The New Malaysian Higher Education System


The higher education sector is responsible for the operation of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Malaysia and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). The education sector has always enjoyed the highest national development budget which symbolises the commitment of the Malaysian government towards education.

With a multi-ethnic population of about 29.3 million, Malaysia had 20 public universities, 72 private universities and six foreign university branch campuses; 403 active private colleges, 30 polytechnics and 73 public community colleges in 2017. These HEIs offer a wide range of tertiary qualifications at affordable prices.

Accordingly, the Ministry’s overriding aspiration is to create a higher education system that ranks among the world’s leading education systems and that enables Malaysia to compete in the global economy. The MEB (HE) builds on the system’s achievements to date and proposes major changes in the way the Ministry and system will operate in order to realise this goal.

Specifically, the Ministry aspires to:

  • Instill an entrepreneurial mindset throughout Malaysia’s higher education system and create a system that produces graduates with a drive to create jobs, rather than to only seek jobs;
  • Construct a system that is less focused on traditional, academic pathways and that places an equal value on much-needed technical and vocational training;
  • Focus on outcomes over inputs and to actively pursue technologies and innovations that address students’ needs and enable greater personalisation of the learning experience;
  • Harmonise how private and public institutions are regulated, and to transition from the current, highly-centralised governance system for HLIs to a model based on earned autonomy within the regulatory framework; and
  • Ensure the financial sustainability of the higher education system by reducing HLIs reliance on government resources and asking all stakeholders that directly benefit from it to contribute as well.

The transformation of the higher education system is a national priority. The Ministry expects that the transformation of both the system and HLIs will be a medium-to long-term journey where full benefits are expected to be gained over the long run. Although the transformation journey will focus on long-term, sustainable results, it is expected that significant impact and changes will be visible in the short term. These changes will form the foundation for future results.