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Why Malaysian Students Look to Study Abroad

Jul 26, 2022Date Published
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The Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education reports that in 2019 alone, almost 73,000 Malaysians were studying abroad. Although this number decreased with the Covid-19 crisis and its global travel, health, and safety restrictions, industry experts predict a rebound. Surveys find that most students continue to stick to their study abroad plans despite the Covid-19 crisis. Over 53% expect to travel physically to study abroad when it’s safe to do so. And less than 4% chose to cancel their study abroad plans. Let’s find out why Malaysian students look to study abroad, even after Covid-19-related disruptions.

Why Do Malaysians Study Abroad?

These are the top reasons current Malaysian students share on why they chose to study abroad!

1. Experiencing a New Things

For both current and prospective students, this is often the biggest motivator for study abroad in Malaysia! Malaysian students overseas get to immerse themselves in different cultures, cuisines, languages, and ways of life. The sights and sounds study abroad locations offer Malaysian students are unlike anything you’d experience at home. And for many, this is an opportunity to expand their horizons and explore more of the world than their backyard. Of current Malaysian students studying abroad, the language, culture and the country’s overall reputation are among the top reasons for choosing that country.

2. Personal Development

Studying abroad offers opportunities you don’t have when studying at home. As an international student, you need to pick up a lot of life skillsto become self-sufficient. All the things you’re used to at home – from readily available meals to bills paid on time – are things you take on yourself. And while this is daunting, it’s also a great opportunity to work on becoming a better you! Many Malaysian students choose to travel to study abroad from Malaysia to experience this independence. You have the freedom to explore yourself and the world in ways you can’t at home!

3. Pursuing Career Goals

Many Malaysians pursue higher education overseas with the long-term goal of working in a different country. Countries like New Zealand, Canada, Australia and UK are attractive destinations for Malaysians thanks to their post-study work visas. Immigration-friendly countries like these allow you to stay and work after graduation. You may get the chance to work for some of the biggest companies or in the biggest industries! This is a great incentive for Malaysian students. 

Post-study work opportunities are among the top factors current students considered when choosing to study abroad! This also lets you cultivate a much wider and diverse professional network than you’d have otherwise. Plus, work experience overseas often creates opportunities to get permanent residency in another country!

Many of the world’s best universities are also located in countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc. Graduating from a top-ranked university makes you instantly stand out among qualified candidates in the workforce! Top universities often have the highest employability for their graduates. This is one of the reasons why Malaysian students are looking overseas for higher education!

4. Experiencing Quality Education

Studying abroad allows you to learn under some of the leading experts in your field. Teaching quality is the most important factor for current Malaysian students studying abroad! You might have the chance to learn under professors and lecturers specializing in your field! Study abroad destinations for Malaysian students include places with some of the strongest education systems in the world, like the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia, and more! With a robust school system and highly trained and qualified teachers, you know you’ll reach your full potential through an overseas program.

5. Discovering Diverse Programs

Top-ranked global universities earn those rankings for a reason. From esteemed research institutionstoinnovative and diverse programs, there are many more options to choose from for Malaysian students overseas. While there are plenty of great universities in Malaysia, perhaps you want to study at a school leading in your particular field or program. With the best qualifications from the best universities, you create many more opportunities for the future!

You may also be interested in programs not as readily available in Malaysia. There are not as many options to study in extremely specialized fields like veterinary medicine or archaeology in Malaysia, for example. Since Malaysia is a rapidly developing economy with its education system still evolving, this is one of the disadvantages of studying in Malaysia. You may not have access to niche or highly specialized programs you want to pursue a career in. Rather than limiting yourself to what is available in Malaysia, keeping the study abroad option open let's Malaysian students fully pursue their ambitions.

Malaysian Students Studying Abroad – 2020-21 Statistics

Here are the top picks for countries students traveled to study abroad in from Malaysia:

  1. The United Kingdom

  2. Australia

  3. Germany

  4. Taiwan

  5. China

  6. New Zealand

  7. The United States

  8. Egypt

  9. South Korea

And here are the top countries students plan to study abroad in from Malaysia:

  1. The United Kingdom

  2. Australia

  3. The United States

  4. Japan

  5. Germany

  6. South Korea

  7. New Zealand

  8. Canada

  9. France

  10. Ireland

What Malaysian Students Look for in a Country for Study Abroad

Most Important Factors When Choosing a Study Abroad Country

Percentage (%) of Responses from Current Malaysian Students

Living costs


Overall reputation


Language and culture


Reputation of the education system


Safety and Sociopolitical System


Post-Study Work Opportunities



What Malaysian Students Look for in a School for Study Abroad

Most Important Factors When Choosing a School to Study Abroad In

Percentage (%) of Responses from Current Malaysian Students

Quality of teachers


Access to career services


Campus facilities


Ranking of the school


Reputation of the school


Campus lifestyle



What Malaysian Students Consider When Choosing Where to Study

Top Considerations About Where to Study

Percentage (%) of Responses from Current Malaysian Students

Availability of the right program


Finding the right country


Finding the right school



Our Final Thoughts on Why Malaysian Students Look to Study Abroad

Malaysia has a strong education system with top-ranking universities of its own. Nevertheless, many Malaysian students are looking overseas for higher education. In many cases, this is because they’re seeking an educational experience they can’t entirely get in Malaysia. Some students seek to experience a different country and its culture, language, and lifestyle. Some may have long-term plans to study and settle in a different country. Others want to study at universities offering the best programs and teaching quality, to better meet their career goals. Yet others can’t find the exact match for the program they want to study in Malaysia. Why Malaysian students look to study abroad, in many cases, is a combination of these factors, and more! Nonetheless, the trend of Malaysian students pursuing overseas studies is likely to continue. Are you planning on studying abroad, too?