With a strong support system for international students in the country, Millicent Wiranto is able to capitalise on the opportunities available here to succeed at university.
An international student from Indonesia, she has made many friends of different nationalities and from different cultures.
“In Malaysia, of course, we always talk about food — I love to try various types of cuisine here.
“I like the lifestyle in the country; it is not as populous as my home country. And I get to learn different languages here,” said the 24-year-old culinary management student who has studied at Sunway University for almost a year.
With help from the university, she has no difficulty enrolling in the course and the campus “provides facilities for studies in a safe environment”.
She views internationalisation as a chance to learn about other cultures, which will help her in the workplace in the future.
“I chose the culinary programme because of its affiliation with Le Cordon Bleu, France,” said Millicent, also a recipient of the Sunway Sports Scholarship.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 reinforces the nation’s long-time commitment to be a hub for education in Southeast Asia.
Under the Higher Education Ministry’s banner “World-class Degrees. Truly Asian Values”, Malaysia aims to double its international enrolment from more than 135,000 foreign students in 2014 to 250,000 by 2025.
Malaysia’s higher education system is already a major source of income for the country, given its status as a top 10 destination for international students.
Increasing competition from other education hubs will, however, require the strengthening of its higher education value proposition, capacity and capabilities to enhance its appeal and competitiveness in the region and beyond.
Malaysia needs to raise its higher education brand even further, from an attractive destination known for good value-for-money and quality of life to one that is also recognised, referred to and respected globally for its academic and research expertise.
Often used to discuss the international dimension of higher education at tertiary level, the term “internationalisation” — for some — means a series of worldwide initiatives such as academic mobility for students and teachers; global linkages, partnerships and projects; and new international academic programmes and research projects.
For others, it means the delivery of education to other countries through new types of arrangements such as branch campuses and franchises, and using a variety of face-to-face and distance learning techniques.
To many, it means the integration of an international, intercultural and/or global dimension into the curriculum and teaching learning process. Still others see international development projects and, alternatively, the commercial trade of higher education services as internationalisation.
Sunway University vice chancellor Professor Graeme Wilkinson said universities exist in a global context and their reputations are derived significantly from their networks with overseas institutions and the quality of the research and teaching they undertake as perceived worldwide.
The university has collaborated with overseas tertiary institutions in teaching and research. “We aim to get high quality research papers published in international journals and try to get global visibility through staff contributions at overseas conferences, hosting international conferences and supporting staff and student exchanges with renowned institutions abroad,” he added.
To ensure a strong international presence at the university, Sunway has partnered with Harvard University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Lancaster University.
In terms of research, Wilkinson said researchers have contributed particularly to the fields of neuroscience, materials science, development of new vaccines, economics, new solutions to fighting cancer and digital media.
INTI senior vice-president (corporate marketing, products and partnerships) Tim Johnson said internationalisation has and always been achievable through innovative programmes and partnerships.
For the past 30 years, INTI has been collaborating with foreign tertiary institutions such as University of Wollongong, Australia; University of Coventry, United Kingdom; University of Hertfordshire, UK; and University of Southern New Hampshire in the United States.
“We ‘bring’ the universities here by offering students a chance to enjoy the degree programmes without leaving the country. It’s applicable for both local and international students who study at INTI.
“The same goes for the American Degree Transfer Programme where we partner with some 300 universities worldwide in a two-year course in the US. Students pursue the same course without having to go abroad,” added Johnson.
University of Malaya (UM) acting vice chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud, who is also deputy vice chancellor (academic and international) said: “To increase the number of foreign students, UM has enhanced the promotion and marketing of internationalisation through measures such as hosting international education conferences and strengthening its position in higher education rankings.”
Foreign students at INTI come from 79 countries.
“A variety of voices, faces and languages represents the foreign students population on campus. Many are from the Middle East, and they feel at home as Islam is the main faith in Malaysia .
“They also study here to enhance their language skills especially English,” said Johnson, adding that affordability of the programme also counts.
INTI has 2,000 foreign students and the number is growing every year. Johnson added that maintaining or increasing the foreign students population is important in terms of the QS World University Rankings, an annual publication by Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education.
High international faculty and student ratios, which represent five per cent each, demonstrate an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, which, in turn, suggest a strong global brand.
“High ratios imply a highly global outlook for institutions operating in an internationalised higher education sector and a multinational environment, facilitating exchange of best practices.”
At Sunway University, international students make up 15 per cent of the university population.
With a foreign student population from 50 countries, students learn more about cultures, languages and ways of life from their peers on campus.
“Sunway International Students Ambassadors under the International Office help foreign students.
“We plan activities such as the Home Away from Home Programme (for new international students), organise new international students night out and offer a range of cultural programmes and community services activities,” said Wilkinson.
Awang Bulgiba said the International Student Centre was first established in 2007, then operating under the banner of the International and Corporate Relations Office.
A one-stop centre for international students at the university, it looks after their welfare, life on campus, visa and activities on and off campus.
“It coordinates student exchange programmes for both UM students going abroad as well as receiving students from overseas for short-term and one-semester exchange programmes as well as full-time courses.
“It also organises programmes and activities for international students to complement their academic pursuit and mould character.”
DESPITE the many differences between Malaysia and Maldives, international student Shaifa Adam, 21, revealed that one of the things she likes about the former is its diversity in terms of culture, ethnicity and religion.
Shaifa, who is in the second-year Economics and Management degree programme at INTI @ the University of Wollongong, said: “Malaysia provides quality education and, most importantly, it is not as expensive compared to some Western countries.”
International student Caelie Barnstead, 18, in her second year of microbiology studies at University of Malaya (UM), said Malaysia is a good destination to study three different cultures in one country.
“Kuala Lumpur is a great city to explore and most people speak English,” said Barnstead.
She may be the only foreign student in her programme but her welfare is well taken care of by the university.
“International students attend a Bahasa Malaysia course and an introduction to Malaysia session.”
Jordanian Awos Jodeh, 19, wanted to step out of his comfort zone and chose Malaysia for its reputation as an education hub with a melting pot of cultures thrown in.
The second-year mechanical engineering undergraduate has had a smooth transition so far. “The UM International Students Association makes us feel at home. Language is not a barrier — the Malay language is hard to master but very easy to learn.”
Korean Henri Seo Hun Min, 22, admitted he was a bit reserved and shy when he first came to Malaysia but he has gained confidence after joining clubs and activities on campus.
The third-year business administration student at the University of Hertfordshire @INTI said he always challenges himself to learn new things.
Currently the vice-president of INTI International Student Club, Seo said he pursued the Laurette English Programme to improve his communication skills.
“I try to participate in the club activities to get to know other cultures and the community. These activities provide a platform to broaden my perspective of life.”