The higher education sector is responsible for the operation of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Malaysia and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). The education sector has always enjoyed the highest national development budget which symbolises the commitment of the Malaysian government towards education.
Malaysia’s HEIs (i.e. public universities, private higher educational institutions, polytechnics and community colleges) housed more than a million students in 2011, of which about 93,000 were international students from more than 100 countries. In contrast, there were about 89,686 Malaysian students (27,003 receiving sponsorship and 62,683 self-funded) who were studying overseas in 2011.
With a multi-ethnic population of about 28.3 million, Malaysia had 20 public universities, 53 private universities and six foreign university branch campuses; 403 active private colleges, 30 polytechnics and 73 public community colleges in 2011. These HEIs offer a wide range of tertiary qualifications at affordable prices.
There are also various HEIs from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, France, and New Zealand which offer twinning and ’3+0′ degree programmes through partnerships with Malaysian private higher education institutions. At present, some world-class universities such as RMIT University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland have established their collaboration with the local PHEIs.
Five of the 20 public universities in Malaysia have been assigned research university status with additional funding for R&D and commercialisation of research. The remaining 15 public universities have been categorised as either comprehensive or focus universities. In the 2012 new year’s speech, the Minister of Higher Education announced that five public universities have been given autonomy in administration, human resources, financial and academic management and student intake. They are Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. This move is aimed at encouraging excellence among local institutions of higher learning.
The quality of higher education is assured through the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) which undertakes the implementation of the Malaysian Qualifications Framework. MQA is also responsible for quality assurance and the accreditation of courses and other related functions, covering both public and private higher educational institutions.