A country split by the South China Sea and home to an array of cultures, a diverse geography and a futuristic capital city, Malaysia is a unique place of color and multiculturalism, in both its surroundings and its citizens.
Choose to study in Malaysia and you’ll discover that the country’s natural beauty extends way beyond its ancient rainforests, national parks and glorious beaches. In the cities too, there’s plenty to keep all the senses occupied, from colorful and varied markets to the mosques, Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines that are often found side-by-side, and the profusion of annual festivals celebrating both traditional and modern aspects of Malaysian culture. One of the world’s most politically stable countries, Malaysia may be second to Singapore in terms of regional economic clout, but it also offers a much more organic lifestyle than its city-state rival. Although this means the country lacks some of the organization and clear-cut infrastructure of Singapore, it also means that citizens tend to be a little more laidback and perhaps more sociable.
One half of the country, situated on the southern tip of the peninsula below Thailand, is known as Peninsular Malaysia. This is where all of the highest ranked universities in Malaysia can be found, along with the most diverse and vibrant urban areas. The other half, Malaysian Borneo, shares an island with Indonesia and remains the quieter of the two halves, offering solitude, authenticity and jungle life.
Universities in Malaysia
Although not yet quite at the same level of Asian higher-education leaders such as China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, Malaysia is thriving as a study destination for international students and is emerging as a strong contender thanks to heavy investment in the education sector.
A large part of Malaysia's plan for higher education expansion is in welcoming international branch campuses, which are run by universities based in other countries. Existing branch campuses include those operated by the UK’s University of Nottingham and Australia’s Monash University.
Part of Malaysia’s investment in branch campuses is the new EduCity development in Johor, at the southernmost tip of Peninsular Malaysia, just 5km north of Singapore. EduCity Iskandar is a 350-acre campus to be shared by eight international branches, four of which are already operational. The initiative will allow Malaysia to compete with the growth of transnational education globally by creating a giant, international student village to attract leading institutions and top students.
EduCity Iskandar, to be fully completed in the year 2018, will be made up of leading universities around the world, including the University of Reading, the University of Southampton and Newcastle University Medicine all hailing from the UK, the Netherlands’ Maritime Institute of Technology, Singapore’s private Raffles University and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts from the US. Once fully completed, the site will offer a range of degrees accredited by internationally prestigious institutions, as well as shared facilities far more impressive than an individual university would be able to afford – including an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 14,000-seat sports stadium.
But, while the growing presence of overseas universities in Malaysia is broadening the country’s higher education offering, its home-grown universities should certainly not be overlooked.
The highest ranked and oldest of all the universities in Malaysia, Universiti Malaya (UM) is ranked 151= in the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15 and is located in central Kuala Lumpur. With a student population of over 21,000, Universiti Malaya (UM) has been steadily growing its multidisciplinary reputation, appearing in the global top 200 for 14 of the subjects covered by the QS World University rankings by Subject 2014; its computer science, engineering and education programs are all in the world’s top 100.
Located in Bangi, Selangor, approximately 35km south of Kuala Lumpur city center, the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is ranked 259= in the world. Hosting a current student community of just over 22,600, the school boasts particularly strong programs in the fields of education, politics, engineering, law and mathematics. The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia also has a graduate school on its main campus and a medical school located in the suburb of Cheras, with a branch campus within the capital.
Also ranked among the world’s top 300 universities is Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). The oldest public engineering and technology university in the country, UTM specializes in technical studies and offers a comprehensive engineering division.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), otherwise known as the University of Science Malaysia, is the only university in Malaysia to reach the top 50 in a subject area, ranking joint 28th in the world for its environmental studies program according to the 2014 QS World University Rankings by Subject. The school has three campuses, with its main campus in Penang, its health campus in Kelantan and its engineering campus in Nibong Tibal. The school also has plans to open a global campus in the capital.
Also featured in the QS World University Rankings are: Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), the International Islamic University Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi MARA – UiTM. And also deserving a mention for their new positions in this year’s QS World University Rankings by Subject are Universiti Teknologi Petronas, located in Batu Gajah approximately halfway from Penang and Kuala Lumpur and owned by a subsidiary of a national oil company, and Multimedia University in Melaka, halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.
Many private universities in Malaysia offer a ‘twinning’ or ‘2+1’ degree option. An idea that has been running in Malaysia for around 20 years, this allows students to complete part of their degree in Malaysia and part at a partner institution in another country. This option has been popular, as it offers the chance to gain a degree accredited by a prestigious university in an established higher education destination (such as the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, France or Germany) without paying the full costs of studying abroad for the entire length of the degree.
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