Higher Education Malaysia: Increasing Accessiblity and Quality

Keynote Speaker
Dato’ Seri Mohamaed Khaled Nordin


  1. Datuk Dr Hamzah Kassim
  2. Prof. Dr. Fauziah Mat Taib, USM
  3. Prof. Datuk Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid
  4. Prof. Dr. Hj. Hazman Shah Abdullah
  5. Pn. Zuraidah Musib (Moderator)


The main aims of the Education Development Plan for Malaysia (2001-2010) are “to increase access to education, increase equity in education, increase quality of education, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education management”. The plan focuses on the development of the education system at all levels, from preschool to tertiary through support programmes, funding, management, and integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning.   

Tertiary education providers include community colleges, polytechnics university colleges and universities, both public and private.  At present, only 11 percent of the population aged 18-21 years have the opportunity to enroll in non-degree programmes and only 5 percent of the age cohort are enrolled in degree programmes. These figures are low compared with other countries in the region.  The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) has been entrusted with the task to increase accessibility to tertiary education in order to meet the growing demand for higher education, and fulfil the increasing need for knowledgeable and skilled manpower, which is a necessity towards meeting the needs of the nation and the K-economy.  With 27 public universities and university colleges, the number of places available is not able to meet the demand of school leavers as well as adult learners who are pursuing higher education to acquire new skills and knowledge as part of life-long learning.  

Private institutions of higher learning (IHLs) provide more opportunities for tertiary education for those who are not able to get places at public IHLs.   Among the more than 500 private IHLs, many also collaborate with well-established foreign universities for highly demanded programmes that attract local as well as foreign students to enroll. This in turn helps to reduce the number of students studying abroad, hence reducing government funding, as well as help promote Malaysia as a centre of academic excellence. However, for many Malaysians, especially those from the low-income group, private IHLs are beyond their means.

Other emphases of the education plan are on meeting the target of 60 per cent of graduates in science and technology and the mastery of communication skills. The plan also aims to improve post-graduate programmes that promote research and development (R&D) of international standards, hence, ones that inculcate a culture of quality in higher education.  Accessibility to education should also be enhanced for the disadvantaged groups such as those in rural areas and the urban poor.  

As far as quality in education is concerned, the most pressing issues are getting qualified teaching staff, the shortage of experienced teaching staff in various fields of industry and reduce the ratio of student to teaching staff.  In addition, the MOE has to ensure higher education institutions have the capability to produce more R&D activities which are of quality and have the potential to be commercialised.  In other words, IHLs should play a major role in transforming Malaysia into a centre of academic excellence by providing courses that are relevant to the needs of the local workforce, innovative, and internationally recognised.   Other issues and problems that need to be addressed are the high fees charged by private higher institutions and the escalating development and management costs at public higher education institutions.
In summary, to ensure better accessibility and quality of higher education, the following questions need to be addressed.

  • Is there a need to restructure the primary and secondary education system to better prepare students for tertiary education?
  • What are the roles of public and private IHLs to increase access and participation in higher education?
  • Who are responsible for ensuring quality in higher education in Malaysia?
  • What are the characteristics of a world class university/IHL?
  • What are the factors that attract foreign students to study in Malaysia?
  • How do we inculcate the R&D culture among lecturers and students in order to produce research of international standards?
  • How do we establish smart partnerships between IHLs and local and foreign industries?
  • Where does vocational training fit in the higher education sector?
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