Development of Graduate Education in Malaysia:
Prospects for Internationalization
By Dr. Ahmad Mahdzan Ayob and Dr. Noran Fauziah Yaakub
Universiti Utara Malaysia
Graduate student enrollment in the early years of graduate education
in Malaysia was made up mainly of Malaysians and they were few in number.
Their number grew gradually as more graduate schools were set up, but
still, with few international students. Lately, however, the scenario
has changed. The early groups of international graduate students to arrive
in Malaysian came from neighboring countries less developed than Malaysia.
In the recent past, however, more international students were arriving
from further afield - from countries on the Indian subcontinent, the Middle-East,
and even some African countries. This paper traces the development of
graduate education in Malaysia, describes organization of graduate schools,
elucidates the structure of graduate degree programs, delves into aspects
of quality control, explores efforts made to attract participation of
international students, and takes a peek at what international students
have to say about doing graduate training in Malaysia.
University education has been around in Malaysia since 1959, although
access to it was somewhat limited to those who had an English medium education
at secondary school level. This has changed-quite gradually at first but
rather drastically in the last five years, especially with the establishment
of more public universities and, lately, private ones as well.1
While emphasizing on the need to train more skilled manpower at the baccalaureate
degree level, many of the more established public universities in the
country were steadily building up their capacity to provide training at
the postgraduate level. These universities strive aggressively to upgrade
their teaching staff with advanced training beyond the Master's degree
to the Ph.D. qualification. Once they have sufficient number of Ph.D.
programs gained momentum and today all Malaysian public universities offer
1 The public universities in Malaysia
are the University of Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti
Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), International
Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS),
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) and
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI). They are listed according to
date of formation.
2 The term 'postgraduate centre'
is used in most Commonwealth universities, whereas 'graduate school' is
mostly used in the USA. Malaysian universities appear to be divided in
their preferences. This article adopts the latter version for simplicity.