International Students

Private Education Route for Bachelor's Degree Programmes and Professional Qualifications

by on March 11, 2015 | Higher Education in Malaysia



Development of Bachelor’s Degree Programmes

From the early 1980s, Malaysian private colleges pioneered in the provision of trans-national Bachelor’s degree programmes in this region, collaborating with reputable universities from countries like UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc. These unique collaborative Bachelor’s degree programmes include ‘advance standing’ arrangement, American degree credit transfer programme, ‘2+1’ twinning degree and 3+0 franchised degree programme.

In 1998, there was another breakthrough in the provision of Bachelor’s degree programmes with the setting up of Monash University’s branch campus in Malaysia, offering exactly the same degrees as the main campus located in Australia. Thereafter, other foreign university branch campuses such as The University of Nottingham and others were set up to offer degree programmes in Malaysia.

The presence of foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia (offering courses ranging from Bachelor’s degree to postgraduate levels) as early as 1998 is another effort by Malaysia to be a pioneer in higher education in this region. Thus, together with home-grown private universities, many diverse range of Bachelor’s degree programmes have created by private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) for students to choose from.

Many Options for Bachelor’s Degrees

Private higher educational institutions provide many study options for students intending to pursue Bachelor’s degree programmes in Malaysia. These institutions are:
  1. Foreign University Branch Campuses located in Malaysia
  2. Malaysian Private Higher Educational Institutions
    • Private universities
    • Private colleges that offer twinning degree programmes

The flexibility of studying a Bachelor’s degree is that students have a wide choice of universities or colleges at a budget best suited to them as well as the mode of programme, such as 3+0, twinning degree, degree qualification awarded by a foreign university branch campus or a home-grown career relevant degree programme.

Types of Bachelor’s Degree Programmes Available in Malaysia

1. Twinning Degree Programmes (‘2+1’)
Malaysia is well known for its International Degree Qualifications like the undergraduate twinning degree (‘2+1’, ‘1+2’) programmes, where students pursue the first or second year of the degree programme in Malaysia and the final part overseas.

Twinning degree programmes started in Malaysia about 20 years ago and have since been very popular with students as a way to achieve an international Bachelor’s degree. In a twinning programme, students can complete either 1 year; 1½ years; 2 years; or 2½ years in Malaysia, out of the 3-year degree programme before going to the partner university overseas to complete the degree. The Malaysian educational institutions normally collaborate with well-known universities from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, France as well as Germany for these modes of study.

Other unique features of these type of programmes are that students register with both the local institution as well as the overseas university (dual registration) and are guaranteed admission to the next level in the overseas twinning university. The curriculum and course materials are provided by the partner university although taught locally (for the number of years the students choose to study in Malaysia). However, in some cases, some local content are introduced to meet the local authority’s requirements. The examination is set and marked by the overseas partner university and the result transcripts are issued by them. The degrees will also be awarded by the overseas partner university.

Benefits of a Twinning Degree Programme
Students get to acquire a foreign degree qualification with substantial savings on tuition fees and living expenses for the number of years spent studying in Malaysia. They also acquire the learning experience of two countries. For example, for a Law degree, one can save up to RM50,000 (USD13,800 ) on tuition fees (excluding living expenses) if one were to pursue a ‘2+1’ twinning degree of a reputable UK university at an established private institution in Malaysia.

Table 8.1 Examples of PHEIs’ Foreign Twinning Partner-Universities
UK Universities Inti College partners Coventry University for its Business Degree programmes
  • KDU College partners University of Manchester for its Economics Degree programme
  • Olympia College partners Nottingham Trent University, UK for its Business Degree programme
  • Taylor’s University College partners University of Birmingham for selected Engineering Degree programmes
Australian Universities KBU International College partners University of South Australia for selected Engineering Degree programmes
  • KDU College partners University of Tasmania for its Biomedical Science Degree programme
  • INTI International University College partners University of Adelaide for selected Engineering Degree programmes
  • Metropolitan College partners RMIT University for its Commerce Degree
  • Taylor’s College Petaling Jaya partners University of South  Australia for its Multimedia Studies Degree programme
USA Universities International College of Music partners Berklee College of Music, Boston for its Music Degree programme
  • TPM College partners California State Polytechnic University, Pomona for its Biotechnology/Computer Science/Business Administration Degree programmes
  • Sunway University College partners Western Michigan University for its Business Administration/Engineering/Computer Science/Natural Science Degree programmes
  • Putra International College partners Troy University for its Computer Science Degree programme
German University KBU International College partners Mannheim University of Applied Sciences for its Engineering Degree
French University Taylor’s College partners University of Toulouse for its Hospitality Management Degree

Source : Respective institutions’ websites &

2. ‘3+0’ Degree Programmes
The ‘3+0’ programme is basically an extension of the ‘2+1’ twinning programme allowing students to complete all three years of the partner university’s degree at Malaysian institutions. This innovative arrangement started in 1998. These institutions are permitted by the foreign partner universities in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and France to conduct the entire Bachelor’s degree programme in Malaysia with the foreign partner university awarding the degree qualification. Therefore, unlike the twinning programme, students do not need to go to the host country to complete their studies, unless they opt to do so.

Under this type of programme, a student does dual registration, that is, the student registers with the Malaysian institution as well as the host university. Therefore, students are subjected to the same method of assessment as that of the host university.

As such, you can now have a choice of graduating with either a Bachelor’s degree from the United Kingdom, United States, France or Australia completely on Malaysian soil!!! This means that students doing the ‘3+0’ degree programme follow the same syllabus and obtain the same qualifications as students in the host university overseas.

Benefits of a ‘3+0’ Degree Programme
It is definitely more economical because the entire course fees and the living expenses for the duration of the course are paid in Malaysian Ringgit which will result in a lower cost of study for the student. Students can thus expect to save about RM90,000 to RM150,000 (USD25,000 to USD41,600) for the entire degree, depending on the course of study and the foreign partner university involved. For example, the total tuition fees for a 3-year Business Degree is estimated to range from RM39,000 to RM52,000 (USD10,800 to USD14,400). Thus the ‘3+0’ degree programme assures substantial savings.

Quality Assured
The ‘3+0’ degree programme is approved by the Ministry of Higher Education and as such, the institutions offering such programmes are constantly under the scrutiny of the national quality assurance agency, MQA (Malaysian Qaulifications Agency). The foreign partner university will also send lecturers to the Malaysian institution to lecture as well as conduct regular audits on the Malaysian institution. Britain’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) will audit the quality of ‘3+0’ degree programmes in collaboration with foreign partner universities from the United Kingdom. Therefore, students can be assured that the ‘3+0’ degree programmes offered by PHEIs in Malaysia are NOT in any way inferior to those provided by the foreign partner university.

Table 8.2 Examples of Foreign Universities Collaborating with PHEIs in Malaysia to Offer ‘3+0’ Degree Programmes (arranged by country)
UK Australia
University of Staffordshire with Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology Deakin University with Stamford-Disted College
University of Northumbria at Newcastle with KDU College Charles Sturt University with HELP University College
University of Teesside with Binary University College & MAHSA College Murdoch University with KDU College
University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland with SEGi College University of Wollonggong with INTI College (Sarawak)
Anglia Ruskin University with IGP College & KBU International College Curtin University of Technology with Metropolitan College & Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
University of Westminster with International College Of Music Swinburne University of Technology with Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
Coventry University with INTI International University College & Inti College Subang Jaya RMIT University with Metropolitan College
University of Bradford with INTI International University College La Trobe University with Nilai International College
University of Hertfordshire with INTI International University College & Inti College Sarawak University of Southern Queensland with SEGi College
The Nottingham Trent University with KBU International College Edith Cowan University with SAL College
Oxford Brookes University with Nilai International College University of South Australia with HELP International College of Technology, & Taylor’s College Petaling Jaya
&University of The West of England with Taylor’s University College Victoria University of Technology with Sunway University College
University of Greenwich with SEGi College University of Ballarat with Unity International College
University of Sunderland with Binary University College & SEGi College University of Technology Sydney with Taylor’s University College
France USA
University of Toulouse Le Mirail with Taylor’s College Southern New Hampshire University with HELP International College of Technology (formerly S.I.T International College)
Switzerland Troy University with Putra International College
International Hotel Management Institute (IMI) with KDU College Upper Iowa University with SEGi Graduate Studies College
California State University, Long Beach with TPM College

Source: Institutions’ websites & Research Team

3. International Degrees from Foreign Universities Located in Malaysia
There are four reputable foreign universities which have set up campuses here for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The first was Monash University, Australia which was established in 1998.

Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus; University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus; and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus were subsequently set up here in Malaysia too. Students now have a wider range of courses and institutions to choose from. Students can also opt to study at the host university (e.g., Monash University in Australia) for one or two semesters. Likewise, students can also obtain their double degree qualification from the foreign university branch campus here.

Table 8.3 Examples of Foreign University Branch Campuses in Malaysiath>
Name of Branch Campus & year established in Malaysia Country of Origin
Monash University Malaysia, 1998 Australia
Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Malaysia, 1999 Australia
The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, 2000 UK
Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, 2004 Australia

Benefits of Studying at a Branch Campus of a Foreign University
Students who chose to study at branch campuses here found that they spent only half the amount of what they would have spent studying at the foreign partner university in Australia or the UK. This is due to the substantial amount of savings from lower costs of tuition fees and living expenses.

Nevertheless, students have the opportunity to study for one or two semesters at the foreign partner university while paying the Malaysian branch campus tuition fees! This is a unique chance for students to experience living and studying overseas without having to pay additional tuition fees. Further, these local campuses of foreign universities also offer postgraduate courses for students who wish to further their studies after completing their Bachelor’s degree programme.

Table 8.4 : A Cost Comparison Example for an Australian
Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (3 years)
Item Australian Branch Campus in Malaysia (Estimated cost) Australian University (Estimated Cost)
Tuition Fees RM29,400 A$23,110
Living Cost RM12,000 A$18,000
Average Education Cost for one (1) year RM41,400 A$41,110

Source: Research Team, &
Currency Conversion Rate: A$1=RM2.90 RM1=3.60
Note: The above cost is only an estimate.

4. Degrees from Malaysian Private Universities Malaysian Private Universities award their own degree qualifications to students who have completed their studies and fulfilled the requirements set by the university’s academic board. The first private university in Malaysia was established in 1999.

Local or home-grown degrees are degree programmes developed internally by Malaysia’s private universities which comply with international quality assurance best practices and education excellence. Their programmes are under strict scrutiny of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to ensure compliance to the standards set by the Board. Many private universities also have the recognition of foreign and local professional bodies. They collaborate with reputable foreign universities which possess international quality education benchmarking.

Many private universities also collaborate with local research agencies, industries and top ranking universities in the world to conduct research, and staff exchange and development programmes.

In a history of less than 10 years, some private universities have developed quickly and gained international recognition and acceptance. This is evident in the increasing number of International Students.

There are also universities that have been granted the status of university-college by the Government. Such higher education institutions were previously private colleges which have shown good track record in conducting ‘3+0’ degree programmes. In terms of an institution’s autonomy in awarding its own degree programme, there is no difference between an institution with university or university-college status.

The main difference is that a university-college is a specialist university focusing on certain disciplines of study with lower student enrolment capacity. Many of these universities continue to collaborate with its ‘3+0’ degree university-partners to internationalise their degree programmes. Some of these university-colleges are well recognised by their foreign university-partners. A student can study one degree programme and graduate with two degree qualifications (one degree certificate from the university and the other from the overseas university-partner) at the cost of one degree, without leaving Malaysia.

The areas of study include Business, Life Science, Applied Science, Engineering, Hospitality, Creative Art, Social Science, IT, Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy.

Benefits of Locally-Developed Degrees
Here, it is obvious that the main benefit of pursuing a locally degree is the relatively cheap course fee with the added advantage of a globally recognised qualification. Such degree programmes have made these universities a much sought-after place by both local as well as International Students.

5. American Degree Program is Well-Developed in Malaysia
American Degree Programs started in Malaysia in the mid-1980s. Students pursuing the 4-year American Bachelor’s Degree study in Malaysia for two years (or 40 to 70 credits) before moving on to their choice of university in America. Students can select from 200 American universities where they can transfer their credits earned in Malaysia.

A student in Malaysia intending to study in America can collect sufficient credit through the Malaysian institution and then apply to an American university. The Malaysian institution is not bound to a particular American university and similarly, no American university is obliged to take in a student under the credit transfer scheme unless the American university is satisfied with the student’s entry qualifications. This is because each American university sets its own requirements and formulates its own courses. Consequently, experienced private colleges formulate their course curriculum taking into consideration the requirements of the American university curriculum. As a result, many aspiring students have earned places in reputable American universities.

Currently, besides the American Degree Transfer Programme, there are also Australian Degree Transfer Programmes, UK Degree Transfer Programmes and Canadian University Transfer Programmes offered by private higher educational institutions in Malaysia.

As a pioneer in international education in this region, Malaysia offers access to more than 300 prestigious universities in the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

6. External Degree Programmes
External degree programmes offered by foreign universities have long been established in Malaysia. Dating back to the early 1980s, the most popular programmes were from the University of London. Due to the demand for international Bachelor’s degrees, Malaysian educational institutions began offering what is known as the ‘External Degree Programme’. In this programme, a student in Malaysia will become an ‘external’ student of the overseas university while studying in Malaysia. The overseas university sets the entry requirements, syllabus and examinations. However, the overseas university does not play an active role in teaching the students. This is yet another avenue in acquiring a foreign university Bachelor’s degree qualification without leaving Malaysia.

Many Malaysian private colleges have proven track records in guiding students in successfully acquiring degrees under the external programme. A good example is the University of London’s Law and Management programme. The University of London offers well-known foreign external degrees in Economics, Management, Law, Finance, Banking and Information Systems.

Benefits of an External Programme
Once again, the main advantage is the much reduced cost of tuition fees and living expenses when compared to studying abroad. Many such external degrees are popular among General Information on Malaysian Higher Educations who have just obtained SPM or STPM qualifications; or O and A Level certificates in the case of international students.

7. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree through Distance Learning
Earning a Bachelor’s degree through distance learning is no longer a new thing for Malaysia. Malaysia’s home-grown higher educational institutions such as Open University of Malaysia, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak and Malaysia Multimedia University conduct distance learning programmes with the approval and quality assurance from the national quality assurance agency MQA.

Students learn at their own pace through online tutorials and course materials from the institution. However, students are required to attend a number of face-to-face tutorials at the institution’s premises.

Benefits of Distance Learning
Distance learning provides the flexibility of acquiring the degree at your own pace and at a reduced cost.

8. The Degree Pathway through Advanced Standing Programmes
‘Advance standing’ arrangements with universities from UK, Australia, Canada, Taiwan, etc. have been developed by private colleges in Malaysia since the early 1980s.

‘Advanced Standing Programme’ means the respective private college’s internal Diploma programmes are validated and moderated with ‘advanced standing’ entry status by one or more foreign universities. Students are allowed to proceed at the second or third year of the degree programmes overseas.

In other words, ‘advanced standing’ means recognition (full or part) is given by a foreign university of a particular course pursued at a Malaysian private higher educational institution that allows a student advanced entry into the foreign university’s degree programme.

Benefits of Advanced Standing Programmes

  • Opportunity to acquire a degree qualification awarded by a foreign university
  • Substantial cost saving
  • Students have a wide option of universities and courses
  • Students have the advantage of experiencing learning in two countries


In the early 1970s, private institutions started to provide tutorial support to students pursuing external examinations leading to a semi-professional or professional qualification.

PHEIs have good track record in providing classes that prepare students for external examinations set by the various local and foreign examination bodies / professional boards which award a range of qualifications.

Generally, there are two types of examination bodies or boards:

  • ‘Qualifying’ Examination Bodies
    These are examination bodies of professional associations of a specific skill or trade. They set the course syllabi / curricula, conduct examinations and confer qualifications related to their specific skill or trade, e.g. accountancy, law, medicine or engineering. These bodies will only award membership privileges to those who are qualified i.e. those who have passed their professional examination or other qualifications; and fulfilled other job experience requirements, if any.

    Entry Requirements
    Students are required to register with these bodies in order to sit for the professional examination. Some of these professional associations / boards include the Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA-Malaysia); Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA-UK), Engineering Council-UK; Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators (ICSA-UK); Chartered Institute of Management Accountant (CIMA-UK); etc. Upon passing the examination, students are qualified to be admitted as members of the associations. However, some associations impose additional requirements such as minimum age and relevant working experience for admission.

    Students with Malaysian STPM qualifications or its equivalent such as local university foundation programmes or international pre-tertiary qualifications such as GCE A Level, AUSMAT, SAM, and CPU are generally accepted as ‘student members’ to sit for the professional examination concerned.
  • ‘Academic’ Examination Bodies
    These bodies are managed by institutions or organisations of international standing. Qualifications are awarded to those who have passed the examination. They are not associations or bodies representing their specific professions and do not offer membership, but are examination bodies that only set the syllabi, conduct the examinations and confer the qualifications.

    The qualifications awarded are varied. These can be certificate, diploma, post-secondary, pre-university, semi-professional or other equivalent levels. With such qualifications, graduates can either commence a career or continue higher education at a Bachelor’s degree or professional level.

    Some of these qualifications are:
    • Awarded by semi-professional bodies e.g. Institut Bank-Bank Malaysia - Malaysia; SKM - Malaysia; LCCI Examination Board - UK; National Computing Centre - UK; Chartered Institute of Marketing – UK; etc.
    • Awarded by universities or government agencies for pre-university qualification, e.g. GCE A Level, SAM, AUSMAT, and Canadian Pre-U.

    Entry Requirements
    The general entry requirement to obtain qualifications awarded by ‘Academic Examination Bodies’ is SPM or its equivalent.

English Competency Requirement

Proficiency in the English language is an important requirement by PHEIs. Students are expected to have adequate knowledge and understanding of English, as this is the language of instruction at private colleges and universities. Various international examinations such as the GCE 1119, MUET (Malaysia University English Test), TOEFL and IELTS are recognised as English proficiency standards and form part of the entry requirements for Bachelor’s degree programmes. The table below depicts the accepted English Proficiency Standard at most PHEIs.
Table 8.5 : Accepted Scores of English Proficiency Tests
English Proficiency Test Required Scores for First Degree Programmes
TOEFL 173 to 250 on a new computer administered test (equivalent to a score of 500 to 600 on the old paper-based test format)
IELTS 6.0 to 7.0
MUET Band 3 to 6

Cost of Studying Bachelor’s Degree Programmes

Malaysian Bachelor’s degree programmes offer very competitive tuition fees which is why many of our International Students favour Malaysia as their destination for undergraduate degree programmes. The table below displays the estimated tuition fees for selected Bachelor’s degree programmes:
Table 8.6 Tuition Fees - Bachelor’s Degree Programmes (in RM/USD)
Area of study Paths of Study
Estimated Tuition Fees Required to Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Malaysia via
Path (i) Private Colleges’ 3+0 Foreign Degree Programme RM (USD) Path (ii) Foreign University Branch Campuses’ Degree Programme RM (USD) Path (iii) Malaysian Private Universities’ Degree Programme RM (USD)
Business RM39,000 - 52,000 (USD10,800 - 14,400) (3 yrs) RM48,000 - 84,000 (USD13,300 - 23,300) (3yrs) RM30,000 - 40,000 (USD8,300 - 11,100) (3 yrs)
Engineering RM45,000 - 47,000 (USD12,500 - 13,000) (3yrs for UK degree) RM82,000 - 102,000 (USD22,700 - 28,300)
(4 yrs for Aust Degree) (3yrs for UK degree)
RM46,000-52,000 (USD12,700 -14,400) (4yrs for Malaysian degree)
IT RM33,000 - 40,000
(USD9,200 – 11,100) (3yrs)
RM52,800 - 84,000 (USD14,600 – 23,300
(3 yrs)
RM33,000 - 43,000 (USD9,200 - 11,900) (3 yrs)
Medicine - RM325,000 (USD90,300) (5yrs) RM250,000 - 333,000
(USD69,400 - 92,500) (5yrs)
Hospitality & Tourism RM45,000 -48,500 (USD12,500 – 13,500) (3 yrs) - RM31,000 - 55,000 (USD8,600 - 15,300) (3 yrs)
Music RM54,000 (USD15,000) (3 yrs) - RM53,000 - 59,000 (USD14,700 – 16,400) (3 yrs)

Source: Research Team

Table 7.8 Tuition Fees (RM) - External Professional Qualifications (in RM/USD)
The Chartered Association of Certified Accountant, UK (ACCA)
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountant, UK (CIMA)
Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators, UK (ICSA)
RM10,000 – 12,000 (USD2,800 - 3,300)
RM10,000 – 16,000 (USD2,800 - 4,400)
RM10,000 – 12,000 (USD2,800 - 3,300)

Source: Research Team
Estimated Exchange rate : USD1=RM3.6

- Education Guide Malaysia (10th Edition)
- Study in Malaysia Handbook (6th International Edition)
- Various PHEI websites

Study in Malaysia Handbook 6th Ed.Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook 6th Ed. - Chapter 7

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