Malaysia is fast becoming one of the hottest study destinations in Asia where international students can pursue their undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
One of the reasons why students from all over the world go to Malaysia is the rising number of educational institutions offering high-quality education. In fact, many of Malaysia’s higher education institutions (HEIs) are already part of the top 200 universities in the world.


Aside from world-class education, Malaysia is an ethnically diverse country that embraces other cultures from different countries. International students find it easy to adjust and enjoy their entire stay in Malaysia as their second home.

Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia, which lies mostly on the Malay Peninsula. The country is north of the equator and is divided into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of the country while Putrajaya is referred to as the administrative centre.

On the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, its main border is Thailand, while on the southern part, the country is connected to Singapore by a causeway. East Malaysia is found on the island of Borneo with Sarawak and Sabah, the two largest states in the country.

Population: 32,797,000
GDP per capita: $364.7 Billion
Total surface area: 330,345 square kilometres

Climate and Weather

One of the things international students love about Malaysia is its year-round tropical weather. Students coming from the northern part of the world who barely experience warm weather definitely love Malaysia.

Malaysia usually experiences a monsoon season, and its proximity to bodies of water makes it prone to high humidity. Monsoon season runs from May to September and there can be a high amount of rainfall in the months of November to March. But after the monsoon season, Malaysia has quite pleasant weather with warm days and cool nights.

Why Study in Malaysia?

What is it about Malaysia that attracts students? Here are the top five reasons to study in Malaysia.

Good Quality of Life

Malaysia is a developing country and its economy is on an upward trajectory, which is one of the contributors to a good quality of life.

Malaysia has a high score in Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index, making it a good choice for international students considering Southeast Asia as their study destination. The cost of living is low and the country offers easy access to most social amenities, especially in cities like Kuala Lumpur.

High Literacy Rate

According to UNESCO, Malaysia has an adult literacy rate of 94.85%. Citizens age 15 and older are able to read and write and also perform simple arithmetic equations. Most of the people have successfully finished school and many continue onward to higher education.

International students will find Malaysia to be a conducive and stimulating learning environment, no matter their programme of study.

Academic Excellence

Malaysia is one of the best countries in Asia in terms of higher education, as evidenced by the number of Malaysian HEIs in the top 200 best universities in the world.

Malaysia offers world-class education that international students can excel in and use to secure their careers. Malaysia also invests in technology to enhance students’ learning experience and make studying more engaging.

Safety and Security

Malaysia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. It takes the 20th spot in the Global Peace Index for 2020, which ranked 163 countries. It is the third-safest country in Asia, following Singapore and Japan.

International students are safe and secure when they come to the country for their studies. Top-notch security systems are also installed in institutions, police officers are friendly and prepared to help students in need.

Cultural Diversity

Malaysia is a multicultural country, and many of its citizens have roots in countries such as India and China. The citizens are very open to embracing other cultures and traditions, making it very easy for international students to study and live in Malaysia.

The country’s official religion is Islam, but other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity are also practised in peace and harmony.

Malay is the official language, which is spoken by the majority. English is the second official language, and this is another reason why international students find higher education in Malaysia desirable. English is the medium of instruction in most HEIs.

International students will also find it easy and enjoyable to learn the Malay language, which can help them understand and appreciate the Malaysian culture more. International students can socialise with ease and make the most of their stay in the country.

Fast Facts

World ranked institutions in Malaysia

Top 10 Malaysian Universities

  1. Universiti Malaya
  2. Universiti Putra Malaysia
  3. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
  4. Universiti Sains Malaysia
  5. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  6. Taylor’s University
  7. UCSI University
  8. Universiti Teknologi Petronas
  9. Universiti Utara Malaysia
  10. Management and Science University

The top five institutions in this list are all in the top 200 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2021, with Universiti Malaya in 59th place.

Top postgraduate courses in Malaysia
  1. Business Management
  2. Engineering
  3. Medicine
  4. Mass Communications
  5. Accounting and Finance
  6. Hospitality and Tourism
  7. Art and Design
Top jobs by demand in Malaysia
  1. Engineering
  2. Computer Science
  3. Business
  4. Agriculture
  5. Actuarial Science
  6. Chemistry
  7. Occupational Safety and Health
  8. Graphic and Multimedia Design
  9. Medicine
  10. Logistics and Supply Chain
Top earning jobs in Malaysia
  1. C-Suite roles
  2. Managing Director
  3. Head of Shared Services
  4. Head of Finance
  5. Sales/Marketing Director
  6. Senior Product Manager
  7. Operations Director
  8. Quality Director
  9. Corporate Banking Head
  10. Engineering Director in Health Care
Top industries in Malaysia
  1. Banking and Finance
  2. Digital Technology
  3. Media
  4. Manufacturing
  5. Electrical and Electronics Industry
  6. Food Delivery Providers
  7. Property

Unique Student Experience

Malaysia has much to offer international students to make their stay more memorable. One of the most enjoyable student experiences in Malaysia is taking part in the Durian Buffet during durian season.

A lot of people may find the delicious fruit to be pungent but once you taste it, it is the exact opposite. Durian is a sweet fruit that is loved by most Malaysians. Indulging in a Durian Buffet is a one-of-a-kind experience international students can have in their entire stay in the country.

Application process


To be able to study in Malaysia, international students will need to acquire a student visa and a student pass. Prior to applying for the visa/pass, a student first needs to apply and get accepted to a course in a Malaysian institution. Students who meet the admission criteria will receive an acceptance letter or an offer letter from the university.

In addition, a student should also take an English proficiency test from one of the following approved tests for Malaysia, since most of the courses are taught in English. The result must come from one of the following tests: PTE - Academic, IELTS, TOEFL, CAE, CPE, or MUET.

Test result score requirements may vary depending on the university, level of study, and course. Aspiring international students must also prepare documented proof of their previous education.

Students must have at least 12 years of education prior to applying for a degree in Malaysia. Another prerequisite students must be ready with is a documented proof that they will be able to fund their tuition and living expenses during their stay in Malaysia.

Student pass application

The next step in the process is the application for a student pass. The student has two routes to choose from.

  • The first route is to request for the university to help with the processing of the student pass. With this option, the student will submit all the required documents to the university and wait for approval from the Malaysian Immigration Department.
  • The university will be the one to apply for the Visa Application Letter (VAL) on behalf of the student. However, the student must pay first all the visa fees before the university sends the documents for processing. The VAL is issued by the Immigration Department in Malaysia.

    Fees may vary depending on the country the student comes from. If approved, the student will receive a letter of approval for a student pass and a signed personal bond document from the university, which are needed when entering the country.

  • The second route is to request for a student pass by applying via the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) website. The VAL may be released after two weeks from submission of documents and payment of the required fees.
  • The following documents may be required to be uploaded or may be needed when going through immigration when arriving in Malaysia:

    • Valid passport (must be valid for at least one year)
    • 1 piece passport-size photograph with white background (35mm x 45mm)
    • Offer letter
    • Health declaration form
    • Academic records in the form of transcripts and certificates
    • Personal bond (may be submitted once you arrive at the immigration in Malaysia)
    • No objection certificate (NOC)
    • Letter of eligibility (required only for students from Iran)
    • English language proficiency requirement
Travel preparation

Once you have received the VAL, you will need to prepare for your travel to Malaysia. To familiarise yourself with the items you are allowed to bring in to the country, it is recommended you check out the Malaysian customs website.

As for the amount of money you can bring into Malaysia, if the total ringgit notes you are bringing exceeds USD 10,000.00, you are required to declare it.

Money may be in the form of cash (coin and printed money) or bearer negotiable instrument (traveler’s cheque, or any negotiable instrument that is signed).

You are required to fill out and download the customs form and submit the document once you arrive in the customs section in the airport.

If you were assisted by the university in the processing of your student pass, you must inform them of your travel details such as the date and time of your arrival in Malaysia.

Upon arrival

Once you have landed, prepare the VAL as it will be used to get your student visa.

If you were assisted by the university in the processing of your student pass, a representative may meet you at the customs area at the airport. They will be the one to help you with the process of getting a special pass and having your student visa issued to you.

However, if you processed your student pass yourself, then you will need to present all necessary information to the immigration officer. You will also be issued your student visa and a special pass will be given to you. A special pass is valid for two weeks and you can use it until you have been issued your student pass.

Release of student pass

Within your first two weeks in Malaysia, you must coordinate with your school as they will be submitting your passport to the Immigration Department so that you will be given your full student pass.

A student pass sticker will be issued to you. You must renew it yearly or as long as your course has not yet finished. However, you must get a minimum of 2.0 on your Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) and at least an 80% attendance rating on your course for your student pass to be renewed.

Expenses and Tuition

Malaysia is known for its low cost of living, which makes it a preferred destination for travellers all around the world. The cost of tuition is also lower compared with that of other countries. Below shows the yearly average both in tuition and living expenses in Malaysia:

  • Tuition fee
    • Public university bachelor’s degree yearly tuition may range from RM 10,000 to RM 22,000.
    • Public university master’s degree yearly tuition may range from RM 3,000 to RM 20,000.
    • A Malaysian private university bachelor’s degree yearly tuition may range from RM 7,000.to RM 46,000.
    • A Malaysian private university master’s degree yearly tuition may range from RM 8,000.to RM 15,000.
    • A degree in medicine may have a yearly tuition of RM 97,000 up to RM 135,000.
  • Living Expenses
  • Living Expenses Cost RM per year
    Accommodation 20,000.00
    Food 1,500.00
    Transportation costs (buses, train, taxi) 2,000.00
    Utilities (including internet) 4,500.00
    Shopping, recreation, culture, and sports 3,000.00
    TOTAL 31,000.00

Financial assistance & work option

With a valid student pass, one is allowed to work in Malaysia as long as it does not affect your school study load.

Students who want to work need to coordinate with their school, as a school representative will be the one to process the application for work with the Immigration Department of Malaysia. If approved, there are specific rules to be followed to work in Malaysia as an international student.

One of the rules is that a student can only work part-time during semester breaks and holidays.
A student can only work a maximum of 20 hours a week. After you graduate, if you find an employer who is willing to hire you, the process to get a work permit will be done by the employer. You will just need to pay for the processing fees and wait for the landing order to be given by the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

Different opportunities are given by the government and the different universities in Malaysia. International students must visit the EMGS website as it serves as a one-stop centre for them. Not only is it the venue to apply for a student pass, it’s also where you can find information on scholarship programmes in Malaysia.