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Malaysia: Destination Guides - Must read

Understanding the Malaysian higher education system

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Many Malaysian students choose to study in Malaysia as there has been a steady growth of quality higher education institutions in the country. As Malaysia welcomes thousands of foreign students each year, Malaysian students can now enjoy a wider range of universities as foreign universities are fast setting up campuses here.

Types of institution

All higher education is managed by the Malaysian Ministry of Education, with institutions owned either publicly or privately.

Colleges and university colleges

Malaysian colleges prepare students for entry into university. Students take courses and sit for exams as external candidates through bridging qualifications. University colleges are independent institutions that do not have university status, but have the power to award degrees at undergraduate level that are held in the same regard as those awarded by universities. Courses are available across most general study areas. Check out what courses or institutions you’re interested in here.


Public and privately owned Malaysian universities offer students undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Some private universities offer courses from universities abroad, giving students a chance to study for a foreign degree locally. This is becoming popular and many students opt for this as it not as expensive going overseas and students gain an international qualification at the end of the course.

Alternatively search for universities in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.


Bachelor degrees in Malaysia are typically between 3-5 years. For instance, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) will usually take three years to complete. Most programmes at private universities are taught in English while Bachelor programmes at public institutions are taught in Malay, except studies in science or mathematics.

Students can major in a specific area they have chosen. A minor is a secondary area of focus within a general study field with a lower requirement quota. Some universities offer students the chance to gain an Honours (Hons) qualification as part of the Bachelors. It is best to check with individual institutions before enrolling.


Many students choose this route as it is financially viable compared to spending all three years overseas. Students on twinning programmes can study 1 year locally and 2 years abroad, or 2 years locally and 1 year abroad. Many reputable universities from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US offer twinning programmes. Alternatively, students can complete a 3+0 foreign Bachelors programme, in which foreign study programmes are conducted by private institutions in Malaysia.


To do a postgraduate, students need to have a recognised undergraduate degree at the very least. Programmes are offered across both Masters and Doctoral levels, completed via taught coursework, a long-form dissertation or research project or by completing a thesis. Students will attend lectures, seminars, tutorials or workshops and complete assessments in the same format as in undergraduate study.

Depending on individuals, a Masters can take between 1-5 years to complete while a PhD may take up to 4 years.


Students are likely to encounter teaching styles and academic environments influenced by a number of different cultures. The Malaysian academic culture is loosely modelled upon that of the UK and in some colleges, the US. Students are expected to follow coursework independently and manage their own academic progress.

Useful links

Study for a UK qualification in Malaysia

Top universities in Malaysia

Malaysia’s twinning programmes



Study in Malaysia


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