Affordability, quality big draws for foreign students

Feeling right at home: Foreign students from USM seen during a trip at George Town, Penang. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The affordability and quality of education, and similar food and culture, are among the reasons foreign students are drawn to pursue their tertiary education here, according to many.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (International) Offshore director Caleb Kong said these foreign students, who are mainly from China, the Middle East and Indonesia, opt to study in Malaysia because of the affordable courses ranging from US$5,000 (RM23,753) to US$7,000 (RM33,254) a year, and global reputation and adaptability.

“Our rates and living cost are far cheaper than in western countries. Our weakening ringgit further encourages enrolment.

“According to the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023, we are ranked first in Asia and fourth in the world, and the QS World University Rankings have ranked us as second in the country and top 1% in the world.

“Apart from being a peaceful country, international students are attracted to Malaysia as a Muslim-friendly country while Chinese nationals can adapt easily to the local food and culture,” he said yesterday.

USM has one of the highest foreign student enrolments among public universities in the country.

Kong said at present, there are about 8,500 international students from 85 countries among the 36,000 students enrolled at six campuses nationwide.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to a surge in the number of international students.

Back then, lessons were conducted in a hybrid form and many students were following lessons from their home countries.

He said management courses remain a favourite among international students.

“The international students are not just undergraduates. Some are working adults who are sponsored by their governments and come here with their families.

“It takes just three and a half years to complete an undergraduate course and about a year to complete a Master’s course in Malaysia,” said Kong.

Qian Zongqi, 19, from Jiangxi, China, is spending the next three years at USM for his Bachelor in Management course.

“Before enrolling, I’ve surveyed several other universities in the region that suited me in terms of food and culture. I found that it was the most affordable here.

“It costs me about 30,000 yuan (RM19,700) for one year. If I were to study in Singapore, it would easily be double that amount,” he said.

His course-mate Liu Zhaojun, also 19, from Shendong, China, finds it easy to adapt to life in Penang.

“People speak Mandarin and I’m also able to converse with them in English.

“Most people share a similar lifestyle. The only issue is the hot weather.

“It’s like summer every day. Otherwise, it’s comfortable to study and live here,” the university student said.

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