Which university to go
What are international students' top priorities when deciding which Malaysian university to go to? Source: Shutterstock

Deciding what to do after high school is a dilemma that afflicts young adults all over the world. This is the time where they have to make crucial choices on what to study, where to study and which university to go to.

Attending a university in Malaysia will no doubt be unforgettable, since the country has a wide range of public and private higher education institutions open to international students. So how do interested candidates go about this decision-making process and balance the many priorities they aim to achieve from their study abroad experience?

The QS International Student Survey 2019 surveyed 75,000 students representing 191 nationalities and 71 universities globally from November 2018 to March 2019. The report focuses on the responses provided by over 3,400 prospective international students who identified that they are considering attending a university in Malaysia.

The majority of respondents are planning to enrol in postgraduate programmes (65 percent), followed by undergraduate programmes (35 percent) and other options like foundation or vocational programmes (five percent).

which university to go

With so many options, how do international students settle on a university in Malaysia? Source: Shutterstock

The first thing students tend to decide on is the subject or course they want to study at university,  followed by the country they want to study in, before finally deciding on the universities they’d like to apply to. These are the five most important factors to consider at each stage:

What five things are most important to you when choosing a course?

It leads to my chosen career (57 percent)
I have a personal interest in the subject (53 percent)
It has affordable tuition fee options, for example, payment plans (48 percent)
The course offers high quality teaching (46 percent)
It’s at a university with a good reputation (45 percent)

What five things are most important to you when choosing a country?

It is welcoming to international students (60 percent)
It has universities with high quality teaching (52 percent)
It has an affordable cost of living (51 percent)
It has an affordable cost of studying (51 percent)
It has a good reputation as a place to study (39 percent)

What five things are most important to you when choosing a university?

It offers scholarships (65 percent)
It is welcoming to international students (57 percent)
It offers high-quality teaching (54 percent)
It offers a specific course I am interested in (43 percent)
It has a good reputation for my chosen subject area (37 percent)

There are a few notable findings from this survey. Three broad themes consistently emerge for this group of prospective students during their decision-making process: high-quality teaching, that students feel welcome and safe and it’s affordable in terms of living and studying.

When choosing a country to study in, the most important consideration is that the country is welcoming to international students. The report notes that the friendly immigration policies and voice by countries like Canada and Australia should be emulated by Malaysia in order to compete with these countries.

With so many options, how do international applicants decide which university in Malaysia to attend? The availability of scholarships is the top factor for this group of students when choosing a university in Malaysia. When asked whether they would prefer a scholarship that was only available to a limited number of students at a higher value, or one that was more widely available to all students but set at a much lower value, more preferred the former option.

“Whilst the amount that international students pay in Malaysia is something that will vary from institution to institution, at international campuses these fees can reach comparatively high levels, therefore it’s unsurprising to see this emerge as an important consideration,” said the report.

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