Top Universities in Malaysia | Top Universities

Top Universities in Malaysia

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated October 14, 2022 Updated October 14, 2022

Click here for the QS Asia Ranking 2021

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 attracting 250,000 international students by 2025. 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 QS Asia University Rankings 2018.

Universiti Malaya (UM)

Universiti Malaya

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 14,580 undergraduate students and more than 13,700 postgraduates.

Universiti Malaya ranked 24th in the latest QS Asia University Rankings, and placed joint 87th in the QS World University Rankings® 2019. It’s a popular choice among international students, especially at postgraduate level; in 2017, more than 20 percent of postgraduate students were from outside Malaysia.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

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 43rd in the QS Asia University Rankings, and joint 184th in the 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 Putra Malaysia (UPM)

Universiti Putra Malaysia

Ranked joint 36th in Asia and 202nd in the world, Universiti Putra Malaysia has continued to improve its position in the rankings in recent years, and 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.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

Universiti Sains Malaysia

Next is Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), ranked 46th in Asia and 207th 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)

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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 49th in the latest QS University Rankings: Asia and 228th in the QS World University Rankings.

Universiti Teknologi Petronas

Universiti Teknologi Petronas

Ranked 101st in the Asia ranking and 521-530 in the world ranking, Universiti Teknologi Petronas is another one of Malaysia’s youngest universities, established only 21 years ago in 1997. The university is a subsidiary of PETRONAS, Malaysia’s national oil and gas company, and offers a large selection of industry-focused engineering, science and technology programs at all study levels. It achieves five stars overall in the QS Stars rating system, with five stars for its teaching, facilities, employability and internationalization.

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM)

Universiti Utara Malaysia

Universiti Utara Malaysia is ranked 131st in the Asia ranking and 601-650 in the world, and is mainly located in Sintok, Kedah, but it also has a non-residential campus in Kuala Lumpur. It was established in 1984 as the only Malaysian university to be set up to specialize solely in management education. Its main campus is a huge 1,061-hectare site surrounded by beautiful scenery, and encompasses 107 acres of forest open to everyone, with facilities such as a golf course, go-kart circuit and equestrian site.

Other top universities in Malaysia

Other Malaysian universities ranked among Asia’s top 250 include: Taylor’s University, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Multimedia University (MMU), UCSI University, Management and Science University, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). You can see how these and other Malaysian universities placed in the full ranking here.

This article was originally published in January 2014. It was updated in June 2018.

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This article was originally published in June 2018 . It was last updated in October 2022

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Written by

The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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