Primer| Cost of Living

The Cost of Higher Education in Malaysia

Current issues in higher education financing in Malaysia.

By Editorial Team | 26 November 2019



How Much Does It Cost To Get an Undergraduate Degree in Malaysia?

  • A key differentiating factor between Malaysian public and private HEIs is of course, cost. Public HEI costs are heavily subsidised by the government (see The Edge Malaysia Infographic, Issue 1294), where as private HEI students typically bear the full cost.
  • The table below summarises a range of fees for different types of undergraduate (Bachelor degree) courses from selected Malaysian universities for local students, categorised by broad subject areas and the type of HEI. On top of the fees charged, students also need to pay for travel costs, living expenses as well as learning materials.
The table above summarises a range of fees for undergraduate degree courses from a selection of Malaysian higher education institutions. Figures have been rounded to the nearest lower hundred for the lower range, and upper hundred for the upper range. Where data was provided on a semesterised basis, this was adjusted accordingly for the total cost. See discussion below on complexities regarding collecting data on fees.

Public HEIs include UM, UUM, UKM, UMP, UTem and Unimas. Semi-private HEIs include Uniten, Multimedia University and UTAR. Foreign universities with Malaysian campuses include Nottingham, Monash and Manipal Melaka. Private HEIs include Taylor’s University and HELP University.

Side Note: Researching Education Costs

Course fee information provided on university websites were not standardised or straightforward. Different institutions would present information in different ways – for instance some would provide annual fees while others would provide semesterised information. A small number of universities did not provide fee information on their website. This made direct comparisons rather tricky. We call for standardised and consistent information on education costs.

Where possible we contacted the institutions (both public and private) via email and / or phone to verify information on the website. Some were very helpful but in other cases, our emails were not responded to and our phone calls were passed on to different departments but ultimately did not obtain the information we sought.

The table above presents a range of fees based on published information, rounded up or down to the nearest hundred ringgit. There may still be differences with individual experiences, as we are aware that the published costs might have changed, or individual circumstances such as the need for additional preparatory courses may affect the fees.


Sources of Funding

Self-Funding

Part-Time Work

It is increasingly common for full-time students to supplement their income by working part time. This may be to cover for shortfall in funding to pay for courses, to cover living costs and other incidentals, to supplement existing income or to get ahead in saving to pay off their study loans. A HSBC report on higher education found that on average, Malaysian students spend 3.4 hours a day in paid employment.

Study Loans

  • Students may also apply for study loans, which may be able to either fund the entirety of their studies, or to offset the costs of self-funding.
  • The most popular source of study loans is the PTPTN loan. The successful applicant is given a minimum of 50 per cent to a maximum of 100 per cent loan as per the funding list on the PTPTN website.
  • Government agencies such as MARA, as well as a number of private organizations, financial institutions and cooperatives also offer loans, subject to meeting particular criteria and may or may not charge rates of interest on the loan.

Scholarships

  • Students who are academically excellent may be able to secure scholarships or bursaries from government organizations (e.g. the Public Services Department, or JPA), the private sector as well as the university where they are studying. Typically, such scholarships require the student to serve their funder for a period of time after graduation, although this is not always the case.
  • A list of available scholarships – often updated from time to time – can  be found at websites such as (but not limited to) Senarai Biasiswa Terkini, Afterschool.my and Eduadvisor. The amount of the scholarships vary, and may be a fixed amount (e.g. RM10,000 per year) or may cover the full costs of study.

Other Financial Aid

Crowdfunding

  • With the popularity of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, students can now seek help to fund their studies via raising finance from a number of people, each of whom donate small amounts.
  • While not exclusively for tertiary education, Skolafund.com is one such platform in Malaysia where students who require financial assistance are matched with those who are willing to provide them with the necessary funding.


Impact of Higher Education Costs on Graduates

  • The table showcased earlier in the article depicts typical undergraduate course fees at a selection of Malaysian HEIs. In addition to fees, other related costs still have to be borne by the students themselves or their families, regardless of whether they are enrolled at public or private institutions. 
  • While general education debt is not as widely debated in Malaysia compared to in the United States, the increasing number of students taking loans does mean that servicing education debt is becoming part and parcel of the monthly living costs of graduates today.  The 2018 AKPK survey on Financial Behaviour and State of Financial Well Being of Malaysian Working Adults ranks education loans as one of the top 5 loan burdens of working adults, with it being in the top two in the 20-29 year old category.

PTPTN Funding and Student Debt

crowdfunding education cartoon

Some questions from fans of policy and ordinary citizens:

To what extent are PTPTN’s loan collection problems just an issue of inefficient loan collection mechanism?

How do economic factors, such as low graduate starting pay, high costs of living and graduate unemployment compound problems of education loan repayment?


Email us your views or suggestions at editorial@centre.my.