Report: Malaysia’s universities attracting China’s students due to cheaper costs, less competitive process

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Report: Malaysia’s universities attracting China’s students due to cheaper costs, less competitive process
Report: Malaysia's universities attracting China's students due to cheaper costs, less competitive process

China’s students are increasingly choosing to go to universities in Malaysia and other South-east Asian countries, due to the less competitive environment and lower study costs when compared to other options for studying abroad, a report has said. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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By Ida Lim

Sunday, 29 Oct 2023 12:42 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — China’s students are increasingly choosing to go to universities in Malaysia and other South-east Asian countries, due to the less competitive environment and lower study costs when compared to other options for studying abroad, a report has said.

According to Hong Kong news outlet South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most popular options for students from China to study abroad are still the traditional choices of US, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong due to their universities’ high rankings, but the standards set for entry into these universities are getting tougher.

SCMP said there are increasingly more students in China attracted to South-east Asian universities due to the lower cost and less intense competition offered, with many opting for Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines for their postgraduate studies in recent years.

According to SCMP, China’s social media platform Xiaohongshu — which is akin to Instagram — has seen searches from users about studying in Malaysia exceeding the number of searches for some non-English-speaking Western countries like France and Germany.

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Beijing Overseas Study Service Association head Sang Mingze was quoted by SCMP as saying: “Nearly all the Chinese students in South-east Asia went to Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines if they are not in Singapore.”

Sang reportedly also said Chinese students who applied to universities in these countries especially for postgraduate degrees are quite alike, where they are not satisfied with their current conditions “but have a limited budget”.

SCMP cited Catherine Zhu, a consultant at a Beijing overseas education consulting firm, as saying that being a university student in Malaysia and other South-east Asian countries came with a lower cost of around 80,000 yuan (US$11,000) annually, in comparison to 300,000 yuan (US$41,000) per year for university students in the US and Hong Kong.

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Zhu also said most South-east Asian universities also have friendlier entrance requirements, stating: “The top schools in South-east Asia offer very good deals for Chinese students, with low requirements for academic records. Some graduate schools will give offers to vocational school students, even though they don’t have bachelor’s degrees.”

Citing analysts and industry insiders, SCMP said the closer cultural and economic ties between China and South-east Asian countries also contributed to Chinese students opting for them over traditional study choices in the West.

According to SCMP, the competitive environment in China has pushed its youth to opt to go overseas to study, with China’s education ministry’s figures showing that such applications have increased by 23.4 per cent in 2022 from the previous year.

SCMP noted that Xiamen University became the first university in China to open an overseas campus after Malaysia’s 2013 invite to the university. Xiamen University’s overseas campus in Sepang in Selangor, Malaysia welcomed its first batch of students in 2016.

Noting that this university — highly ranked within China — had over 6,000 students enrolled in the Malaysian campus in 2021, SCMP said over a third of these students were from China.

It also quoted Xiamen University Malaysia’s 24-year-old student Cathay Xu as noting that the Malaysian campus is “more diverse and open, with different cultures” despite being also a Chinese university, but said she is aiming to undergo her postgraduate studies in the US as South-east Asian universities would not be the final stop for a student who wants to be competitive.

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