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How to study in Malaysia

With high-quality universities, more affordable tuition, and the fastest growing regional economy in the world, Asia has become a popular destination for international students. This includes students from within the region itself.

Western countries still attract a large number of students each year. “But the idea that a Western degree is automatically better and more advantageous than one obtained in Asia is losing ground.” states by ICEF Monitor.

In fact, countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia have all been competing to attract more international students in recent years. As a result, Asian students now have the opportunity to receive a world-class education and international study experience much closer to home. This is especially important for many families today, as uncertainty surrounding the pandemic is expected to continue.

Now, let’s take a look at what one Asian country – Malaysia – has to offer international students. We’ll also go into what students should keep in mind as they plans their studies:

Malaysia at a glance

Malaysia boasts innovative universities and excellent intra-regional mobility, making it a great place for students to consider. The country has worked to put itself on the map as a destination for international learners. It hopes to welcome 250,000 students from abroad by 2025. Students come from a variety of countries including Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Yemen, and Nigeria.

Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s official language. However many university courses are taught in English.

Universities in Malaysia

Malaysia boasts more than 100 higher education institutions. Many universities here are also ranked amongst the top in the world by the QS World University Rankings. Included in the ranking are:

  • University of Malaya (UM) at 59

  • University Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 132

  • The National University of Malaysia (UKM) at 141

  • Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) at 142

A number of international universities have also opened branches in Malaysia. These include the University of Nottingham, Heriot Watt University, Monash University, Xiamen University, and Newcastle University, to name a few. They provide students with the chance to earn a degree from Western universities without having to leave the region.

For more information on higher education institutions in the country, the government has a great tool for students to find the programs that suits them best. You can explore it here.

In order to study in Malaysia, students will need to prove they are proficient in English and PTE Academic is the ready choice for you to do so. PTE Academic is a computer-based language test that provides unbiased and secure proof of a candidate’s English skills for study, professional, and migration purposes.

According to language requirements set by Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), students who plan to undertake a Bachelor’s degree and above at university or college must score a minimum of 47 for PTE Academic, which is equivalent to CEFR High B1 level.

Students who wish to undertake a diploma course will need to have a minimum PTE Academic score of 36, which is equivalent to CEFR Low B1 level. However, students should always check with their respective university or college to confirm their language score requirements.

Getting your visa

Applying for a Student Pass to study in Malaysia is relatively simple and can be done online. Before starting your application, you must have a letter of acceptance from your university. The whole visa process takes about one month. You’ll find out how to apply on the Education Malaysia website.

With a Student Pass you can work up to 20 hours a week, but only during school breaks that last longer than 8 days.

Keep in mind that due to COVID-19, international students won’t be able to enter the country until December 31st. For more information on how COVID-19 has impacted education in Malaysia, this government resource for international students affected by the pandemic lays out the important details.

Cost of living

Malaysia draws the attention of students all around the world because it offers an affordable, yet still top class education. A bachelor degree, for example, costs between $10,000-20,000 USD. This is a lot less than in the United States or the U.K. In fact, Malaysia’s booming capital city Kuala Lumpur was named the second most affordable city in the world for students by the QS Best Student Cities ranking.

Financial aid

International students in Malaysia can apply for financial aid. Universities offer scholarships directly to students. To get an idea of what these might be like, you can take a look at the scholarships offered by University of Malaya here.

The Malaysian government also provides scholarships to international students. The Malaysia International Scholarship – which offers air tickets, tuition, and a monthly allowance, among other benefits – is one scholarship to look into. The Malaysian Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan also offers international students some generous financial support.


Want an international study experience in Malaysia? PTE Academic – a fast, flexible, fair, and secure English assessment can help you get there. Book the test now and get the result within 2 days. Find your nearest here.