Malaysia has set a goal of attracting 250,000 overseas students by 2025, according to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025: AFP

According to EMGS, one aspect that may entice overseas students to study in Malaysia is the variety of courses provided by Malaysian universities, which includes disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, law, and general programmes.

Malaysian universities do well in worldwide rankings among Southeast Asian tertiary education institutions. According to the 2022 QS World University Rankings, five universities are placed among the top 200 in the world. The University of Malaya, the country’s most famous public university, has been named one of the top 50 2022 Best Global Universities in Asia by US News and World Report.

According to EMGS statistics, the increase in international applications between January and September 2021 is mostly due to Chinese students, who outweigh other candidates from other countries by thousands. China has become one of the world’s top providers of overseas students, thanks to an increasing middle class, with over 700,000 students studying abroad in 2019, according to the country’s Ministry of Education.

Due to travel restrictions and Beijing’s deteriorating diplomatic relations with Western countries at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Chinese students began considering other educational options closer to home, including universities in Malaysia and Singapore, according to the South China Morning Post.

The substantial growth in foreign postgraduate applications to Malaysian institutions reflects the country’s expanding status as an educational powerhouse. Tuition costs and living expenses are much lower than in Western nations such as Australia and the United Kingdom. For overseas students, a Ph.D. programme in the social sciences and humanities at a Malaysian public institution starts at 7,000 US dollars; English is also commonly spoken as a second language, eliminating the need to acquire local languages for academic research.

Malaysia’s low cost of living may also be enticing to students. An international student’s annual food, transport, and lodging costs roughly 14,400 Ringgit (US$3,440-US$4,600). Furthermore, the country is ranked 23rd on the Global Peace Index, making it one of the world’s safest study abroad locations.

The flood of foreign students entering the country will pave the way for the country to meet its 250,000 international student enrolment target by 2025, as indicated in the Ministry of Education’s Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. However, when international borders reopen, the country is experiencing intense competition from neighbouring countries.

“We are losing to other countries in the region,” Elajsolan Mohan, President of Malaysia’s National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei), was quoted by The Star as saying, referring to Australia’s study visa flexibility to include extended post-study work rights as a means of attracting international students to its shores.

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