One of Asia’s emerging regional and international study hubs, Malaysia is an increasingly popular choice for international students, and has set an ambitious goal of becoming the world’s sixth largest education exporter by 2020. Universities in Malaysia already have a strong presence in both global and regional rankings, and the country’s home-grown institutions are also joined by a growing selection of international branch campuses, many based at the new EduCity development.
For those considering studying in this dynamic and diverse country, here’s a guide to the top universities in Malaysia, based on the 2013 QS University Rankings: Asia.
Universiti Malaya (UM)
The highest-ranking Malaysian institution is Universiti Malaya (UM), a public research university based in Malaysia’s federal capital and largest city, Kuala Lumpur (which features in the QS Best Student Cities). Malaysia’s oldest university, Universiti Malaya was established in 1949, based on a merger of several existing colleges in neighboring Singapore. It offers courses across the full subject spectrum, with an enrollment of more than 12,000 undergraduate students and more than 11,000 postgraduates.
Universiti Malaya ranked 33rd in the latest QS University Rankings: Asia, and placed 167 in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®. It’s a popular choice among international students, especially at postgraduate level; in 2013, almost a quarter of postgraduate students were from outside Malaysia.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
Second among the top universities in Malaysia is the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), also known as the National University of Malaysia (NUM). Like most of the top universities in Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is publicly funded, with a fairly large intake of students at both undergraduate and graduate levels, teaching a comprehensive range of subjects alongside a strong research focus. It has its main campus in Bangi, a small town in the Selangor region to the south of Kuala Lumpur.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia ranked 57th in the 2013 QS University Rankings: Asia, and 269= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. Having been established only in 1970, UKM also features in the QS Top 50 Under 50 – a ranking of the world’s top 50 universities under 50 years old. It scores especially well for its success in attracting overseas faculty members, ranked 12th in Asia on this indicator – two places above Universiti Malaya.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
Next is Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), ranked 61st in Asia and 355= in the world. Once again a public research university covering a broad subject spectrum, Universiti Sains Malaysia has its main campus in Georgetown on the island of Penang, with two additional campuses focusing on engineering and healthcare on the western and eastern sides of the Peninsular Malaysia mainland. Universiti Sains Malaysia boasts Malaysia’s strongest score for research papers published per faculty member, and its second-highest score for research citations per paper (behind Universiti Malaysia Sarawak), reflecting its position as one of the country’s top research centers.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)
An engineering and technology-focused public institution, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia has two main campuses: one in federal capital Kuala Lumpur and one in Johor Bahru, a city at the southern tip of the Malaysian mainland. It teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a range of specializations; most are within the engineering and technology fields, but there are also faculties dedicated to sciences, biosciences and medical engineering, management and human resources. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia places 68th in the latest QS University Rankings: Asia and 355= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. It’s ranked 7th in Asia for its percentage of international students, boasting Malaysia’s strongest score on this indicator.
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
Ranked 72nd in Asia and 411-420 in the world, Universiti Putra Malaysia is another public research university, located in the town of Serdang just to the south of Kuala Lumpur. Originally founded as an agricultural college, Universiti Putra Malaysia maintains a strong focus on research and teaching in the fields of agriculture and forestry, but has expanded to become a comprehensive university offering courses across all subject areas. Alongside other top universities in Malaysia, it has a large intake of international students, particularly at postgraduate level.
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
The International Islamic University Malaysia, also a public university, was founded in 1983 with the aim of providing higher education within a framework of Islamic values and principles, alongside a focus on welcoming a high percentage of students from overseas. Its main campus is in Gombak, to the north of Kuala Lumpur, and it also has several other branches in and around the capital, as well as one further away, in Kuantan. Teaching covers a fairly broad spectrum of subjects, all taught alongside Islamic topics. Ranked 151-160 in Asia, the university has one of Malaysia’s highest scores for percentage of international students – just narrowly beaten by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia on this measure.
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)
The seventh Malaysian university to make Asia’s top 200 is Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, commonly known as UNIMAS. A relatively young university, UNIMAS was founded in 1992, and has grown to a total student enrollment of more than 16,000 students as of 2013. Most are studying at undergraduate level, though the university also offers master’s and PhD programs. However, unlike most of the Malaysia’s highest ranked institutions, UNIMAS is located not in Peninsula Malaysia, but in East Malaysia (the two parts are separated by the South China Sea) – the UNIMAS campus is in the town of Sarawak, about 30km from the city of Kuching.
Other top universities in Malaysia
Other Malaysian universities ranked among Asia’s top 250 include: Multimedia University (MMU), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (Petronas), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), University Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP). And within Asia’s top 300 are: Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn University of Malaysia (UTHM), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).