In Malaysia, at the time of writing, the government was reported to be considering allowing international postgraduate students to stay and work in the country after completion of their studies. Initiatives such as this would assist in government plans to grow the country’s international student numbers to at least 200,000 by the year 2020.
The foundations for this growth have already been laid. As Professor Chris Messom, Deputy President (Academic) at Monash University Sunway campus in Malaysia, points out, “Malaysia recognises that it is becoming a major educational hub. This means that the country, as a whole, is developing a high quality framework for international study.”
Having reached out from its main Australian-based campus to establish itself here, Monash University has been very much a part of the process, providing not only strong academic credentials, but also a programme of international student support. Its international student numbers have been growing over the years, Messom observes, and currently stand above 1,000.
At Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Senior Vice-President, Ambi Mathe, believes a number of factors give it an edge in international student recruitment. Its multicultural richness is one, having become “part of our brand identity”, she asserts. Another is its approach to education. As she relates, “We are not just about academic rigour; we insist on students immersing themselves in activities that build their character. We want them to learn how to multi-task and discover their hidden talents.”
The university has also taken a strongly proactive approach to its international development. It set up its own foreign campus in 2007 in Botswana, and now boasts seven campuses on three continents, while Limkokwing degrees are franchised through 25 institutions in 21 countries. Not only does the university use agents in its recruitment, but it also connects with foreign embassies and their governments, and provides scholarships to attract students. Today, 70 per cent of the 9,000 students on its Malaysian Cyberjaya campus hail from 145 countries, Mathe notes.
In Singapore, meanwhile, where the Private Education Act of 2009 improved regulation of the country’s private education sector, awareness of the quality of Singapore-brand education has been growing, according to Travis Kok, Senior Marketing and Communications Executive at the East Asia Institute of Management.
This is in no small part due to the efforts of individual institutions, such as his own. As Kok explains, “We are making more intensive use of our network of agents... [and] participating in more road shows, education fairs and overseas education missions.” He adds, “We also have plans to establish overseas education centres and campuses to offer our international students multi-location learning experiences. Currently we have two active centres in China where students commence their studies and proceed to Singapore to complete their degree.”
As an institution, “We produce career-ready professionals, who are readily employable,” Kok explains. International students currently numbering 2,757 are attracted to its career-oriented degree programmes, in particular, a BA in Business & Management Studies from the UK’s Cardiff Metropolitan University, a BA in Hospitality and Tourism from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business in Supply Chain Management from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia.
Established for more than 40 years, Singapore’s PSB Academy has seen international student numbers grow by around 10 per cent since 2009, to reach 1,865, Chief Executive Officer, Dr Steve Lai, reports. This has been achieved in part through the services of a wide network of agents located in target countries. Business and English Language represent the most popular courses at this institution which cites among its attractions “a rigorous curriculum that stimulates and challenges”, together with an overall educational experience that includes professional counselling, overseas exchange and careers guidance.
On a smaller scale, Lorna Whiston Institute of Learning, which runs an MA in Teaching English to Young Learners in partnership with the UK-based University of York, is also successful in attracting overseas students. According to Marketing Communications and Business Development Manager, Esther Wong, this very niche programme, with high credentials, attracts teachers/educators from across the globe.
In terms of future growth, Monash expects the number of international students to increase further, with a projected figure of between 30-to-40 per cent. Meanwhile, East Asia Institute plans to achieve a 50 per cent growth in international students. With plans such as these, it seems that the higher education profile of these two countries is set to increase still further in the years to come
The international student profile in Malaysia and Singapore
Not surprisingly, the Asia-Pacific region is a key source of international students for institutions in both Singapore and Malaysia. For 2011, Dr Steve Lai at PSB Academy, Singapore, observes that the top nationalities were China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and India, with Myanmar showing the biggest increase. East Asia Institute, Singapore, has a similar profile, notes Travis Kok, with China, India and Vietnam representing the top source countries. “Most of the international students are recruited through our wide network of recruitment agents in the Asia-Pacific region,” Kok adds. At Malaysia’s Limkokwing University, Ambi Mathe advises that recruitment is focused on “non-traditional” markets that is, countries in Eastern Europe and Western Asia. However, its main source countries are Iran, China and Indonesia, while Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Yemen and Bahrain are all growing fast.