Each of the popular expat destinations has its own unique
draw. For Australia it’s the climate and the outdoor lifestyle. For the Gulf it
is the safety and the tax-free income opportunities. Malaysia, it seems, is
focusing on something rather more unusual; becoming the global leader in expat
education. What’s more, Malaysia’s plans seem to be working, with student
numbers having increased by 70% over the last 7 years.
From Malaysia’s perspective the move to education hub is one
of genius. Foreign students are unable to work in Malaysia without formal
approval. Even those that are lucky enough to gain approval are limited to no
more than 20 hours of work per week. As a result, welcoming expat students has
very little impact on the availability of work for Malaysian nationals.
On the other hand these expats bring with them large sums of
cash, required to pay for their tuition and living expenses, the vast majority
of which ends up in the local economy. This mixture of nationalities also
presents opportunities for Malaysia to learn from other nations and possibly
recruit graduates into important positions; something that would be far more
difficult for graduates leaving universities in their home countries.
However the arrangement is far from one-sided. To begin with,
expat students benefit from some of the highest standards of education offered
anywhere. For those in the know, Malaysia offers some of the most highly-rated
undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses available anywhere in the world.
This is partly due to Malaysia’s own efforts over the last
decade to mimic the standards expected of the top global universities. However
Malaysia has also benefited from a number of well-established Western
universities setting up satellite sites in Malaysia. Here the same standards as
their mother universities are maintained, helping to raise the overall quality
of education available in Malaysia.
Generally speaking, the costs of living and tuition fees in
Malaysia are also much lower than you might encounter elsewhere. Many countries
offering comparable levels of education – such as the UK and the USA – are
considerably more expensive. This means that budget-conscious students can gain
access to a world-class education system without having to pay over the odds
Lastly, expats report that Malaysian nationals are
surprisingly friendly and welcoming towards foreign students. They generally
feel very welcome here and enjoy the Western-standards of living and low
crime-rate of Malaysia.
In short, it seems that Malaysia’s decade-long gamble is
starting to pay off. Students from around the world are flocking to the country
to save money while gaining access to some of the most highly-rated degree
courses available anywhere in the world.