INTERNATIONALIZE NATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION

The MoHE aims to make Malaysia an international hub for higher education

The year 2022 has seen much more progress in higher education, compared to previous years when the pandemic still dictated our physical travels.

Since the borders of many countries have started to reopen, international travel has been made possible. This enabled visits to other countries for the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoA) between Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and their international counterparts.

This year alone, I have had the privilege of witnessing the signing of 12 MoUs and one MoU in India, Qatar, UK, Romania, Turkey and Canada.

I’m sure there will be more to come.

One might ask why establishing partnerships would be an important undertaking for Malaysian HEIs?

The goal of internationalization

UPM and Universiti Malaysia Perlis sign MoU with University of Surrey.

The answer is this – the Malaysian government in general and the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) in particular have been working to make Malaysia an international center for higher education.

With 131,000 international students currently enrolled in our HEIs, we are on track to meet our goal of welcoming 250,000 by 2025.

To make this possible, our universities have set up and executed various initiatives such as offering offshore programs as well as creating MoUs and MoUs.

Such efforts will facilitate international collaborations in research and innovation, teaching and learning, student and staff mobility programs, and much more. The benefits are truly abundant.

Building a higher education hub for Malaysia means for us to attract and retain a critical mass of students, experts, higher education institutions, knowledge industries, science and technology centers, etc.

Benefits of going international

Various parties stand to gain from the internationalization of higher education in Malaysia.

In terms of universities, we can expect improved teaching and learning as well as research and innovation methods that can compete with developed countries.

Culturally or socially, we will be able to promote Malaysian culture and our mother tongue, Bahasa Malaysia, to our international counterparts. The process of internationalization will also expose Malaysians to different cultures without having to leave the country.

Economically, internationalization is a remedy for the challenges posed by the pandemic.

It contributes to the country’s revenue generation, especially through the influx of international students entering the country.

One effect of internationalization efforts that may have gone unnoticed is the narrowing of the gender gap.

Currently, 55% of our scholars are women who continue to achieve success in various teaching subjects.

In addition, those enrolled in our public HEIs include 357,087 women, which represents 61% of the total student body.

On the other hand, more than 537,434 – or 53% of the students enrolled in our private HEIs – are also women.

Therefore, if the number of registrations increases, it is reasonable to believe that the corporate sector will be made up of more female leaders in the near future.

Malaysia’s Selling Points

Dr Noraini (centre) witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between UKM Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman (second from left) and Qatar Regional Group Chief Executive Sheikh Abd Rahman Khalifa Abdul Aziz Al-Thani (fourth from left).Dr Noraini (centre) witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between UKM Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman (second from left) and Qatar Regional Group Chief Executive Sheikh Abd Rahman Khalifa Abdul Aziz Al-Thani (fourth from left).

To attract new partnerships, there are several selling points that I regularly highlight in my speeches abroad.

The first is the ranking of Malaysian universities.

In the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2023, Universiti Malaya is ranked among the top 100 universities and Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as well as Universiti Sains Malaysia, are in the top 200.

Many of our universities have performed well and are expected to improve in the years to come.

Secondly, the cost of living in Malaysia is much lower than in developed countries with highly ranked universities.

Our capital, Kuala Lumpur, is consistently highly ranked in the “Most Affordable Cities for Students” by QS Top Universities.

Due to the lower cost, students can afford to enjoy our various beautiful destinations across the country, as well as explore our rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Third, tourism is a form of education in itself.

The MoHE will soon launch the Educational Tourism (edu-tourism) programme.

Edu-tourism will provide an immersive educational experience in Malaysia’s most scenic destinations, which comes with exposure to rich cultures and diverse traditions.

Under this program, Malaysian HEIs will serve as tourism hubs.

Fourth, the progressive nature of our higher education system, which supports sustainable and inclusive lifelong learning.

The MoHE is a strong supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we focus on the 4th SDG of quality education. This, in combination with our 12th Plan Malaysia, underlines the importance of the notion of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Dr Noraini (center) at the 2022 EduData Summit in the United States, where she highlighted Malaysia's focus on leveraging EduData to take the country's education to the next level in her keynote address on Dr Noraini (center) at the 2022 EduData Summit in the United States, where she highlighted Malaysia’s focus on leveraging EduData to take the country’s education to the next level in her keynote address on ‘The Malaysian Experience in Implementing Sustainable and Inclusive Lifelong Learning through EduData’.

To this end, we have introduced micro-certification courses and accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL). Both initiatives are administered by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.

Under the micro-certificate initiative, learners can take short courses at different institutions and combine them to convert them into an awarded qualification. There are currently over 11,000 micro-degree courses offered by our HEIs.

APEL, on the other hand, allows candidates to use their experiences to earn credits in their degree program. In June 2022, we had over 26,000 applicants pursuing APEL.

Essentially, HEIs across Malaysia have done well in planning and executing efforts that promote the internationalization of our higher education.

They proved they were a united family.

May our internationalization efforts prosper regardless of the challenges and obstacles that await us in these uncertain times.

Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad is Minister of Higher Education.

Helen D. Jessen