Student Info & Guide

Going abroad from Malaysia

by on June 30, 2020 | Going Abroad From Malaysia, Top Stories

Going abroad from Malaysia -

Begin with Malaysia

Many students dream about going abroad to study in western countries like the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, and others. However, a large number of students are unable to do so because the reality is that studying abroad in these countries takes substantial funding. Not only do you have to think about the tuition fees and hefty currency exchange that doesn't add to your favour, most of the cities in these countries have a high cost of living.

So what can you do besides hunting and hoping for a scholarship? It might all seem like a dream you can’t achieve but don't be too quick to dash your dreams. Here are five ways you can get a foreign degree in Malaysia without having to bust your bank.

  1. Advanced standing pathway for an overseas degree
  2. Do a '3+0' degree in Malaysia
  3. Study at a foreign university branch campus / International campus
  4. Twinning degree programmes (2+1 or 1+2) – do it here and there
  5. American Degree Transfer Programmes and Trans-international programmes (UK and Australia)
  6. Study a foreign university’s external degree programme
  7. Do a dual-award degree programme in Malaysia
Going Abroad From Malaysia

Malaysia has a well-developed transnational education or advanced standing structure for students studying here in Malaysia to continue their education overseas at a much reduced cost. This means that students spend their initial years studying in Malaysia compared to pursuing the entire programme overseas. This arrangement also allows international students who come to Malaysia to take advantage of this opportunity so that they can achieve their dream of experiencing student life abroad in not one, but two countries.

In a nutshell, if you want to:

  • study for a foreign degree but pay lower fees, or
  • want to enjoy lower fees but the course of our choice is not available in Malaysia, then you can begin right here with Malaysia’s private higher educational institutions (HEIs).

The advanced standing pathway for an overseas degree qualification

‘Advanced standing’ is one of the ways you can pursue a course you are interested in that is offered by a university abroad without busting your education budget. Such an arrangement between Malaysian institutions and universities from the UK, Australia, Canada, and others have been developed by private colleges in Malaysia since the early 1980s.

With an ‘advanced standing’ status, recognition (full or part) is given by a foreign university of a particular course pursued at a Malaysian private HEI (such as a diploma or Year 1 or Year 2 of a bachelor degree) that allows a student advanced entry into the foreign university’s degree programme.

The features of this programme are:

  • Local private HEIs cooperate with a consortium of overseas universities
  • The course curriculum of local private HEIs are recognised with either full or part exemption for a foreign degree programme
  • Students of local private HEIs have a choice of overseas universities (within the consortium) to complete their degree programmes
  • The degree qualification is awarded by the overseas university

The benefits of advanced standing programmes are:

  • Students have the opportunity to acquire a degree qualification awarded by a foreign university with substantial cost savings
  • Students have a wide option of universities and courses
  • Students have the advantage of experiencing learning in two countries

The good:

Besides enabling students to obtain a foreign degree at a lower cost, advanced standing programmes also give students more flexibility in choosing where they want to study and for how long. With some programmes, students may have the opportunity to choose from a few foreign universities from various countries.

Generally, if you choose a degree programme that is recognised with advanced standing status, you will:

  • have the flexibility to acquire a degree qualification that is awarded by a foreign university
  • enjoy substantial cost savings in acquiring a foreign degree qualification as you will spend the first one to two years studying at a Malaysian PHEI
  • have a wide option of universities and courses
  • have the advantage of experiencing learning and life as a student in two countries
  • have the option of completing the entire degree programme in Malaysia if you face financial constraints during your studies (please note that if a student completes the entire programme at a private university in Malaysia, the degree will be awarded by the Malaysian private university)

Pathways to international qualifications

Foreign degree qualification via diploma pathway (vertical credit transfer)

An ‘advanced standing’ status for a diploma qualification means that the respective private college’s internal diploma programme is validated and moderated with ‘advanced standing’ entry status by one or more foreign universities. Students who have completed the diploma are accepted at the second or third year of the degree programme overseas, subject to the articulation agreements.

Many internally-developed diploma level programmes offered by private HEIs are recognised and granted ‘advanced standing’ status by foreign universities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, France, China, Taiwan and the US for their bachelor’s degree programmes.

No. Diploma qualification with advanced standing status Awarded by Malaysian PHEI Leading to an overseas bachelor degree qualification
Awarded by overseas university
1 Diploma in Advertising & Graphic Design The One Academy of Communication Design (TOA) Bachelor of Fine Arts (Advertising Design) College for Creative Studies, USA
2 Diploma in Civil Engineering Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL) BEng (Civil Engineering) University of Portsmouth, UK
3 Diploma in Electronic Engineering First City University College BEng (Hons) Electrical & Electronic Engineering Sheffield Hallam University, UK
4 Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Nilai University BSc (Hons) Aircraft Engineering Kingston, UK

Table 1: Examples of advanced standing arrangement that lead to a bachelor degree via a diploma qualification (vertical credit transfer pathway)
(Source: Education Guide Malaysia 15th edition)

Foreign degree qualification via a degree pathway (horizontal credit transfer)

Going Abroad From Malaysia

Many Malaysian private university’s internal degree programmes (Year 1 and Year 2 curriculum) are recognised by one or more partner universities overseas with ‘advanced standing’ entry status in terms of credit exemption. Therefore students who want to pursue a foreign university degree at a much lower cost can begin right here in Malaysia by pursuing home-grown Year 1 and/or Year 2 bachelor degree courses at selected private HEIs that have the ‘advanced standing’ with foreign universities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, and other countries. This unique collaboration enables students who have completed Year 1 and/or Year 2 of a private HEI's home-grown bachelor degree to gain admission to the second or third year of a degree programme at a partner university overseas and will be awarded a degree by this partner university at the end of their studies.

No. Degree from private university with ‘Advanced Standing’ status Years in Malaysia Overseas bachelor degree qualification
Awarded by overseas university
Duration of study at overseas university
1. 4-year Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons) (offered by International Medical University) Two years  (Year 1 & 2) at International Medical University (IMU) Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) University of Otago, NZ Two years, two months (Year 3 & 4) in NZ
2. 4-year Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons) (offered by Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur) Complete second year at Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL) BEng (Civil Engineering) University of Portsmouth, UK Two years In the UK
3. 3-year BSc (Hons) Food Science with Nutrition (offered by UCSI University) One year at UCSI University Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics Queensland University of Technology, Australia Two years in Australia
4. 3-year Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) (offered by HELP University) Two years at HELP University Bachelor degree in psychology Australian National University, Australia One year in Australia
5. 3-year Bachelor of Construction Management and Economics (Hons) (offered by Tunku Abdul Rahman University College)

Three years at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) BSc (Hons) International Construction Management and Economics Sheffield Hallam University, UK One semester in the UK

Table 2: Some examples of advanced standing arrangements that lead to a foreign university bachelor degree (horizontal credit transfer pathway)
(Source: Education Guide Malaysia 15th edition)


Do a '3+0' degree in Malaysia

This is probably one of the most affordable ways of getting a foreign degree. What a ‘3+0’ degree means is that students enrol for a degree programme at a Malaysian college or university that collaborates with a foreign partner university. The student completes the entire degree at the Malaysian college (and pays relatively cheaper tuition fees) but will be awarded with a foreign degree qualification from partner universities in the UK, the US, Australia or France. The qualification will be the same as if you studied at the partner university abroad. The syllabus and assessment methods will also be the same as the partner university.

The good: One of the most affordable options. You get a foreign degree that’s no different from studying abroad.

Here are some examples of ‘3+0’ collaboration between Malaysian colleges and universities and their partner universities.

UK Universities
  • University of Derby with HELP Academy for accounting and business management degree programmes
  • Anglia Ruskin University with HELP College of Arts and Technology (HELP CAT) for accounting, business management, engineering, IT, and marketing degree programmes
  • University of Hertfordshire with The One Academy of Communication Design (TOA) for degree programmes in graphic design, interactive media design and interior architecture and design
  • University of Greenwich with SEGi College for business, accounting, computing, finance and early year education degree programmes
  • University of Sunderland with SEGi College for hospitality, business, engineering, accounting, finance and marketing degree programmes; and with IACT College for degree programmes in advertising design, media, culture and communication
  • University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland with SEGi College for business, engineering and marketing degree programmes
Australian Universities
  • University of Southern Queensland with SEGi College for degree programmes in communication
  • Victoria University with Sunway College for a degree programme in business administration
US Universities
  • Troy University with SEGi College for communication, psychology and business administration degree programmes
  • Campbell University with Tunku Abdul Rahman University College for BSc degree majoring in analytical chemistry, chemistry, food science, sports and exercise science, management mathematics, applied physics, microelectronics, interactive software technology, software engineering, enterprise information systems, information security, and internet technology
Irish University
  • Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) with Perdana University for a 5+0 medical degree programme

Table 3: Examples of foreign universities that collaborate with private HEIs in Malaysia to offer ‘3+0’ degree programmes (the entire duration of study is in Malaysia)


Study at a foreign university branch campus

Currently, there are 10 reputable foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia which offer foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The courses offered at the branch campuses here are identical to that of the host university overseas.

The first branch campus that was set up in Malaysia was Monash University, Australia in 1998. This was followed by Curtin University Sarawak Campus; The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus; and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. The fifth was Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia which was established in 2009 - the first university to be built within EduCity of the Iskandar Development Region (Iskandar Malaysia), Johor. After that, University of Southampton Malaysia Campus and Heriot-Watt University Malaysia were established, followed by University of Reading Malaysia campus in 2013. In 2015, Xiamen University of China set up its first overseas branch campus in Malaysia. In 2018 it was RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus, a wholly-owned Irish institution.

The good: You will be awarded the same qualifications as students studying at the main campus abroad. Besides the lower cost of living in Malaysia, you will also pay lower tuition fees at the branch campus. You will also have the opportunity to study for one or more semesters at the main campus overseas and need to pay only the fees of the Malaysian branch campus (note that you will have to bear all personal expenses and other cost of living while abroad). These branch campuses add more programmes over time, and even offer postgraduate studies.

Here are some examples of the foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia.

No. Name of branch campus and year established in Malaysia Location in Malaysia Country of origin
1. Monash University Sunway Campus Malaysia, established in 1998 Selangor Australia
2. The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), established in 2000 Kuala Lumpur United Kingdom
3. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (DULN007(WP)), established in 2012 Putrajaya United Kingdom
4. University of Reading Malaysia campus, established in 2013 Johor United Kingdom
5. RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus (RUMC), established in 2018 Penang Ireland

Table 4: Examples of foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia

1. Manipal International University (MIU) was established in 2010 and the campus is located at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan Manipal International University (MIU) is a member of the Manipal Global Education Group, India. Manipal Education Group is a higher education provider not just in India but across its global campuses in Malaysia, Nepal, Dubai and Antigua.

Table 5: Example of an international university in Malaysia


Twinning degree programmes – do it here and there (‘2+1’ or ‘1+2’)

Since the early 1980s, Malaysian private higher education institutions (PHEIs) have collaborated with reputable universities from countries like the UK, the US, New Zealand and Australia in providing transnational education programmes such as the undergraduate ‘2+1’ and ‘1+2’ twinning degree arrangement.

So what is a twinning degree programme?

  • The student registers with both the local private college and the foreign university (dual registration), and upon successful completion of the local segment he/she is guaranteed admission to the next level at the campus of the twinning university.
  • The student attends part of the course locally and the balance at the twinning partner university overseas. Twinning can be on a 1+2 arrangement (1 year at the PHEI and 2 years at the overseas twinning university) or 2+2 (2 years local and 2 years overseas) or 2+1 (2 years local and 1 year overseas).
  • Students undergo the same course curriculum as the students at the twinning partner university, although in some cases, some local content of the subject is introduced to meet the local authority’s requirements.
  • The degree is awarded by the twinning partner university.

The good: You get to fulfil your dreams of studying abroad, plus get a foreign degree. You save some money by doing the first one or two years in Malaysia. You get the experience of studying at two PHEIs – in Malaysia and abroad.

Some examples of twinning programmes offered by private HEIs in Malaysia:

Australian Universities
  • Sunway College partners Victoria University for its business administration degree
    Duration of study: 1+2 (Aust) years; 2+1 (Aust) year; 3+0 (Aust) year
Indian University
  • Melaka Manipal Medical College partners Manipal University, India for its degrees in medicine and dentistry
    Duration of study: 2.5 years (India) + 2.5 years (Malaysia) for medical degree
Irish University
  • RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus (RUMC), wholly-owned by Irish institutions, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and University College Dublin (UCD), for its degree in medicine
    Duration of study: 2.5 years (Ireland) + 2.5 years (Malaysia) for a medical degree awarded by the National University of Ireland

Table 6: Examples of private HEIs’ foreign twinning partner-universities


Degree Transfer Programmes – the US, the UK and Australia

The American Degree Transfer Program (ADP) allows SPM and O-Level students with 5 credits to pursue a 4-year American bachelor degree in Malaysia for an average of two years (or 50 to 60 credit hours) before moving on to their intended university in the US to complete the remaining part of the degree programme. An American degree usually requires a student to read a minimum of 120 credit hours to graduate with a degree. Students can select from more than 200 universities in the US where they can transfer the credits they earned in Malaysia.

The good: You save money by doing the first two years at a Malaysian PHEI. There are many, many colleges and majors to choose from when you make your transition to the US to complete your degree.

The general entry requirement for a 4-year ADP is IGCSE/SPM or O-Level with 5 credits. ADP is offered at HELP University, Nilai University, SEGI University, Sunway University and Taylor’s University.

Examples of ADP for various study disciplines via credit transfer to American universities:

American Degree (areas of study) Duration (years in Malaysia and US)

American Degree Transfer Program

(major in Actuarial Science/ Applied Science/ Business/ Computer Science/ Engineering/ Liberal Arts/ etc.)

Offered at HELP University, Nilai University, SEGi University, Sunway University and Taylor's University

2 (Malaysia) + 2 (US) years, or

3 (Malaysia) + 1 (US) years, or

1 (Malaysia) + 3 (US) years

Table 7: Examples of 4-year ADP for various disciplines offered by PHEIs
Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team

If the US is not really your thing then you can consider other programmes such as Australian Degree Transfer Programmes and UK Degree Transfer Programmes. These programmes are offered by private HEIs through collaboration with overseas universities.

The good: Cost savings, of course. Studying abroad and getting a foreign university degree. A wide choice of universities to choose from.

The general entry requirements for these Australian and UK university credit transfer programmes are A-Levels, STPM, or its equivalent. Among the providers of Australian and UK transfer programmes are HELP University and INTI International University.

Examples of Australian and UK Credit Transfer Degree Programmes offered by private HEIs:

Acquiring a bachelor degree via collaboration with Australian universities
Australian Degree Transfer Programme offered by PHEIs (areas of study) Duration of study (years in Malaysia and overseas)
Australian Degree Transfer Programme (Commerce/ Science) offered at INTI International University

1 (Malaysia) +2 (Aust) years

1 (Malaysia) +2.5 (Aust) years or

2 (Malaysia) +1 (Aust) years

2 (Malaysia) +1.5 (Aust) years

Acquiring a bachelor degree via collaboration with UK universities
UK Degree Transfer Programme offered by PHEIs (areas of study)
Duration of study (years in Malaysia and overseas)
UK Degree Transfer Programme (Business/ Computing/ Engineering/ Law /etc.) offered at Brickfields Asia College (BAC), HELP University, INTI International University

2 (Malaysia) +1 (UK) years ,or

1 (Malaysia) +2 (UK) years

Table 8: Examples of Australian and UK credit transfer degree programmes offered by PHEIs
Source: Education Guide Malaysia (15th edition)


Study a foreign university’s external degree programme

Here’s another option if you absolutely do not have the means to pursue a degree out of Malaysia—do an external degree programme!

So how does an external degree programme work? The foreign university sets the entry requirements, syllabus and examinations. However, it does not play a role in teaching the students. Instead, private colleges in Malaysia take on this role by offering tutorial support to these ‘external’ students, and preparing them to sit for the final examination at approved centres. When students pass the required examinations, and/or successfully complete a programme put together from various courses or modules, they will get their degrees from that particular foreign university.

The good: You don’t have to be physically present at the campus. You pay lower tuition fees and living expenses when compared to studying abroad. The degree you obtain is no different from that awarded to the ‘internal’ students of the university. Many Malaysian private colleges have proven track records in coaching students in successfully acquiring degrees under the external degree programme.

The University of London International Programme offers well-known foreign external degrees in economics, management, law, finance, banking and information systems.

Name of PHEIs
Name of external programme Awarding university Duration
HELP Academy BSc (Hons) (Accounting & Finance; Banking & Finance; Economics; Economics & Management) University of London, UK (External degree) 3 years after A-levels or its equiv.
Brickfields Asia College (BAC) LL.B University of London, UK (External degree)

3 years after A-levels or its equiv.

Table 9: Some examples of external degree programmes
Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team


Do a dual-award degree programme

Dual-award undergraduate degree qualifications via home-grown degree qualifications:

Some Malaysian universities collaborate with partner foreign universities to award dual-award undergraduate degree certification to its graduates. A dual-award degree means that students graduate with two degrees, one from each university.

Examples: Some examples of dual-award degree programmes


In summary, once you start exploring these options, you might just realise that you have quite a lot of choices. Depending on the education arrangement you decide on, you can choose to:

  • go overseas to the host university to complete the remainder of your degree course for a duration of 1-2 years
  • do the entire foreign university degree in Malaysia
  • spend a short period of study e.g. 1 – 2 semesters at the host university (note: students need to fulfill criteria set out by the university in Malaysia and its partner)

Find out more about the colleges and universities that offer these programmes.

Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook, 11th edition

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Study in Malaysia Handbook 10th Ed.Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook 10th Ed.

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