Updated 9 months ago

Malaysia's Ministry of Higher Education monitors the country's institutions to ensure that they are delivering an edcuation that meets high international standards. Increased government investment in the education sector and an increasing international enrolment is making Malaysia a regional education hub in South-East Asia.

In 2014, UNESCO Institute for Statistics revealed that Malaysia was the 12th most preferred destination for higher education in the world, and by the end of 2014, Malaysia had hosted around 135,500 international students in higher education institutions, as well as international high schools.

Malaysia continues to build its international enrolment, and the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025, which is the government's 10-year strategy for higher education, aims to place two Malaysian universities in the Global Top 100 and aims to host 250,000 foreign students by 2025. It is now also possible for international students to work in Malaysia once they are qualified, and graduates in critical and high technology areas may be able to obtain an Employment Pass for up to two years.

Plan your studies

To study in Malaysia, you must first select a type of institution and a full-time course that you wish to study. There are three main types of institution for international students in Malaysia:

Universities and colleges

Private higher education institutions rely on corporate investment, alumni and student funding. They consist of private universities and private university-colleges that award their own degree qualifications, diplomas and foundation studies; foreign university branch campuses; and private colleges that award their own qualifications at diploma and certificate levels, as well as split-degrees, 3 0 degrees, and tutorial support for professional qualifications.

In 2000, The University of Nottingham was the first British institution to open a campus in Malaysia, and foreign branch campuses in Malaysia have started seeing an increase in international students, as fees and living expenses are considerably cheaper in Malaysia than at the main campuses.

Public higher education institutions are government-funded and consist of public universities that offer bachelors’ degrees and postgraduate programmes, foundations and diplomas; polytechnics and community colleges that offer certificate and diploma level programmes; and public colleges that offer certificate and diploma level programmes.

Accredited skills training centres

These are institutions registered under the Department of Skills Development that enable students to pursue specialised technical and vocational skills training courses accredited by the Malaysian government. The accredited courses set students on track to go on to gain internationally recognised qualifications.

Language schools

Students between the ages of 18 and 35 can apply at an institution that primarily offers language courses but can also offer computer literacy training and some skills courses and is registered with the Ministry of Higher Education. Since the courses are short, students can only apply for a maximum of six months at a time.

There is also the option of a Student Mobility Programme, which initiates the exchange of students between two academic instutitions for a period of study between three to 12 months that usually allows credit transfer to the student's original degree programme.

Admission requirements and fees

Once you have selected your field of study, you will need to check on your chosen institution's website to see if you meet the admissions requirements. Good grades are often required, and you will also need a strong command of English and may be required to do an English proficiency test. If you do fit the profile, you can then go about submitting your application forms, as well as any relevant documents and application fee. If your application is accepted, you will receive an offer letter from the institution and, if you receive more than one offer, you are then in a position to accept the best one and pay the relevant admission fees.

To study in Malaysia, you must be able to finance the entire duration of your studies, and it's worth noting that part-time work is limited to 20 hours per week during semester breaks.

There is no centralised system for international student application, so you’ll need to apply directly to the higher education institution that you wish to attend. Likewise, fees vary according to the different institutes, programmes and examinations. Here is an approximate breakdown of what you can expect as tuition fees.

Visa Approval Letter and Student Pass

All foreigners who wish to study at a higher education institution in Malaysia are required to have a Student Pass from the Department of Immigration Malaysia. The institution that a student has enrolled at can provide assistance in the application of a Visa Approval Letter and Student Pass.

Once you have submitted payment and all required documents to your chosen institution, it will begin the process of applying for your Visa Approval Letter (VAL). A Visa Approval Letter will take a minimum of 14 working days to be processed from the time the completed application, documents and payment have been received. The VAL wil be delivered to the institution that has offered you a place to study and it will then send it to you in your home country. Once you have received the VAL, you can make arrangements to travel to Malaysia.

Alternatively, new students who have received offer letters from public and private higher education institutions will have the option to apply for their VAL directly through the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) website. Once you receive the letter, which your institution will send to you by post, you can prepare to come to Malaysia.

Please note that the Visa Approval Letter means that the immigration department in Malaysia has granted approval for you to obtain a Student Pass. However, this letter is not the Student Pass it merely grants you permission to enter Malaysia for the further processing of your Student Pass.

Before you travel to Malaysia, you will need to check with the Malaysian embassy or consulate in your country about your visa requirements. If you are from a ‘visa-required’ country, you will need to obtain a Single Entry Visa before you travel to Malaysia. However, if you are a citizen of a country that does not require a visa to enter Malaysia, you will be able to enter as long as you can show your Visa Approval Letter at the checkpoint.

Upon arrival at the immigration checkpoint in Malaysia, you will be required to show your Visa Approval Letter. A special pass will be stamped in your passport to allow you to stay while your Student Pass is processed. This special pass can be valid for between 14 and 30 days, at the discretion of the immigration department.

At the immigration counter, you will need to present the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • Your Visa Approval Letter
  • Your original offer letter from the education institution where you will be studying in Malaysia
  • If you are coming from a country where there is a high risk of yellow fever, you will need to show proof of vaccination before you can clear immigration at the point of entry.

Once in Malaysia, you will need to complete a medical screening within seven days of arrival. These clinics are linked to EMGS and medical reports are submitted online. Once you have passed, EMGS will notify your institution to submit your passport to them to endorse your Student Pass. Your Student Pass will then replace the temporary special pass that you received at the point of entry. Once your Student Pass has been issued, EMGS will issue your student identity card, known as an iKad, and you will also receive an insurance card if you have purchased insurance through EMGS.

  Good to know:

It is worth arranging for a representative from your institution to meet you in the arrivals hall and transfer you to your institution to report your arrival.

 Useful links:

The Government of Malaysia's Official Gateway
Study Malaysia
Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS)
Malaysia University Portal

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.