Degrees in demand

TRADITIONAL degrees are still a popular choice among Malaysian and international students.

Fields related to computing and computer science, in particular, seem to be the top choice for tertiary education.

Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) said programmes in areas such as computing, computer science and related areas, as well as engineering, business administration and accounting, have also remained popular among local students.

Mapcu noticed this trend, its president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said, after it carried out a cursory survey among its 68 member institutions last week.

“This growth is expected to continue, as the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of digital adoption and transformation across all sectors.

“Organisations now find themselves in a hurry to ensure that they are able to emerge stronger through the use of technology.

“Based on our survey and the statistics provided by the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) in relation to popular programmes among international students (see graphics), there is no discernible difference in the choice of academic programmes between international and local students this year.

“Niche-based programmes in areas such as hospitality, architecture, psychology, culinary arts, education and medicine, and health sciences also showed steady enrolment growth, especially among institutions that are traditionally well-known in these areas, ” he said, adding that the pandemic has brought greater awareness to areas related to health sciences and biomedical sciences.

Institutions that offer programmes which support developments in the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) and digital disruption, he said, would inevitably see growing interest in computing and computer science programmes among both international and local students.

Parmjit said this is not surprising, given the rapid global adoption of technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cybersecurity to protect digital assets and privacy.

“Moving forward, we hope more local students would be interested in courses where financial technologies (FinTech), digital marketing and e-business are offered as integrated components within their core learning areas.”

The foreign student statistics from EMGS, he said, reaffirm the strength and diversity of programmes offered by Malaysian private higher education institutions (IPTS).

Although the borders are still closed due to the pandemic, Malaysia’s IPTS have continued to attract students from all over the world seeking a high quality, affordable and multicultural educational experience, he added.

Local students in HELP University enrol in its Business and Behavioural Sciences (Psychology) programmes in large numbers, according to CAREERsense@HELP director Eric Bryan Amaladas.

At INTI International University & Colleges, the favoured courses among local students are Diploma in Business, Bachelor of Business, Certificate in Business Studies, Cambridge A Level, American Degree Transfer Programme, Engineering and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

According to its chief executive officer Tan Lin Nah, this is because the courses offer more job opportunities across different sectors.

“With an established first degree, students can branch out to other fields of interest – for example, professionals from engineering and ICT backgrounds often pair their experiences with business-based postgraduate programmes as they move into management and leadership roles.

“That being said, the content and delivery of traditional degrees cannot remain the same as they were from even as recent as five years ago.

“These degrees must evolve with time and integrate the expectations, knowledge and skills of today’s industries as part of the learning outcomes, ” she added.

Through these courses, Tan said students can go on to work in fields such as accounting, finance, banking, consulting, and ICT.

“Global Business Services, in particular, continues to grow as a viable industry as many international organisations have set up shared services in Malaysia.

“It requires the expertise of financial, human resource and ICT professionals to manage large scales of global data and operations management.

“Entrepreneurship is also increasingly popular among the new generation of independent professionals – some are start-up companies while others offer their services while still studying, ” she added.

EMGS chief executive officer Mohd Radzlan Jalaludin said the majority of international students are here to study Business and Administration, Computing, and Engineering and Engineering Trades.

“They come here because we provide quality education that is affordable and globally recognised. They know that our public and private institutions are listed in the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.”

He expects Halal Food Management programmes to gain traction among international students in the coming year.

He said Malaysia is poised to be an education hub for Halal Food Management because the Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) halal certification is held in high regard by Muslims around the world.

“There is tremendous potential for the global halal food industry to grow.

“Take Japan for example – Malaysians love to travel there. Imagine if more eateries had the halal certification, more Muslim tourists not only from here but from everywhere in the world, will definitely want to visit Japan.

“Non-Muslim food operators can tap into the halal market if they can supply halal-certified food. We cannot just sit and wait for international students to come.

We must be courageous in promoting and creating a demand for new programmes like Halal Food Management.”

While IR4.0 has created new jobs and made others obsolete, Radzlan believes that traditional programmes like business and hospitality will continue to be the bedrock of the economy.

“These sectors have been around since the beginning of time and they will continue to thrive. IR4.0 will not change that fact.

“What will change is how the knowledge of these traditional fields are taught and applied in relation to new technologies such as big data analytics, AI and IoT.”

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