Why this college or course?

THE daughter of your mother’s friend’s hairdresser’s brother’s secretary goes there, so why not you? 

The Campus Poll StarEducation conducted last year revealed that word-of-mouth was the best advertisement for colleges and universities in attracting students to their campuses. 

Interestingly it showed that only 3% of the respondents obtained their facts from the media, while 1.4% found education fairs and road shows helpful. Friends and seniors also did not seem to play an important part either.  

Another surprise was parental influence – only 4.2% of the respondents were swayed by their parents' advice and 1.2% by parents' choice in selecting an area of study. The role counsellors play was small too – the findings indicated that they had very little influence (0.9%) on the students' decision-making process. 

Yet, the mystery remains – what makes students tick in selecting courses and institutions? 

The good news is that Malaysian undergraduates are more discerning with growing consumer power. The results showed that 75.4% of the respondents claimed that their choice of programme was based on their own decision, compared to 9.8% who cited parental influence. Many cited academic standards, facilities, affordability and convenience (location) as the main criteria for selection.  

About 2,000 students participated in the poll, conducted from November 2002 to January 2003. Half the respondents were from private institutions, 27% from public universities and the rest did not indicate. 

Engineering and technical disciplines (19.1%); information technology and computer science (14.3%); medicine and dentistry (14%); followed by finance, business and economics (13%) topped the list of popular courses among students. 

For the other humanities and arts subjects, law remained the most popular, both with potential tertiary students and current ones: 5% and 2.3% respectively. 

Relatively new creative fields of study that have grown increasingly popular among students are mass communications, music, performance arts and film studies; and multimedia and interactive technology. 

An interesting trend was the strengthened interest in science and technology programmes. However, pure science, pharmaceutical science and biochemistry recorded the lowest level of interest among students at 7.6%, compared to the other science subjects. It will be interesting to see how these fields fare this year, particularly biochemistry. 

This past year has nonetheless seen ripples of change in the local higher education landscape. 

The setting up of a new higher education ministry promises new developments in tertiary education in the country. Private higher education institutions (IPTS) are set to face stronger regulating mechanisms.  

The introduction of National Service for school leavers meanwhile has altered prospective students’ plans somewhat. A more worrying development for many is the higher minimum qualification for entry into degree programmes at private colleges, which has been raised to five credits in SPM.  

In the face of stiff competition from many players in the industry, numerous colleges have introduced new initiatives to improve the marketability of students, including allowing for integrated science, IT, arts and humanities courses or double majors, and practical training or internship. 

So what works for you? Is it the frills and thrills where the hot babes and the coolest parties are? Or is it the ''gang'' factor?  

To get a clearer picture of trends and developments, StarEducation aims to get to the heart of the matter – students' views.  

We want to know how you make that all-important decision that would determine your future. Were you prepared to make that life-altering decision? 

We believe that when trends in the education scene are identified, a better strategy can be formulated to raise the general standard of higher education in the country. So, help us help you and future undergraduates by taking part in this Campus Poll on this page as well as at http://thestar.com.my/campus2004 

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