Looking to achieve top marks for education, Malaysia is enticing students to its shores
By Rebecca Foster
While massive online open courses hold large appeal to hundreds of thousands of students across the world, the fact remains that 80% of Mooc students already hold an academic degree, and the majority of the rest are simultaneously enrolled at a traditional university.
“Going to university is about more than the course,” said Ella Ritchie, deputy vice-chancellor at Newcastle University in the UK. “The experience of being on campus is very much part of the education environment.”
Malaysia is working hard to improve its own education environment, as it pushes to become a Grade A international education destination. Iskandar’s EduCity lies at the heart of its plans.
Due to open in 2015, the campus at EduCity will be shared by at least eight international universities, including Newcastle University’s medical school, which aims to have a student body of 900 when the campus opens its doors. Students from across Malaysia and the world will study and live together in a giant 140-hectare student village that will boast a sports stadium and a multi-varsity student centre.
“The facilities are designed mainly to provide the optimum student experience,” said Mohammad Hisham Kamaruzaman, chief operating officer at Education@Iskandar.
Positioning itself as an education hub, Malaysia wants to keep students who would typically travel overseas to prestigious, established Western institutions on home soil.
“Many of these students will want to study abroad, but education hubs could help those students who, for financial, logistical or cultural reasons, would like to study closer to home,” said Ritchie.
As well as Malaysian undergrads, students from across the world are gravitating to the country in search of high-quality education at cheaper rates than those offered in the US or Europe. Ready to reap the benefit of its educational vision, the government hopes to double the number of foreigners studying in the country to 200,000 by 2020, a development that is tipped to inject $20 billion per year into the local economy.
While online courses for the masses are on the rise, the Malaysia experience shows that traditional universities are firmly grounded in society, and are unlikely to be rolled over any time soon.
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