Malaysia is currently the world’s 11th most preferred study destination. According to UNESCO, Malaysia has captured a 2% market share of international students in the fast growing private education sector. With a population of 27.9 million in 2009 and more than a million Malaysian students in tertiary education, Malaysia also accommodates more than 80,000 international students in the beginning of 2010.

Higher education opportunities are abundant for international students at an affordable cost. All students are welcome to come learn in a country of great diversity, rapid economic development and people living in peace and harmony!

Malaysia is the world’s 11th most preferred study destination.

Recognising the potential of the country to become an education hub, various measures have been taken to promote Malaysia as a centre of excellence for education. These include establishing Malaysia as a higher education mobility hub for international students, deploying effective marketing strategies, and setting up Malaysian Higher Education Centres in selected cities worldwide.

In addition, high impact projects have been developed to cater specifically for education, for example, Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC) and Iskandar Malaysia’s EduCity in Nusajaya (Johor) that offers tailored-made programmes for international students.

The country’s official language is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language), but many other languages and dialects are used in Malaysia. Mandarin is widely spoken by the Malaysian Chinese besides dialects like Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Teo Chew, Foo Chow, Hock Chew, and Hainanese. The Malaysian Indian communities speak dialects like Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi and Sri Lankan, among others.

In Malaysia, the English language is one of the compulsory subjects in schools. It is widely used in everyday business communications, the tourism industry, radio and television broadcasting stations, commerce, and is also the medium of instruction at private higher educational institutions. Most Malaysians use English as their second language, hence, foreigners who speak English would be able to communicate effectively with Malaysians.


Education is an essential part of human capital development and is the top priority of the Government. Annually, the government has set aside more than 20% of the nation’s budget for education and human resource development.

International Students and their families enjoy a safe and comfortable living environment with 21st century amenities, good healthcare and medical facilities, excellent educational institutions, and world-class recreational and sports facilities at costs much lower than in their own countries.

Malaysia has achieved a high score of 0.829 on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) according to the Human Development Index Rankings 2009 based on data in 2007 Malaysia is ranked 66th position in the HDI out of 182 countries, putting it at the same level as many developed nations. The HDI measures life expectancy, adult literacy rate, student enrolment ratio and GDP per capital for a broader definition of the nation’s wellbeing. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) categorises Malaysia as a high human development country.

The higher education opportunities in Malaysia are provided by 20 public universities, 27 polytechnics, 42 community colleges, 43 private universities and university colleges, five four foreign university branch campuses, about 400 private colleges, as well as various other higher institutions from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand, which offer twinning and franchised degree programmes through partnerships with Malaysian colleges and universities.

The 52 international schools (American, Australian, Canadian and British-styled) and 15 expatriate schools which include French, German, Japanese and Taiwanese schools have facilities for international students from pre-school to upper secondary levels. They provide parents with many options of pre-tertiary international education at affordable fees.

Malaysia offers international students many options of quality education programmes at an affordable cost.

There are many types of educational institutions in Malaysia and it is easy to find one that suits your education needs. They are :

Tertiary Education :

  • Public universities
  • Private universities
  • Foreign university branch campuses
  • Private colleges

Primary and Secondary Education :

  • International schools
  • Expatriate schools
  • Private schools

Applying to Study at a Malaysian Institution

Applying to study at the Malaysian institution of your choice is simple. Just complete the relevant International Student Application Forms for your chosen course and return it to the institution of your choice with the following documents and fees :

  • Certified copies of all relevant examination results and academic certificates (preferably with copies translated in English if documents are in another language)
  • A completed accommodation form (if accommodation is required)
  • Photocopy of valid international passport – all pages
  • Photocopy of identity card
  • Most recent passport sized colour photograph (4 to 6 copies)
  • Personal medical health report
  • Application fees (ranging from US160 to US250, usually non-refundable)

You may obtain the application form online from the institution’s website or from the institution’s overseas representative in your country. You will be asked for evidence of your academic achievement and proficiency in English. Ideally, you should apply about two months before the intake date.

Upon receiving your application, the institution will usually take 5 to 7 days to process your application. If you are accepted, the institution will issue an ‘Offer of Place’ letter and deliver/send this offer letter to you. This letter will confirm the full-time course details, commencement dates, and an invoice for the tuition fee, miscellaneous fees and accommodation fees. You then need to make arrangements for the payment of fees and you should request the institution to issue a receipt to you upon confirmation of payment.

Cost of Living

International students to study in Malaysia is the relatively cheap cost of living. The total cost of expenditure for accommodation, either oncampus or off-campus, is reasonable and within many budgets. Depending on the location and choice, the average monthly rental for a single room (twin sharing) per student is between RM300 – RM450 (USD86 – USD129). Other expenses such as food, transportation, laundry and other essentials, based on an ordinary lifestyle are mated between RM700 – RM950 (USD200 – USD270) per month. Therefore, the average total cost of living will range from RM 12,000 to RM17,000 (USD3430 – USD4860). per year.

International Students

According to Immigration Rules and Regulations, all international students (full-time and foreign exchange students) are required to have a valid Student Pass and Visa in order to study in Malaysia.

The government agencies that are responsible for immigration matters are the Malaysian Immigration Department and Malaysian diplomatic mission overseas (i.e. Malaysian High Commission Consulates or Embassies)

Selecting an Institution

It is important for international students to note that they are only allowed to study at public or private higher educational institutions which are approved by the following two authorities:

  • The Ministry of Higher Education (in Malay : Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi Malaysia) which grants approval to institutions to conduct various courses; and
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (in Malay : Kementerian Hal Ehwal Malaysia) which licences approved institutions to recruit international students

At present, there are over 400 private higher educational institutions in Malaysia but only about 216 of these private higher educational institutions are given permission by the Immigration Department to recruit international students for tertiary education. All public universities can recruit international students. Please refer to Where To Study for a list of these institutions.

Immigration Procedures

The section below will give international students like YOU a more detailed explanation about visas, getting a student pass, and other procedures required in order to enter and stay in Malaysia as a student. Below are the procedures for visa / student pass applications and entering Malaysia to study :

  • Procedure 1 : Applying for a Visa and Student Pass
  • Procedure 2 : Arriving in Malaysia : At the Malaysia Immigration Check Point
  • Procedure 3 : Affixing the Student Pass Sticker and Student Pass/Visa Fees

Procedure 1 – Applying for a Visa and Student Pass

Visa Issued at Point of Entry

The Malaysian Government has introduced simplified and hassle-free entry procedures to welcome international students like YOU to study at Malaysian public and private higher educational institutions.

A visa is required but the procedure is simple i.e. You do NOT need to apply for a visa from the Malaysian Embassy in your home country in order to enter Malaysia to study, with the exception of students from the People’s Republic of China. The visa will be issued to you upon your arrival in Malaysia at the immigration check point provided you have valid travel documents and a letter of approval for a student pass by the Malaysian Immigration Department.

(Note : Students from the PRC are required to obtain their Entry Visas from the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, Guangzhou or Shanghai prior to entering Malaysia.)

Applying for a Student Pass through an Institution Prior to Entering Malaysia

The process of applying for a student pass is simple. The Malaysian institution of higher education which has offered international students like YOU a place to study at their institution will apply for the student pass on your behalf, prior to your arrival in Malaysia.

Applications will be submitted by the respective higher educational institution to the Director of Pass & Permit Division, Malaysia Immigration Department Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur (e-Student Pass System). Students do not need to apply directly to the Immigration Department under this procedure.

Prospective students will be informed of their application status by the Immigration Department in Malaysia through their educational institutions within an estimated seven to 14 days after the application. A prospective international student must have an approved student pass before entering the country.

  • Documents required for applying a student pass Malaysian educational institutions are required to submit the following documents to the Malaysian Immigration Department Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in order to apply for student passes for students who intend to study at their respective institutions.
  • An offer letter or letter of acceptance from the educational institution to the student
  • Student Pass Application Form (Imm.14) in duplicate
  • Two photocopies of the student’s passport / travel document (with a validity period of at least 12 months)
  • Three passport-sized photographs of the student
  • One photocopy of the student’s medical health examination report
  • Evidence of student’s ability to finance their education cost in Malaysia
  • The educational institution is required to sign a Personal Bond* prescribed under Regulation 18 of the Immigration Regulations 1963 together with payment

Upon approval, student passes are then granted to international students which will allow them direct entry into Malaysia with the exception of students from The People’s Republic of China who are required to obtain a Single-Entry Visa before they come to Malaysia.

  • Personal Bond Rates When applying for a student pass for the student, the respective higher educational institutions are required to sign a Personal Bond* prescribed under Regulation 18 of the Immigration Regulations 1963 so as to guarantee that the person (student) to whom such a pass is issued will comply with the provisions of the ordinance and any regulations made there-under.
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