INTERNATIONALISING THE NATION’S HIGHER EDUCATION


The forging of partnerships – particularly the internationalisation of higher education – is an important endeavour for the country’s HEIs, as the government and MoHE work to position Malaysia as an international higher education hub.The forging of partnerships – particularly the internationalisation of higher education – is an important endeavour for the country’s HEIs, as the government and MoHE work to position Malaysia as an international higher education hub.

MoHE aims to establish Malaysia as an international higher education hub

THE year 2022 has seen much more progress in higher education, compared to the previous years when the pandemic still dictated our physical movements.

Since many countries’ borders have started to re-open, international travel has been made possible. This enabled visits to other countries for the signing of the memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and memorandums of agreement (MoAs) between Malaysia’s higher education institutions (HEIs) and their international counterparts.

This year alone, I had the privilege to witness the signing of 12 MoUs and one MoA in India, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Romania, Turkiye and Canada.

I am sure there will be more to come.

One may ask, why would the forging of partnerships be an important endeavour for Malaysia’s HEIs?

The internationalisation goal

UPM and Universiti Malaysia Perlis sign the MoU with the University of Surrey.UPM and Universiti Malaysia Perlis sign the MoU with the University of Surrey.

The answer is this - the government of Malaysia in general and more specifically, the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), have been working towards establishing Malaysia as an international higher education hub.

With 131,000 international students currently registered at our HEIs, we are well on our way to achieving our goal of hosting 250,000 by 2025.

For this to be made possible, our universities have been establishing and executing various initiatives such as offering offshore programs as well as forging MoUs and MoAs.

Such efforts will facilitate international collaborations in research and innovation, teaching and learning, student and staff mobility programs, and so much more. The benefits are truly abundant.

Building a higher education hub for Malaysia means for us to attract and retain a critical mass of students, experts, HEIs, knowledge industries, science and technology centres and so on.

Benefits of becoming international

Various parties stand to gain from the internationalisation of Malaysia’s higher education.

In terms of academia, we can expect enhanced teaching and learning as well as research and innovation methods that can rival developed countries.

On a cultural or social level, we will be able to promote Malaysian culture and our native language, Bahasa Malaysia, to our international counterparts. The internationalisation process will also expose Malaysians to different cultures without having to leave the country.

On the economic front, internationalisation is a remedy to the challenges faced due to the pandemic.

It contributes to the nation’s revenue generation, particularly through the influx of international students coming into the country.

An effect of the internationalisation efforts that may have gone unnoticed is the narrowing of the gender gap.

At present, 55% of our academicians are women who continue to succeed in various subjects of education.

Additionally, those enrolled in our public HEIs consist of 357,087 women, which constitutes 61% of the overall student enrolment.

On the other hand, more than 537,434 – amounting to 53% of students who are enrolled in our private HEIs – are also women.

Therefore, should the enrolment numbers increase, it is reasonable to believe that the corporate sector will consist of more women leaders in the near future.

Malaysia’s selling points

Dr Noraini (centre) witnessed the MoA signing between UKM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman (second from left) and Regional Group of Qatar chief executive officer Sheikh Abd Rahman Khalifa Abdul Aziz Al-Thani (fourth from left).Dr Noraini (centre) witnessed the MoA signing between UKM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman (second from left) and Regional Group of Qatar chief executive officer Sheikh Abd Rahman Khalifa Abdul Aziz Al-Thani (fourth from left).

In attracting new partnerships, there are several selling points that I consistently highlight in my speeches overseas.

First is Malaysia’s university rankings.

In the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2023, Universiti Malaya is ranked in the top 100 best universities and Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as well as Universiti Sains Malaysia, are listed in the top 200.

Many of our universities have done well and are expected to improve in the coming years.

Second, the cost of living in Malaysia is much lower compared to developed countries with highly ranked universities.

Our capital city, Kuala Lumpur is consistently highly ranked in the QS Top Universities’ ‘Most Affordable Cities for Students’.

Due to the lower cost, students can afford to enjoy our various beautiful destinations around the country, as well as explore our rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Third, tourism is a form of education in and of itself.

MoHE will soon be launching the education tourism (edu-tourism) programme.

Edu-tourism will provide an immersive education experience in Malaysia’s most scenic destinations that comes with exposure to rich cultures and diverse traditions.

Under this programme, Malaysian HEIs will serve as tourism centres.

Fourth, is the progressive nature of our higher education system, which supports sustainable and inclusive lifelong learning.

MoHE is an avid supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our focus is on the 4th SDG of Quality Education. This, in combination with our 12th Malaysia Plan, highlights the importance of the notion of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Dr Noraini (centre) at the EduData Summit 2022 in the United States, where she emphasised Malaysia’s focus on leveraging EduData to take the country’s education to the next level in her keynote speech on ‘The Malaysian experience in Implementing Sustainable and Inclusive Lifelong Learning through EduData’.Dr Noraini (centre) at the EduData Summit 2022 in the United States, where she emphasised Malaysia’s focus on leveraging EduData to take the country’s education to the next level in her keynote speech on ‘The Malaysian experience in Implementing Sustainable and Inclusive Lifelong Learning through EduData’.

To that end, we have introduced micro-credential courses and the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Both these initiatives are administered by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.

Under the micro-credential initiative, learners can take short courses at different institutions and combine them for conversion into an awarded certification. There are currently more than 11,000 micro-credential courses offered by our HEIs.

APEL, on the other hand, allows applicants to use their experiences to earn credits in their study program. As of June 2022, we have more than 26,000 applicants pursuing APEL.

In essence, HEIs from all over Malaysia have done well in planning and executing efforts that promote the internationalisation of our higher education.

They have proven themselves to be a united family.

May our internationalisation efforts prosper irrespective of the challenges and hurdles that await us during uncertain times.

Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad is the Minister of Higher Education.

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