective home countries.

Unlike the external qualifications which focus on more general Science and Art-based subjects, the internal qualifications provide specialisation in precise areas of study such as the fields of business, computer & IT, and engineering, and hence, cater to the specific needs of different students.

There are basically three intakes a year for these internal university foundation programmes, which would usually take a period of one year to complete. The general entry requirement for admission into these university foundation programmes is the SPM, GCSE 'O' Levels or other equivalent qualifications, where students are required to possess a minimum of 5 credits in relevant subjects.

Among some instances of internal pre-university programmes individually offered by the private colleges are the:

  • Pre-University Courses for BioScience/Engineering/Law by Taylor's College
  • Foundation for University Studies in Business and Foundation for University Studies in Science by KDU College
  • Foundation Certificate in Engineering, Science & Technology by KBU International College
  • The Monash University Foundation Year
  • Australian Foundation Business Studies (La Trobe Univ.) by Nilai International College

Minimum Academic Entry Requirements for Pre-Tertiary Education for International Students

Table below indicates the general guidelines on minimum admission requirements into Malaysian institutions for students of overseas countries.
Table 6.2: Minimum Academic Admission Requirements For International Students
Student's Country of Origin Academic Qualification & Minimum Admission Requirements To Enter Into Pre-University Programmes
Brunei GCE (Ordinary Level) - Credit in 4 relevant subjects & English competency
Bangladesh High School Certificate (H.S.C.) yr 10 score 120 average or GCE 'O' Level (credit in 4 relevant subjects & English competency)
P.R.China Complete Senior Middle 2
Fiji and Pacific Islands Fiji School Leaving Cert – aggregate of 230 for best 4 subjects
Hong Kong HKCEE – Grade D in 4 subjects
Cambodia Upper Secondary School Certificate (Baccalaureate) – pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
India GCE 'O' Level – pass
Indonesia Sekolah Menengah Umum 2 (SMU 2) - A minimum average grade of 7.5 Or SMU 3 – average grade 7.0
Iran National High Secondary School Diploma / Secondary School Diploma - pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
Japan Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificate - grade C in 5 subjects
Malaysia Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education equivalent to 'O' Level) – 5 credits
Maldives GCE (Ordinary Level) - A minimum of 5 credits
Mauritius GCE (Ordinary Level) - A minimum of 5 credits
Myanmar Basic Education High School Certificate (BEHS) (e.g. Matriculation) - Minimum average grade of 60% or better for all subjects
Nepal Higher Secondary Certificate - 1st Division
Oman Thanawiya Amma (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) - pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
Pakistan Intermediate High School Certificate (H.S.C.) / HSC or GCE 'O' Level - pass
Philippines High School Diploma - with pass in University Admission
Saudi Arabia Tawjihiyah (General Secondary Education Certificate) - pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
Singapore GCE 'O' Level – credit in 4 relevant subjects and English competency
South Africa South Africa Senior Certificate - pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
Republic of Korea Senior High School Leaving Cert – grade C in 5 subjects
Macau HKCEE – grade D in 4 subjects
Sri Lanka GCE 'O' Level – credit in 4 relevant subjects and English competency
Taiwan High School Leaving Cert – grade C in 5 subjects
Thailand Mathayom Suksa 6 (Upper Secondary School Certificate)
Matayom 6 – grade 2.5 or above in relevant subjects
Matayom 6 – grade 3.0 or above in relevant vocational subjects
United Arab Emirates Shahadat Al-Thanawiya Al-Amma (Secondary School Leaving Certificate)
General Secondary Education Certificate – pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects
Vietnam Tot Nghiep Pho Thong Trung Hoc (Upper Secondary School Graduation Year 12 – grade 7.0 average or Year 11 – grade 7.5 average
Yemen Al-Thanawiya (General Secondary Education Certificate) - pass with satisfactory grades in relevant subjects

Source : Prospectus of Taylor's College & Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Malaysia
(Please note that the minimum admission academic requirements stated here are merely guides and students are advised to contact individual institutions for enrolment requirements as well as other terms and conditions.)

The Cost of Pre-University Education

The cost of education consists of the tuition fees which include the registration fee, deposit, computer/science laboratory fees, library fees and other incidental costs. The other portion of the cost would include living expenses like food, transport, stationery, accommodation, etc.

One of the important factors that attracts International Students to choose to study in Malaysia is the low tuition fee. Table below shows the breakdown of tuition fee for Pre-University and Foundation programmes.

Table 6.3: Tuition Fees (RM) - Foundation or Pre-University Studies
Pre-University Studies Cost & Duration
GCE 'A' Level, UK USD3,240 - USD4,320 (18 mths) (RM12,000 to RM16,000)
Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT), Australia USD1,890 – USD2,680 (1 yr) (RM7,000 - RM9,900)
South Australian Matriculation (SAM), Australia USD2,430 – USD3,650 (1 yr) (RM9,000 - RM13,500)
Canadian Pre-U, Canada USD3,320 – USD3,650 (1 yr) (RM12,300 - RM13,500)
University Foundation Studies, Malaysia USD1,890 – USD3,240 (1 yr) (RM7,000 - RM12,000)

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team)

• Education Guide Malaysia (10th Edition)
• Sunway University College Pre-U brochure
• HELP University College Pre-U brochure
• Various Examination Bodies' Websites


Malaysian pre-university providers have created many firsts and the world's biggest in preparing students for pre-university qualification. Many International Students who have studied here have also being placed in top universities worldwide.

With such proven track record since the 1970s, Malaysia offers international students among the best options to do pre-university programmes. If you choose to continue your undergraduate studies in Malaysia after obtaining your pre-university qualification, there are many choices for you to choose from such as the '3+0' degree programme, foreign university branch campus degree, twinning degree arrangement and etc which are being offered at very competitive course fees.

Last updated: 22 Apr 2016

Study in Malaysia Handbook 6th Ed.Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook 6th Ed. - Chapter 6

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