MASS communications degree student Marissa Anne Ganeshwaran gives a last glance at her notes and hurriedly packs her knapsack. As she hurries along to her next class at the university campus in Subang Jaya, Selangor, she mentally goes through the list of things that she will present to her lecturer and peers later — not wanting to miss anything important.
The final year student — who harbours ambitions to be in editorial or content creation at a newspaper, magazine or radio — aims to do well, just like any other aspiring graduate. But unlike the norm for many others who study locally, she will be receiving a scroll from the University of Hertfordshire in England upon completing her BA (Hons) Mass Communications degree, although most of her studies are being conducted here at INTI International College in Subang.
The programme Marissa is enrolled in is called a partner university programme which, in general, comprises programmes offered by international universities most commonly those from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand at Malaysian private colleges.
These programmes are often developed collaboratively, with most of the resources, lecture materials and assessments identical to those offered by the international university at its home country. Such programmes were introduced in Malaysia since the 1980s and continue to grow in popularity as they offer world-class education options for students from all backgrounds.
According to INTI International University & Colleges chief executive officer Timothy Bulow, in current economic circumstances, partner university programmes are a great option for students to receive world-class yet affordable education.
“In such cases, upon entering into an agreement with a partner university, the private institution will receive access and training on the curriculum, assessment and administrative requirements of those programmes offered, enabling local lecturers and faculty to offer the exact programme locally. This means local graduates will receive exactly the same certifications as those studying abroad but at a much lower cost
“Studying the same curriculum and being assessed identically to their international peers, however, means students can easily transfer to the international university. In INTI, for example, while many students opt to do the full programme locally, there are those who transfer for either a semester abroad or in their final year. As the programme is identical, the transition is seamless. Doing so makes the programme both cost effective, yet allows students to opt for spending some time abroad where they are exposed to the culture and experiences of living and learning in a different environment,” he said.
This collaboration between foreign and local universities come in several models.
“There is the 3+0 model, in which the entire three years of the degree is completed in Malaysia where the degree is supposed to be indistinguishable from that which is awarded to students who studied on campus at that university. As a result, some refer to this form of twinning programme as a ‘mirror’ programme,” explained Tony Leong, head of the Department of Management Studies (DOMS) at HELP Academy in HELP University.
Students who complete only part of the 3+0 degree (after one or two years) may apply to transfer to the partner university or another university, using the credits earned, as a form of credit transfer or 1+2 or 2+1 model.
“That means, for the 1+2 model, the student will transfer after completing one year in Malaysia to complete the other two years overseas. Similarly for the 2 +1 model, the student will transfer after completing two years in Malaysia and one year overseas. This form of programme is also known as degree transfer programme,” he said.
Traditionally, Leong pointed out, once a student registers for a 3+0 twinning programme, the expectation is for the student to complete the entire programme in Malaysia.
“The flexibility of twinning programmes is hugely attractive, and the other main reason why twinning is so popular is because it is a more affordable alternative to completing an entire degree overseas,” he said.
Greeja Hemalata De Silva, director of Victoria University Undergraduate Programme at Sunway College, highlighted that other than cost savings, partner programmes allow students to gain an internationally recognised qualification without the need to relocate or adjust to new settings.
“The local institution offers identical curriculum as the overseas host institute. And having a degree/testamur conferred by an international university looks good on one’s resume. For those who go for 2+1 or 1+2 mode, they get to experience an authentic overseas education. Likewise, for those who continue on the 3+0 mode. For those in the Victoria University (VU) programmes at Sunway, academic staff from VU regularly teach at Sunway and provide academic counselling to the students,” she said.
INTI offers programmes from a number of partner universities, including the University of Hertfordshire (UK) which has been their partner for more than 20 years and offers a range of Business, Finance, Accounting and Marketing programmes. They also work with the University of Wollongong, Australia offering specialised programmes in Computer Science, Information Technology and Commerce, and collaborate with the Sydney Business School in offering the university’s established Master of Business Administration programme.
HELP Academy have established partnerships with UK institutions, such as the University of Derby.
“For the University of Derby programmes conducted at HELP Academy, we make sure every undergraduate course mirrors contemporary businesses. We value the input of local and national employers, including professional bodies. We are networked into a dynamic business community so we can put students in touch with some of the brightest business minds,” said Leong.
The highlight of the University of Derby degree programmes at HELP Academy, is the 10-day global exposure trip to Derby, UK where final-year students will undertake the study trip to the University of Derby in UK to hear from influential business leaders and entrepreneurs in seminars. Students can also take part in major networking events to bolster one’s contacts for the future.
Sunway College offers numerous business-oriented degree programmes from Melbourne, Australia based Victoria University where syllabi, assignments, tests and final examination taught at Sunway are set by VU and all tests are conducted on the same day and time as Australia.
For Marissa, who chose to do the BA (Hons) Mass Communication 3+0 in Collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire at INTI for the simple reason that the programme has the exact modules that she felt would benefit her in the future while giving her the option of twinning.
Marissa recently spent a semester at the campus in England and found the experience a beneficial one.
“It was neither socially nor academically challenging. As both campuses liaise with each other in terms of how classes are run and the sort of information distributed, it was easy to make the transition. The people there are welcoming and the students are incredibly active in hosting as well as participating in events,” she said.
As there was always something going on each week the discipline that has been cultivated from having lived and studied in Malaysia kicked in.
“I wanted to learn as much as I could from the lecturers that were setting up our course back home. While at the same time, I got to experience ‘university life’ through the student union, the extracurricular activities, the parties. There was freedom in both the way I was allowed to learn and the way I chose to learn.
“Of course, then there is the exposure to the companies and possibilities of working with the companies in the UK. Not only does it expose you to the various different work ethics, through conversing and travelling while studying, one gets to meet people that would inevitably change and maybe even improve one’s mentality,” she said.
Alumni of University of Wollongong Bachelor of Computer Science programme at INTI Yeoh Hui Jia transferred to the University of Wollongong campus in Sydney in her third and final year.
“Before the transfer happened, the whole application process was made easy with the help of the faculty. Before I knew it, my application and scholarship were approved, and then I was well on my way to Australia.
“While I was in Wollongong, it was a whole new experience — both academically and socially. The way their classes were conducted were slightly different and there were a lot more interactions in some of the classes, something that we don’t see often in Malaysia. When it comes to social life, it was difficult finding common subjects to converse about sometimes, and there was also the part where the culture was profoundly different, especially when Asians are commonly more conservative and vice versa,” she shared.
Yeoh believes the stint abroad gave her a different perspective as to how the education system is overseas.
“There was fairly distinct difference on how they conducted their classes and ours. When I was there, there were a lot of discussions, and students would ask questions and point out things they didn’t understand, and the discussion would run really deep sometimes — but you can gain a large amount of knowledge from a single discussion,” she said
While there is the opinion that having studied overseas makes one more marketable as far as jobs are concerned, Yeoh still believes that locally educated students still have an equal standing in the job market.
“It also highly depends on the impression you give and the effort you put in, because in the end, what is written on a paper cannot compare to what you can actually deliver,” she said.
Yeoh is working as a mobile application developer. “As for the future, I’m constantly looking forward to learning about new technologies and to further improve myself in the field that I am in,” she said.
Liew Jun Ming, an accounting and finance final year student at HELP Academy, chose the University of Derby 3+0 twinning programme because it allows him to undertake the level of education similar to the UK’s without actually having study abroad at all.
“I chose this programme because it grants a certificate from the University of Derby which is ranked one of the top 50 universities in the UK. The programme also offers a 10-day trip to the University of Derby in UK for all the graduating students. This programme has actively readied me for the job market by promoting awareness and providing opportunities through internships and modules alike, thus building our confidence,” he said.
“I have high hopes that I will become a successful chartered accountant in the future,” he said.
His coursemate Shahirah Mohd Abdullah feels that the University of Derby Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Accounting and Finance programme will enhance her marketability in the job market when she graduates.
“After completing my degree I would like to pursue the ACCA professional qualifications, as I believe that I would be able to work at any top organisations as a qualified chartered accountant. This will allow me to achieve my dreams which is to become a successful business professional in the future,” she said.
Likewise Adele Chan Yin Theng who is doing a University of Derby business management programme at HELP Academy.
“I chose this programme as it offered me the opportunity to obtain an external degree without having to go to the United Kingdom. Moreover, the quality of the assessment is the same as the university in the United Kingdom as our assignments will be reviewed by the British lecturers as well,” the final year student said.
“I do think that this programme will increase my chances of being employed as my subjects encourage critical thinking and analysis. My three years in the programme has taught me to be more proactive and independent as students are graded based on the quality of their written assignments. In the future, I plan to join a company which gives me the opportunity to challenge myself and to gain new experiences through company projects,” she said.
Victoria University Bachelor of Business (Marketing and International Trade) degree programme alumni Lim Shu Ling who did two years in Bandar Sunway and one in Melbourne, believes her experience has developed her with quality business knowledge and prepared her for the workplace.
Sharing her experience en route to Melbourne, she has this to say: “I was excited about transferring to Melbourne and experiencing a new life. There was a lot of preparation, such as applying for the student visa, settling my accommodation, and booking my flight ticket. I have learned to be independent as I needed to manage the preparations myself. After I arrived in Melbourne, I was uncertain about the life there as it was my first time to study abroad. Luckily, I had many friends. Melbourne is a multicultural city and the people are friendly. It was easy for me to adapt myself to the Melbourne lifestyle.”
Lim found the education system was different.
“In Malaysia, the students are provided with guidance and emphasis is on academic performance. However, in Australia, open discussion is encouraged where students are expected to think out of the box and they have to be more independent. As an exchange student to VU, I was assigned an Aussie mate to guide and help me. This programme allowed me to meet friends from all over the world, such as from Korea, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Taiwan and many more. It was a great experience to know them and hang out with them to understand their culture and share experiences,” she said.
Apart from her studies, Lim managed to work as a part-timer in a dessert house. “It allowed me to learn how to balance my studies and work as a student. Apart from that, I visited the tourist attractions in Melbourne during my spare time. I had also joined some of the activities in the university such as volunteer work or Malaysian students’ association bonding activities. It was a wonderful experience to be an exchange student.”
Lim said her stint in Melbourne enhanced the way she viewed things.
“A graduate who has studied both locally and abroad, will have an advantage in the job market, especially in MNC (multinational corporations). The employer will be interested in your experience or your value when you studied abroad that can help in providing a different point of view in improving the current work issue,” she said.
AMONG the key propositions of partner university or twinning programmes is the cost-saving factor.
“A student opting to study their full programme at the University of Wollongong would potentially be paying upwards of RM385,000 (taking into account the current exchange rates as well as the cost of living and miscellaneous expenses). A student who completes their programme in INTI would be paying approximately RM80,000 for their full three years and if they opted to do their final year abroad would be paying an estimate of RM 181,000.
“For students opting to study programmes from the University of Hertfordshire and completing their full programme abroad, they could be spending upward of RM 115,000 a year, whereas completing the full programme at INTI would cost approximately RM76, 000 in total,” Bulow demonstrated.
For a three-year twinning degree programme with the University of Derby at HELP Academy, one will end up saving at least RM110,000 in tuition fees and living costs yearly, compared to completing the entire three-year degree in the UK,,” said Leong.
The same is also true of 3+0 programme at Sunway.
“The estimated total cost (inclusive of living expenses) of a 3+0 programme at Sunway is RM109,000. If it was done entirely in Australia it would cost around RM309,000,” said Greeja.