Low-cost education that’s top class


PETALING JAYA: Some local private universities say one can get tertiary education of the same quality, if not better, in Malaysia, and at a lower cost too – echoing the view of an association of private colleges and universities.

Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Prof Datuk Elizabeth Lee said enrolment in Sunway University for undergraduate degrees saw about a 20% increase last year.

“We see the continued growth into 2024, as the price of tertiary education in Malaysia is definitely lower by as much as two-thirds compared with what it costs overseas, with the same or even higher quality,” she told The Star.

Lee’s comment came after Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president Datuk Parmjit Singh said factors that encourage students to pursue their studies in Malaysia include the availability of high-quality education programmes system delivered by universities with a strong international outlook and well-developed campuses and facilities.

In an article front-paged in The Star on Wednesday, he said Malaysia has the potential to attract more international students due to its quality education and affordable cost of living.

Lee said some of the popular programmes among Malaysian and international students are pre-university programmes like A-Levels and Canadian International Matriculation, as well as diploma programmes and undergraduate degrees in business and computing.

“International students are especially interested in the overall learning experience, industry relevance and opportunities to intern and work.

“Hospitality and business also tend to be popular, while engineering and data science are growing,” she said, adding that Sunway University has students of over 100 nationalities including Malaysians, Indonesians, Chinese and Indians.

Lee said the university’s world-class partners, such as Lancaster University, offer students additional certifications for their courses with Sunway University, especially at the undergraduate level.

“Students from said programmes, which are validated and recognised by Lancaster University, will receive two scrolls upon graduation – one from Sunway University and the other from Lancaster University,” she added.

She said the international partnership would benefit students, as they would gain comprehensive knowledge put together in Malaysia and from leading overseas institutions.

“Studying locally will be more feasible, with cost savings as students can complete their three years of education in Malaysia without the need to travel to the United Kingdom.

“Our mobility options also offer students the opportunity to study in partner institutions for the semester-long study abroad programmes and cultural exchange opportunities, all at a significantly lower cost compared with traditional full-time study abroad programmes,” she said.

UCSI University vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the Malaysian higher education landscape has improved greatly.

She said this is evidenced by the presence of seven Malaysian universities in the top 300 in the QS World University Rankings 2023, of which two are private universities.

“More parents have been sending their children to private universities in Malaysia instead of overseas since the early 2000s.

“With seven Malaysian universities in the world’s top 1%, it is clear that quality higher education options are available locally,” she said.

The increase in fees and guarantees would somewhat deter Malaysian parents from sending their children overseas for studies, the former Higher Education Ministry director-general added.

However, she said other factors should not be overlooked, like increasing tuition fees, foreign exchange rate concerns, the aftermath of Covid-19 and the significant improvements made by Malaysian universities, particularly over the past 15 years.

Prof Siti Hamisah said overseas graduates used to enjoy significant advantages but this has changed as many Malaysian private tertiary institutions have made marked improvements in terms of quality offerings, learning experience, research, facilities and industry engagement.

In UCSI’s case, she said four of its alumni stood out as Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia inductees.

“UCSI also topped the Higher Education Ministry’s Graduate Employability Survey for the past two years, scoring 100% in both editions.

“Two more UCSI alumni are Prestige 40 Under 40 laureates and the university has also nurtured some of Malaysia’s foremost personalities in the media and performing arts industries,” she added.

She said UCSI’s top students were annually selected by renowned universities like Harvard, Imperial College London, Tsinghua and Queensland, among others, for high-impact research.

“Malaysian private universities can deliver consequential outcomes,” said Prof Siti Hamisah, adding that Malaysia is a global education hub that welcomes students from all over the world.

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