THE international students sector in Malaysia is poised to contribute RM3bil in direct and indirect foreign exchange (forex) earnings in 2007, according to National Economic Action Council (NEAC) executive director Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.
“To achieve this, Malaysia should target an international student population of 50,000 in five years,” Mustapa said during a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday on the findings of NEAC’s study on higher education services as a potential source of foreign exchange earnings for the country.
At present, foreign students, whose population stands at 18,000, contributes about RM500mil a year to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Mustapa said direct potential earnings from this sector in fees paid to colleges in 2007 could be around RM1.25bil annually, while education tourism accounted for the balance.
According to Mustapa, the findings are based on assumptions that accumulative student growth till 2007 will be around 22% compared with a total 36.8% during the 1997-2000 period and the economic growth and demand of target markets are sustained or improved.
The study, facilitated by 40 representatives from the public and private sectors, has identified China, Indonesia and the Gulf states as the target markets.
On the government’s allocation for promoting local colleges to foreign students, Mustapa said the government and the private sectors had already invested heavily in the infrastructure.
The study, conducted by IBM Business Consulting Services, showed that the number of higher education providers in Malaysia had grown from 291 in 1995 to 720 in 2001.
The Education Ministry and IBM Business Consulting consider that about 55 significant players among private colleges (out of a total of 691) dominated the international students market in 2001.
The foreign students population in the public universities grew 8.65% year-to-year between 1997 and 2000. In the same period, international student enrolment in private colleges and universities grew a remarkable 60.1% year-to-year.
IBM Business Consulting associate partner Alan Barker said the study revealed that education could be- come Malaysia's potential source of forex as it had built a reputation as one of the world’s most prominent players in the education sector.