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Internationalisation continues to shape the Malaysian education brand

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our video interview series today with a conversation with Dr Syed Alwee Alsagoff, the Senior Director for International Development at Education Malaysia Global Services
  • Dr Alwee reflects on the importance of Malaysia’s national higher education strategy, the values that drive higher education in Malaysia, and the country’s progress towards its goal of hosting 250,000 foreign students by 2025

Editor’s note: We are updating our video channels and the videos linked below are temporarily unavailable.

Earlier this year, Malaysia released its national strategy for higher education, The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. As we reported at the time, the blueprint is broadly based on three key themes, known as the “Three B’s”:

  • Bakat (talent): Higher education is to nurture domestic talent and be of a quality that attracts international students from the region.
  • Benchmarking to global standards: Malaysia’s goal is to be in the top one-third of nations in the world for education, and to increase the number of its universities in world rankings such as the QS.
  • Balance: Malaysia’s university graduates are to be equipped not only with skills and knowledge (ilmu), but a moral, “spiritual” context (akhlak) in which to put them to use.

The blueprint also clearly reinforces Malaysia’s long-time commitment to being an important hub for education in Southeast Asia. Under the banner “World-class Degrees. Truly Asian Values,” Malaysia aims to nearly double its international enrolment from more than 135,000 foreign students in 2014 to 250,000 by 2025.

Following a decade of strong growth, official figures indicate year-over-year growth of 16.5% between 2013 and 2014. Malaysia’s top ten sending markets are nearly all from Africa or Asia, and in 2014 included Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen.

An agency of the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education, Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) is the arm of government responsible for achieving the country’s recruitment goals.

Dr Syed Alwee Alsagoff is EMGS’s Senior Director for International Development. In our first interview clip below he reflects on the importance of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint, and the country’s commitment to both quality assurance and measuring performance toward its national education goals.

There is an increasing focus in education systems around the world on graduate outcomes, and employability in particular.

The same is true in Malaysia but as Dr Alwee explains in our second interview segment below, Malaysian educators have a broad view of employability. That vision encompasses employment outcomes immediately after graduation, and also the role that higher education plays as a foundation for graduates’ longer-term careers and their capacity to become lifelong learners.

Just last month, Malaysia announced a number of new measures to attract greater numbers of international students. The government will shortly allow foreign students to apply directly online for student visas, as opposed to the current practice of having students apply through their host institutions.

Up until now, Malaysian student visas have also been issued for one-year terms, meaning that they need to be renewed each year. Higher Education Minister Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh has announced that, as of January 2016, student visas will be granted for the entire duration of the student’s programme of study.

The Malaysian government has also announced the expansion of welcoming services for newly arrived students with the establishment of new International Student Arrival Counters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (at both the KLIA and klia2 terminals).

“This is to ensure Malaysia is an international education hub,” said the Minister, who explained that these new measures arise from the first meeting of the government’s International Education Task Force (IETF). The task force includes officials from a variety of ministries and government agencies – including the Home Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Tourism Ministry, Immigration Department and the Royal Malaysian Police – along with representatives from higher education institutions and education associations.

Reports indicate that the IETF is currently considering additional policy changes, including the exemption of international students from entry visas and allowing foreign students to work during their studies for up to 20 hours per week.

These measures illustrate Malaysia’s commitment to building its position as an important international education destination, and they reflect in part a growing competition for students in the region from other Asian countries, notably China, Japan, and Singapore.

But as Dr Alwee explains in our third and final video segment below, Malaysia’s competitive advantage springs from its highly international outlook – derived in part from significant levels of student and faculty mobility both to and from the country – in combination with a distinctly Asian perspective. “We call ourselves ‘Malaysia: Truly Asia,’” he says, “But I think it’s really, ‘Malaysia: Truly Global Education.’”

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