The basics
Malaysia: Applying to University

Applying to study in Malaysia

Our guide to the application process to study abroad in Malaysia...


With an advancing educational sector, unique student scene and enviable climate, Malaysia is an incredibly popular study choice for international students. The nation’s low costs of living and relatively low tuition fees also make the choice to study abroad in Malaysia an easy one. But despite Malaysia’s reputation for being student-friendly, it’s important you take the application process seriously and make the right decision in choosing an institution. Let our breakdown of the application process to study in Malaysia help lay things out for you.




As with anything, it’s always better to be as prepared as possible, as early as possible. Students should familiarise themselves with the higher education system in Malaysia and decide which sort of institution they’d like to complete their studies at. Malaysian institutions also offer students a number of unique internationally-credited degree options known as ‘twinning’ that students are advised to research thoroughly before applying. It is recommended that, at the very least, students begin their research an academic year before their intended study abroad commencement date.

Most universities also provide online handbooks or course guides students should research and use to confirm that they will be correctly credited for subjects undertaken abroad. Going home to learn that you’ll need to extend your degree or re-take subjects at certain credit levels will extend both the length of your degree and tuition costs for the additional time spent studying. It is always a good idea to download the university prospectus if you can (something which you can do here on our site).

International students may apply directly to Malaysian universities, but first you must check whether the institution you are applying to has obtained correct accreditation status from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). 

Learn more about ‘twinning’

Check if your host institution is correctly accredited



Intake dates differ across institutions, study levels and areas. Major intakes for most universities across both undergraduate and postgraduate levels are in late February (semester one), and again in mid-late July (semester two). Many universities often have second or third round offer intakes, or minor intakes for special courses of study throughout the year. For example, Monash Unviersity Malaysia has a unique minor intake period in mid-October for students in special enrolment sequences.

 Very broadly, application deadlines are about two-three months for a start at the beginning of the following semester. For example in 2013/2014, international students applying to the University of Nottingham Malaysia had from September 1- January 15 2014 to lodge an application for the 2014 Malaysian academic year (however, you should always confirm dates for when you plan to apply).

Some universities have separate application dates for international students and so it’s important that all prospective students directly confirm relevant deadlines both with their host and home institutions. Most university applications can be completed online directly through the institution’s website.


What documents will I need?

Specific requirements may differ between study programmes and institutions but generally speaking, you will need to submit certified copies of all relevant academic transcripts, a photocopy of your passport (all pages), a photocopy of your identification card (i.e. a valid driver’s licence), a recent passport-sized colour photograph, personal medical health report and relevant application fees, as well as the application form to your host institution. You may also be required to prove your level of proficiency in English. If required, your IELTS score is valid for three years from the sitting date. Students should ensure that their score will be valid at the time of application, or organise to sit another exam well before the application cut-off date.

Students applying to study at postgraduate level may also be required to submit research or thesis proposals.

Institutions typically take about five-seven days to process your application after the cut-off date. You will then be sent an ‘Offer of Place’ letter that outlines study course details, relevant fees and dates. You will need this letter to help you apply for a student pass at the Malaysian Immigration Department once in Malaysia.

Learn more about Malaysian student immigration requirements


As there is no centralised application service for international students in Malaysia, you can apply directly to a university online through their website (you can click through to their site from their profile here on Hotcourses Abroad). You can also apply through our free i-Apply service.


Malaysian academic culture

Higher education in Malaysia is incredibly international, and so depending on the institution, course of study or even cultural background of your professor your experiences might be different. However, Malaysian culture favours extreme politeness and diplomacy, so students used to academic environments in which they’re encouraged to be outspoken are advised to proceed with caution. Whilst some classes encourage discussion, expressing your opinion in class is not necessarily taken as a means of demonstrating your engagement with course content, and may be taken as disrespectful or rude.

Students are expected to display initiative in following the course content and monitoring their academic progress. Assessment varies in nature depending on study level and subject area but generally students are assumed to take responsibility in attending class, completing work on time and undertaking independent research outside of class.


Application tips

Thousands of international students apply to and are accepted by Malaysian universities every year, so if you scour institution websites, student forums and publications you’ll find a multitude of guides that breakdown the application process for their programmes extremely thoroughly. The University of Nottingham has a downloadable, step-by-step guide complete with screen grabs to guide you through the process. You can always consult our own editorial section for applying to a Malaysian university at any time.

Remember that for applications where you’re required to submit a personal statement, the professors that are likely to read it will live and breathe the subject matter you’re telling them you want to study. Don’t be embarrassed to sound enthusiastic about what you’re studying, but don’t get carried away, either. Malaysian academic culture is loosely based on that of the UK and Australia and so favours direct, no-frills prose. Malaysian communication style however is subtle and focused on mutual ties of respect, so coming across as too self-important can also make applications seem ill-thought out. The magnitude of your interests and achievements should come across without you needing to explain how great they are.

Now that the application process seems less scary, why not start browsing courses in Malaysia now and start planning your study abroad adventure?


Read more:

The Malaysian higher education system...simplified

Applying for a Malaysian student visa

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.


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