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Tighten policy on foreign students

Posted on November 10, 2015
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The Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem did not mince his words when the state recognised the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) awarded to graduates of local Chinese independent schools.

“Many countries and private universities all over the world give due recognition to UEC, but not Malaysia. What a waste!” he was quoted as saying.

But more telling was his question: “So, how can you disallow these students from entering local public universities, but you allow foreigners possessing other entry qualifications to come and study in Malaysia?”

So, what entry qualifications do foreign students need to enrol in local universities – public and private? What are the minimum requirements to get into local colleges and universities?

While it is common for private institutions of higher learning to take part in education fairs overseas and promote their courses, what are the pre-requisites before an application can be processed?

Every year, hundreds of Malaysian students make a beeline for the MCA building in Kuala Lumpur where student visa applications to study in the United Kingdom are processed. But before you can even submit the application which should be downloaded from the website, the conditions are stringent indeed.

Without a confirmation of acceptance from the university in UK, your application will be not be accepted, let alone processed. But stricter is the requirement for command of the English language. In the overview on its website the UK Border Agency, categorically states: “You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and you can speak, read, write and understand English.”

Proof of proficiency must be submitted with the application but even then, some universities compel foreign students to sit for an English language test upon admission and if weaknesses are discovered, they are required to attend language classes.

However, the most important criteria is financial ability and you must be able to show that you have money to support yourself and pay for your course and the amount will vary depending on where the university is situated.

But browsing through the student visa application form from the Immigration Department’s website, the only information sought is the duration of study, level of study, name of college or university and particulars of the sponsor in Malaysia.

But the “Student’s Data Form” on the website requests details of academic qualifications. Besides, it merely seeks details of “Finance Resource” which includes the name of institution, type of account and amount. Applicants are also required to attach relevant documents which can verify financial resources.

But who decides if the academic qualifications are suited to the course that they are pursuing? How does one know if they are proficient in the language in which the lectures are delivered?

Judging from the application forms, it appears that any foreigner can enrol in any institution of higher learning by just “getting acceptance” and showing the bank statements.

Education is big business and Malaysia hopes to be the regional education hub. Most institutions of higher learning operate within the law and maintain their standards by only accepting students who meet the qualifications. They have invested in proper classrooms, laboratories and lecture theatres complimented by a good academic team.

This would be the ideal situation, but sad to say, there are a handful which have strayed from the straight and narrow road by allowing themselves to be used as a conduit for entry of foreigners under the pretext of studying.

There are more than 600 institutions of higher learning of which only 20 are government-operated.

Here are some statistics on the others to chew on:
» Foreign University Branch Campuses 9
» Private Universities and University Colleges 42
» Private Colleges 468
» Polytechnics 27
» Community Colleges 39

No one knows how many foreign students are in Malaysia. Only estimates are available. Of course, there are some who are masquerading as students and involved in unhealthy activities.

Therefore, the time has come for all stakeholders, the government, the institutions, students’ representatives and other interested parties to draw up a comprehensive policy to ensure that the ease of entry for studies is not abused.

While we may be happy that we are hitting the set targets, we must also ensure that students get quality education and are not duped by fly-by-night operators who give a bad name by becoming degree mills.

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1606018

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