Studying in Malaysia

What's Next? Your Higher Education Options in Malaysia


Now that you have completed (or are about to complete) your secondary schooling, you probably want to know what higher education options there are out there. The process of deciding on the right higher education options can be full of overwhelming decisions. Along with what to study, you will need to consider which country and institution to choose, and think about the type of qualification you would like to acquire.

Academic Qualifications in Malaysia

For those of you who have known for a while now what career path you want and have decided to come to Malaysia to study, figuring out your next step in education could be quite easy. For those who wish to know more about what study opportunities Malaysia has to offer you, please visit

Once you have narrowed down your options for a particular subject, field of study or type of programme in Malaysia, check the website of institutions that offer this programme to get a better picture of the course structure. A good list of information to find out would be the required entry qualifications, study duration, modules offered, methods of study (e.g. lectures, workshops, work placements, projects, etc.) and study mode, i.e. part-time or full-time study, or even distance learning.

In the following section, we will examine the different qualifications available in Malaysia to international students like you.

(A) Pre-university Qualifications
At pre-university level, students who have completed 11 years of education (e.g. O-Level) can continue with pre-university studies such as GCE 'A' levels, IB Diploma, Australian Matriculation, just to name a few, which is offered by many private higher educational institutions (HEIs). A pre-university qualification is a basic entry requirement for a bachelor degree at HEIs and takes about 12-18 months to complete.

(B). Academic Qualifications at Higher Education Level
Higher education includes qualifications at certificate, diploma, undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. The providers of higher education are colleges, polytechnics and universities. Undergraduate studies consist of bachelor degree programmes and professional studies while postgraduate studies consist of master and doctoral degrees.

Higher education at certificate and diploma levels are mainly for students with IGCSE or 'O' level qualifications while the bachelor degree level is usually for students with pre-university qualifications such as to GCE 'A' levels or other university foundation qualifications. Degree programmes typically take between three to five years to complete, after which some students may opt to proceed to postgraduate studies.

In Malaysia, higher education in the academic and professional fields is provided by:

  1. Public-funded HEIs which include public universities and public colleges; and
  2. Privately-funded HEIs which include private universities, private colleges and foreign university branch campuses.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is directly responsible for the operation and performance of public HEIs, whereas private HEIs are guided by MOE's policy guidelines and objectives.

The general entry requirements and duration of study at certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels (academic) can be grouped as below:

Table 1.1: Higher Education Qualification Levels, Its Entry Requirements and Duration of Study
Academic Qualification LevelType of StudentsEstimated Age GroupDuration of Study
Certificate levelFor students with secondary school qualifications such as O-levels17 and above1 to 1.5 years
Diploma levelFor students with secondary school qualifications such as O-levels17 and above2 to 3 years
Bachelor's degree levelFor students with pre-university qualifications such as GCE A-levels, IB diploma, etc.19 and above3 to 5 years
Master's degreeFor students with a bachelor's degreeAny adult1 to 3 years
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) For students with a master's degreeAny adult3 to 5 years

The qualifications awarded by all HEIs (both public and private) in Malaysia are registered under laws related to Malaysian education and are governed by the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF). The framework specifies that a programme is required to achieve a minimum number of credits before an academic qualification can be awarded, e.g. certificate (60 credits), diploma (90 credits), bachelor degree (120 credits) and taught master degree (40 credits). Master and doctoral degrees obtained by research do not have credit values (see Table 1.2).

Table 1.1: Higher Education Qualification Levels, Its Entry Requirements and Duration of Study
Education levelsHigher education qualificationMinimum credit required for the award of qualification
8 DoctoralNo given credit value

Research master degree

No given credit value

Fully or partly taught master degree


Postgraduate diploma


Postgraduate certificate


Bachelor degree


Graduate diploma


Graduate certificate

5 Advanced diploma 40
4 Diploma 90
3 Certificate 60
1-3 Skills certificate According to the skill and levels

Source: Malaysian Qualifications Agency

Types of Higher Education Providers in Malaysia

Once you have a short list of the courses you would like to study, the next thing to do is look at the universities or colleges that offer them.

Before you decide, let us take a closer look at the types of HEIs in Malaysia. You may be surprised at what you thought you knew (or didn't!).

Higher education providers in Malaysia can be grouped into two major categories, viz. public HEIs (government funded), and private HEIs.

(A). Public Higher Educational Institutions
Public HEIs consist of universities, polytechnics, community colleges and colleges. There are 20 public universities (see Table 1.3), 32 polytechnics and 72 community colleges. In addition, there are 27 teacher education institutes which prepare candidates to become teachers at primary and secondary schools in Malaysia.

Public universities offer bachelor degrees and postgraduate programmes, with some offering programmes at diploma level and university foundation programmes. Polytechnics and community colleges offer certificate and diploma level programmes.

(Note: To look up the courses offered at these institutions and their entry requirements, please log onto

Table 1.3: List of Public Universities in Malaysia
  1. Universiti Malaya (UM), established on 1-1-1962
  2. Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), established in 1969
  3. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), established on 18-5-1970
  4. Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), established on 4-10-1971
  5. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), established on 1-4-1975
  6. Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), established on 26-8-1999
  7. Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), established on 10-5-1983   
  8. Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), established on 16-2-1984
  9. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), established on 24-12-1992
  10. Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), established on 24-11-1994
  11. Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), established on 24-2-1997
  12. Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), established on 13-3-1998
  13. Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), established on 15-7-1999
  14. Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), established on 30-9-2000
  15. Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM), established on 1-12-2000
  16. Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), established on 16-2-2002
  17. Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) established on 2-5-2002
  18. Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), established on 1-1-2006
  19. Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), established on 14-6-2006
  20. Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM), established on 10-11-2006

[Note: These 20 public universities can be further classified as five research, four broad-based and eleven specialised universities. The five public universities that have been designated as research universities are Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Teknologi Malayisa (UTM). USM has also been awarded Apex university status.]

(B). Private Higher Educational Institutions
Private HEIs come under the jurisdiction of MOE and comprise universities, university-colleges and foreign university branch campuses which award their own degree qualifications, diploma programmes and foundation studies. In contrast, private colleges award their own qualifications at diploma and certificate levels, and offer 3+0 degrees, split-degrees and tutorial support for professional qualifications.

At the beginning of 2013, there are 37 private universities, 20 private university-colleges (see Table 1.4 and Table 1.5) and about 345 active private colleges in Malaysia. In addition, there are currently eight foreign university branch campuses in the country (see Table 1.6). Students who wish to obtain a degree from a foreign university have the option of enrolling at a branch campus of these foreign universities in Malaysia.

Table 1.4: List of Private Universities in Malaysia

37 Private Universities

1. Multimedia University (MMU), Cyberjaya / Melaka, established in 1997
     (2 campuses: Cyberjaya campus and Melaka branch campus)
2. Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Putrajaya / Pahang, established in 1999
     (2 campuses: Kajang campus and Bandar Muadzam Shah branch campus)
3. Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UniRAZAK), Selangor, established in 1999
4. Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), Selangor, established in 1999
5. International Medical University (IMU), Kuala Lumpur, established in 1999
6. Universiti Selangor (UNISEL), Selangor, established in 2000
     (2 campuses: Shah Alam campus and Bestari Jaya campus)ok
7. Open University Malaysia (OUM), Kuala Lumpur, established in 2000
8. Malaysia University of Science & Technology (MUST), Selangor, established in 2000
9. AIMST University, Kedah, established in 2001 (formerly known as Asian Institute of Medicine,Science & Technology) (2 campuses: Sg.Petani campus and Bedong campus)
10. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kuala Lumpur / Selangor / Perak, established in 2002
       (4 campuses: Kuala Lumpur campus, Petaling Jaya campus, Bandar Sungai Long campus in Cheras and Perak campus)
11. Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Kuala Lumpur and around the country, established in 2001 (11 campuses located in Kuala Lumpur and around the country)
12. Wawasan Open University, Penang, established in 2006
13. Albukhary International University, Kedah, established in 2006
14. Al-Madinah International University (MEDIU), Selangor, established in 2006
15. International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), KL, established in 2006
16. Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), Putrajaya,
       (upgraded to university college in 2003, and upgraded to full university status in 2007)
17. Management and Science University (MSU), (formerly was KUTPM which was established in 2001 and upgraded to full university in 2007)
18. Asia e University (AeU), Kuala Lumpur, established in 2007
19.UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, established in 2003 (upgraded in 2003 and upgraded to full university status in 2008)
      (3 campuses: Kuala Lumpur campus, Terengganu campus and Sarawak campus)
20. Quest International University Perak, established in 2009
21. INTI International University (IIU), Negeri Sembilan, (upgraded to university college in 2006 and upgraded to full university status in 2010)
22. Taylor’s University, Selangor (upgraded to university college in 2006 and upgraded to full university status in 2010)
23. Sunway University, Selangor (upgraded to university college in 2004 and upgraded to full university status in 2011)
24. Manipal International University, Nilai, established in  2010
25. Perdana University, Selangor, established in 2011
26. HELP University, Kuala Lumpur  (upgraded to university college in 2004 and upgraded to full university status in 2011)
27. UNITAR International University , Selangor, established in 2011 (formerly UNITAR Pintar Campus)
28. Raffles University Iskandar (RUI), Johor Selangor, established in 2011 
29. Malaysia Institute of Supply Chain Innovation (MISI), established in 2011 
30. Nilai University, Negeri Sembilan (upgraded in 2007 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
31. SEGi University, Selangor (upgraded in 2008 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
32. Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU), Kuala Lumpur (upgraded in 2004 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
33. Binary University of Management and Entrepreneurship, Selangor (upgraded in 2004 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
34. Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL), Selangor (upgraded in 2003 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
35. Asia Metropolitan University, Selangor,  (upgraded in 2008 and upgraded to full university status in 2012)
36. Putra Business School, established in 2012 
37. GlobalNxt university, established in 2012

20 University Colleges

1. International University College of Technology Twintech (IUCTT), Kuala Lumpur /Kelantan/Sabah,  upgraded in 2003(3 campuses : Kuala Lumpur campus, Sabah campus, and Kelantan campus)
2. Selangor International Islamic University College (SIUC), Selangor, upgraded in 2004
3. Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS), Selangor, established in 2005
4. INSANNIAH University College, Kedah, upgraded in 2006
5. Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University College (KLMUC) , Kuala Lumpur, upgraded in 2007
    (2 campuses: Alor Star, Sungei Petani)
6. TATI University College, Terengganu, upgraded in 2007
7. Berjaya University College of Hospitality, established in 2007
8. International University College of Arts and Science, Selangor, established in 2008
9. Masterskill University College of Health Sciences, Johor, upgraded in 2009
10. MAHSA University College, Selangor, upgraded in 2009
11. Melaka Islamic University College, Melaka, upgraded in 2009
12. City University College of Science and Technology, Selangor, upgraded in 2010
13. Linton University College, upgraded in 2010 
14. KDU University College, Selangor, upgraded in 2010
15. Allianze University College of Medical Sciences, Kedah, upgraded in 2011
16. Shahputra University College, Penang, upgraded in 2011
17.KPJ Healthcare University College, Negeri Sembilan, upgraded in 2011
18.Lincoln University College, upgraded in 2011
19. Southern University College, upgraded in 2012
20. Bestari University College, established in 2012

Table 1.6: List of Foreign University Branch Campuses in Malaysia
8 Foreign University Branch Campuses
1. Monash University Sunway Campus Malaysia, established in 1998 Selangor Australia
2. Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia, established in 1999 Sarawak Australia
3. The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, established in 2000 Kuala Lumpur United Kingdom
4. Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak Campus), established in 2004 Sarawak Australia
5. Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia, established in 2009 Johor United Kingdom
6. University of Southampton Malaysia Campus, established in 2011 Johor United Kingdom
7. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, established in 2012 Putrajaya United Kingdom
8. University of Reading Malaysia campus, established in 2013 Johor United Kingdom

3+0 Degree Programmes

3+0 degree programmes are a result of a special arrangement between a Malaysian HEI and a foreign university. Students who pursue a 3+0 degree programme get to complete a degree entirely in Malaysia and still earn a foreign university degree qualification. The table below provides a list of some private colleges and private universities in Malaysia that conduct 3+0 degree programmes.

Table 1.7: Examples of 3+0 Status Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs) and their University-Partners
Name of PHEI Awarding Body
Han Chiang College University of Southern Queensland, Australia
University of Wolverhampton, UK
HELP Academy University of East London, UK
HELP College of Arts & Technology Northumbria University, UK
University of Hertfordshire, UK
Southern New Hampshire University, USA
INTI International College Penang University of Bradford, UK
University of Wollongong, Australia
INTI College Sabah/INTI College Sarawak University of Hertfordshire, UK
INTI College Subang Jaya University of Hertfordshire, UK
University of Wollongong, Australia
Northwood University, USA
KBU International College Anglia Ruskin University, UK
Nottingham Trent University, UK
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
KDU University College, Damansara Jaya Campus IMI University Centre, Lucerne, Switzerland
Murdoch University, Australia
Northumbria University, UK
KDU College Penang Campus IMI University Centre, Lucerne, Switzerland
Keele University, UK
Northumbria University, UK
KDU University College, SS13 Petaling Jaya Campus Keele University, UK
Murdoch University, Australia
Kolej Poly-Tech MARA Coventry University, UK
Limkokwing Executive Leadership College Anglia Ruskin University, UK
Curtin University, Australia
Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology, Sarawak Anglia Ruskin University, UK
MAHSA University Northumbria University, UK
University of Teesside, UK
SEGi College Kuala Lumpur University of Abertay Dundee, UK
University of Greenwich, UK
University of Sunderland, UK
SEGi College Penang University of Greenwich, UK
University of Sunderland, UK
University of Teesside, UK

SEGi College Sarawak 

University of Sunderland, UK
SEGi College Subang Jaya University of Greenwich, UK
University of Southern Queensland, Australia
University of Sunderland, UK
University of Teesside, UK
SEGi Univesity College University of Sunderland, UK
University of Teesside, UK
Southern College Teesside University, UK
University of Wales, UK
Taylor’s University RMIT University, Australia
University of South Australia, Australia
University of The West of England, Bristol, UK
University of Toulouse, France
TPM College University of Ballarat, Australia
PTPL College Anglia Ruskin University, UK
Sunway College Victoria University Melbourne, Australia

(Note: This list is by no means exhaustive and serves as an illustration only).
(Note: For a list of courses offered at these institutions, please log onto

The Quality of Your Education

While you are going through the process of deciding which institution you would like to attend, you may have thought about the quality of the education you will receive.

In Malaysia, the quality of higher education is assured through the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) which undertakes the implementation of the Malaysian Qualifications Framework. MQA is also responsible for quality assurance and the accreditation of courses and other related functions, covering both public and private HEIs.

The internationalisation of the higher education sector is a high priority for MOE MOHE. Efforts have been made to improve the world ranking of Malaysian universities; to have 150,000 international students by 2015; to create more ‘Malaysian Chairs’ at universities abroad; and to collaborate and cooperate with world-renowned universities on research and academic matters. The government will also continue to create a favourable environment for more world-class foreign university branch campuses or faculties to be set up in Malaysia.

Rating of HEI

SETARA (Rating System for Higher Education Institutions in Malaysia) was implemented in 2009 to measure the performance of undergraduate teaching and learning in universities and university colleges in Malaysia. The SETARA result is measured using a six-tier category with Tier 6 identified as outstanding and Tier 1 as weak.

Subsequently, another rating system was introduced in 2011. MyQUEST (Malaysian Quality Evaluation System for Private Colleges) is used to evaluate private colleges in Malaysia in terms of the quality of students, programmes, graduates, resources and governance. The MyQUEST rating categorises an institution as either excellent, good, or weak. The institutions would also receive a rating based on their level of achievement which ranges from 1 star (poor) to 6 stars (excellent).

These two rating systems serve as an additional reference for students and parents in their selection of institutions and programmes of study offered by various HEIs.

What is the Malaysian Qualifications Framework?

The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) is entrusted with implementing the national framework known as the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).

The purpose of MQF is to provide a unified system to bind and link all the qualifications awarded in Malaysia (which includes higher education qualifications and Malaysian Skills Certificates – SKM Level 1 to 5) and serve as a reference point for all Malaysian national qualifications.

MQF is an instrument that develops and classifies qualifications based on a set of criteria that are approved nationally and is at par with international good practices at the level of learning attained by the learners. This includes learning outcomes achieved and a credit system which is based on the learner’s academic load. All the qualifications in the framework are based upon four classifications: (1) learning outcomes; (2) credit; (3) objectives; and (4) field of study.

MQF consists of eight levels of qualifications in four sectors of education. The four sectors of education are the skills sector, vocational and technical sector, life-long learning sector, and higher education (university) sector.

The eight levels of higher education qualifications are:
Levels 1 to 3 – These are the levels for skills certificates awarded by the skills sector; vocational and technical certificates awarded by the vocational and technical sector; and certificates (Level 3) awarded by the higher education sector.

Levels 4 and 5 – These levels are for diploma and advanced diploma (general degree) programmes respectively awarded by the vocational and technical sector, skills sector and higher education sector.

Level 6 to 8 – Level 6 is for the first tertiary qualification, i.e. bachelor degree with honours while Level 7 is for master degrees and Level 8 for doctoral degrees. Under the lifelong learning category are graduate certificates and diplomas; and postgraduate certificates and diplomas.

Table 1.8: MQA – Sectors and Qualification Levels

The Many Pathways of Higher Education Qualifications

As mentioned earlier, gaining a tertiary qualification is often associated with earning a degree. However, the higher education landscape has changed in many ways, not just in Malaysia but all over the world. There are many options for a student today when it comes to acquiring a tertiary qualification. The tables below outline the various options and study pathways you can consider at tertiary level.

 Table 1.9:  Study Pathway for O-Level Qualification Holders or its equivalent

   Table 1.10:  Study Pathway for A-Level Qualification Holders or its equivalent

Applying to a Higher Education Institution

By now your list should be a concise one, ideally narrowed down to four or five programmes you would like to apply for. There is no time to lose. Unless you plan on taking some time off before you start the next chapter of your life, it is time to start cracking on all those applications.

The most important thing you need to ensure before applying is that your qualifications meet the minimum requirement for a particular programme. Every programme or HEI will have requirements that differ slightly – nonetheless, Table 1.11 shows the general requirements for pre-university studies, certificate, diploma and bachelor degree programmes at private HEIs in Malaysia.

Table 1.11: General Entry Requirements for Pre-University, Certificate, Diploma and Degree Programmes at Private HEIs

Education Level

General Entry Requirements

University foundation programme O Level with 5 credits, or its equivalent
Certificate O Level with 1 credit, or its equivalent
Diploma O Level with minimum 3 credits, or its equivalent
Year 1 bachelor degree GCE A-levels + English Proficiency or its equivalent

Applying to Study in Malaysia

As an international student, you can apply DIRECTLY to the educational institution of your choice. You are advised to apply only to institutions that have been given the approval by the relevant authorities to accept international students.

For courses at public universities - bachelor degree and postgraduate programmes - international students have to apply directly to the university of their choice for full-time mode programmes only.

For courses at private higher educational institutions e.g. pre-university studies, diploma, bachelor degree and postgraduate studies, students have to apply directly to the institution of their choice, which must have the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs Malaysia to enrol international students. International students are only allowed to study for full-time programmes.

To facilitate the entry of international students coming to study in Malaysia, the government has set up a one-stop agency known as Education Malaysia Global Services to assist in expediting the issuance of a Student Pass to international students, and to provide other services that ease their transition to live in this country.

Schools of Malaysia Directory (4th Edition), published by Challenger Concept (M) Sdn Bhd

This article is contributed by Challenger Concept (M) Sdn Bhd of Malaysia, the publisher for Education Guide Malaysia, an annual guidebook about education in Malaysia. For more information, please log onto

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