Student Info & Guide

How to get a foreign degree even if you think you can

by on July 20, 2014 | Top Stories

"I want to study abroad but I can't afford it."

How many of you are thinking this right now?

You might have dreams of studying in the UK, the US or Australia, but the reality is that studying abroad 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, buying a lottery or robbing a bank? (Er, I'm totally kidding on the last one!) Feeling discouraged? Don't be too quick to dash your dreams. Here are five ways you can get a foreign degree without having to bust your bank (or any bank, for that matter).

  1. Do a '3+0' degree in Malaysia
  2. Study at a foreign university branch campus
  3. Twinning degree programmes – do it here and there
  4. Transfer Programmes – American, UK and Australian
  5. Advanced standing – flexibility at its best

1. 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 or university (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. A great option if you're prone to being homesick.

The not-so-good:

You're not actually abroad.

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

UK Universities
Australian Universities
  • University of Southern Queensland with SEGi College for communication degree
  • Curtin University with Limkokwing Executive Leadership College for architectural science degree
  • University of Wollonggong with INTI International College Subang for commerce, IT, interior architecture and creative advertising degree
  • Victoria University with Sunway College for business degree
US Universities
  • Upper Iowa University with SEGi University and SEGi College for communication, business, marketing and psychology degree
  • Northwood University with INTI International College Subang for business administration degree
French University
  • University of Toulouse Le Mirail with Taylor's University for hospitality and tourism management degree
Switzerland, IMI University Centre
  • IMI University Centre, Lucerne with KDU University for hotel and tourism management degree

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team (
(Note: The collaboration arrangement may not be up-to-date and is subject to change)

2. Study at a foreign university branch campus

What was that saying about if someone doesn't go to the mountain, then the mountain will come to him? Or was the saying the other way round? Whatever the case, in this option, the mountain has come to you. In fact, you have eight mountains to choose from and we believe there will be more in the near future.

What am I talking about? Well, seeing that you can't afford to go abroad, why not consider a foreign university that has come to you right here in Malaysia?

There are currently eight foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia. These branch campuses offer degrees identical to those at the main campus overseas. As such, students will be awarded the same qualifications but pay the affordable 'Malaysian' fees.

The good:

You pay lower fees but get the same degree qualification as you would if you studied at the main campus abroad. Under the transnational education arrangement, most universities allow students to spend one or more semesters at their main campus abroad (students pay the usual Malaysian fees). These branch campuses are adding more programmes over time, and even offer postgraduate studies.

The not-so-good:

You don't actually study abroad unless you plan to spend a semester or more (note that you will have to bear all personal expenses and other cost of living while abroad).

Here is a list of the foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia.

Name of branch campus and year established in MalaysiaLocation in MalaysiaCountry of origin
1Monash University Sunway Campus Malaysia,
established in 1998
2Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia,
established in 1999
3The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus,
established in 2000
Kuala LumpurUnited Kingdom
4Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak Campus),
established in 2004
5Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia,
established in 2009
JohorUnited Kingdom
6University of Southampton Malaysia Campus,
established in 2011
JohorUnited Kingdom
7Heriot-Watt University Malaysia,
established in 2012
PutrajayaUnited Kingdom
8University of Reading Malaysia campus,
established in 2013
JohorUnited Kingdom

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team)

Note: A top university in China, Xiamen University, will be setting up its first overseas branch campus in Malaysia. The branch campus will be built on a 150-acre site in Salak Tinggi, Selangor and is expected to be begin operations in September 2015.

3. Twinning degree programmes – do it here and there

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.

The not-so-good:

Only selected courses have a twinning arrangement. But if you can find a course you like under this arrangement, we can't think of any not-so-good points! Thumbs up!

Some examples of twinning programmes offered by PHEIs in Malaysia:

UK Universities
Australian Universities
  • Sunway College partners Victoria University for its business administration degree
Indian University
Indonesian University
  • Allianze University of Medical Sciences partners Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU) for its medical degree
Irish University
  • Allianze University of Medical Sciences partners National University of Ireland and University College Cork for its medical degree

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team)

4. Transfer Programmes – American, UK and Australian

If you have always wanted the American dream then of course, it is only fitting that you get your degree in the USofA. The American Degree Transfer Program (ADP) allows SPM and O-Level students to pursue a 4-year American Bachelor's 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. Do we need to repeat this - you get to go to the US (hooray!).

The not-so-good:

The college in Malaysia is not bound to a particular American university and vice versa – you have to make sure that you meet the admission requirements of the university and apply for a place yourself.

The general entry requirement for a 4-year ADP is SPM or O-Level with 5 credits. ADP is offered at KDU University College, HELP University, INTI International University, Nilai University, Sunway University and Taylor's University.

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

American DegreeDuration (in Malaysia and US)
American Degree Transfer Program (Business)2+2 (US) years
American Degree Transfer Program (Liberal Arts)2+2 (US) years
American Transfer Degree Program (Science & Engineering)2+2 (US) years
American Degree Transfer Program (Arts)2+2 (US) years
American Degree Transfer Program (Computer Science)2+2 (US) years
American Degree Transfer Program (Engineering)2+2 (US) years
American Degree Transfer Program (Applied Science)1+3 (US) years or2+2 (US) years

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team and Study in Malaysia Handbook 8th International Edition)

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 PHEIs 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 not-so-good:

As with the ADP, you have to ensure that you meet the admission requirements of the institution in the UK or Australia. You also have to apply for a place at these institutions yourself.

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

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

Bachelor's degree for various disciplines of study via collaboration with Australian universities
Degree Transfer ProgrammeDuration of Study (Malaysia and Overseas)
Australian Degree Transfer Programme (Commerce)1+2/2.5 (Aust) years or2+1/1.5 (Aust) years
Australian Degree Transfer Programme (Science)2+1/1.5 (Aust) years
Bachelor's degree for various disciplines of study via collaboration with UK universities
Degree Transfer ProgrammeDuration of Study (Malaysia and Overseas)
UK Degree Programme (Computing)2+1 (UK) years
UK Degree Transfer Programme (Business)2+1 (UK) years
UK Degree Transfer Programme (Civil Engineering)1+2 (UK) years or 2+1 (UK) years

UK Degree Transfer Programme (Law)An example: UK Degree Transfer Programme (Law) by HELP University

1+2 Transfer Arrangement

  • University of Manchester
  • University of Sheffield

1+2/ 2+1 Transfer Arrangement

  • University of Leeds
  • Cardiff University
  • University of Liverpool
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Northumbria University
  • University of West of England, Bristol
  • University of Hertfordshire
1+2 (UK) years or 2+1 (UK) years 

(Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team and Study in Malaysia Handbook 8th International Edition)

5. Advanced standing – flexibility at its best

If you want a foreign degree, and want the chance to study abroad, but you're yet to be sure if you can support yourself financially abroad, then this could be the option for you.

'Advanced standing' means that recognition (full or part) is given by a foreign university of a particular course pursued at a Malaysian PHEI (such as a diploma or year 1 or year 2 of a bachelor's degree) that allows a student advanced entry into the foreign university's degree programme. 'Advance standing' arrangements with universities from the UK, Australia, Canada, Taiwan, and others have been developed by private colleges in Malaysia since the early 1980s.

The features of this programme are:

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

The good:

This is your chance to get a foreign degree and a study abroad experience. You save some money by doing the first couple of years here. You have many options of universities and courses. While doing your first few years here, you can source for funding in the form of bursaries, loans or scholarships. And most importantly, if you do not have enough funds when the time comes, you can always complete the degree at the Malaysian PHEI.

The not-so-good:

If you complete the degree at a PHEI in Malaysia, the degree will be awarded by that same PHEI – it will not be a foreign degree (our heart is breaking – we feel you).

So here are five awesome options to explore if you want a foreign degree but think you can't afford it. Find out more about colleges and universities that offer these programmes and updates on all things new and different in the education scene.

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