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Postgraduate Education in Malaysia

Postgraduate Education in Malaysia is fast growing as can be seen from the introduction of many varieties of master's
degree programmes and research Ph.D studies by public universities, private universities and also foreign university branch campuses. The main providers of postgraduate courses in Malaysia are public universities.

Postgraduate students study part-time, full-time or by distance learning for a taught or research-based course. Their main purpose of study is for career advancement needs, training and employment.

This chapter emphasizes on Master's and Doctoral Degrees. We shall focus on what postgraduate study is all about, why it is important and what you should do when selecting a course to pursue.

Malaysian public universities (IPTA), private universities as well as private colleges (IPTS) offer postgraduate studies to local and international students. The quality of the programmes conducted is assured by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) with effective from 1st November. MQA is a unified quality assurance agency which is established as a result of the merger of National Accreditation Board (or Lembaga Akreditis'i Negara, LAN) and the Quality Assurance Division (QAD) of the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education. Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) is responsible in implementing the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) for all higher educational institutions in Malaysia (both public and private providers).

Postgraduate courses using English as a medium of instruction are made available in a wide range of options by the following education providers, such as:


Type 1 Type 2 Type 3 Type 4
• Public universities • Private universities • Foreign universities • Private colleges
Internal qualification programmes Internal qualification programmes Programmes offered by branch campuses in Malaysia Collaboration with foreign universities' postgraduate programmes
Malaysia Malaysia Australia and UK USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand

A wide range of courses are offered  ranging from Life Sciences, Library & Information Science Dissertation to Environmental Engineering.

Master's and Doctoral degree programmes are called postgraduate programmes but sometimes, they may be referred to as graduate programmes, depending on the country of origin.

In the US, the Master's Degree is the first level of graduate qualifications. The students' general entry requirement for graduate programmes.

The completion of a graduate admission test called the GMAT and a four-year university degree or its equivalent. In many programmes, the Master's degree is a professional or non-research degree such as Master's of Business Administration (MBA) while there are some in other areas which are more research-focussed, such as the Master's of Arts (MA) or the Master's of Science (MSc). The professional Master's degree generally takes two years to complete.

The UK postgraduate study and most other postgraduate programmes in Malaysia (because Malaysia follows the UK system mostly), are basically divided into those that are largely taught (e.g. MSc, PGDip) and those that are largely research-based (e.g. MPhil, PhD).

Postgraduate Studies are of 2 types :

1)  Taught-courses

2)  Research-based Courses

Taught-courses involve classes and seminars, supervised project work and partial assessment by examination or course work,

Research programme will involve taking a student through a self-directed project.

Type 1 Type 2

Master Degree

Research-based Courses
Master's degree & Doctoral degrees

Taught-programmes are those in which a large portion of the learning is facilitated through classroom lectures, tutorials, seminars, individual project work, industrial or business placement, problem-solving classes, or discussion groups which are at least partially assessed by examination or course work. Some 'Taught-courses' include group projects or research dissertation. Taught-courses are usually offered at the Master's degree level. They are usually terminal degrees and there will be no need to continue to the PhD Level. However, for those who wish to continue to the doctoral level, the opportunity is plentiful.

The main objective of these programmes is to widen your knowledge which you have gained from your first degree or for you to convert your expertise to another field of study. Programmes of a taught-course normally last one to two years, depending on whether it is done full- time or part-time.

In Malaysia, Master's programmes normally involve classes and seminars plus dissertation.

In a research-based course, there are no formal classes, just scheduled meetings with a supervisor. Most research degrees are purely academic with little or no formal teaching. The learning on a research-based programme is through a self-directed project.

The qualifications obtained are either a Master's degree or Doctoral degrees. Research programmes at the Master's level might be called a Master's in Research (MRes) or, regardless of the actual subject studied, a Master's in Philosophy (MPhil) which usually take two years. The highest research degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) which will take a minimum of three years to complete. PhD and MPhil qualifications are obtained through research, a thesis and a viva voce (oral) examination.

Apart from some training in research skills, there will be very little taught content on research programmes. The dissertation will be longer, about 70,000 to 100,000 words for a PhD. It should also be original and, in theory, publishable. Essentially, possessing a PhD should mean that you are one of the leading experts in your field of specialisation in the world.

Doctoral programmes, namely the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) are the most common research-based postgraduate degrees and it usually takes three or four years of full-time studies. Intake is normally from those with a Master's degree and occasionally by transfer from a Master's course, although those with very good first degrees would also be considered. Doctorate research work is intensive and requires strong commitment from the student, especially in terms of dedication, finance and time.

For example, if your career goal is in an academic area, possibly teaching at a university or conducting a research, then the Master's choice for you will be a Master's of Arts or a Master's of Science, depending on the field. Either of these will have a research focus and may be a transitional degree to the Doctorate.

4 Public universities involved in research activities and offering research programmes to students. These 4 universities are categorised as research universities.

The four research universities in Malaysia are:

• University of Malaya (UM)

• Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

• Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)

• Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

There are four Qualification Levels for Taught-Postgraduate Programmes as following:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Postgraduate Certificate Postgraduate Diploma Master's degree Doctorates (PhD)
Postgraduate Certificate
Postgraduate Diploma

The postgraduate certificate (PG Cert) and postgraduate diploma (PG Dip) are normally short, that is, one year or less. They can also be part of a continuing professional development (CPD). Most PG Dip programmes also consist of a series of assignments and a short dissertation. A taught-Mas+er's degree programme can involve one year of full-time or two years of part-time studies. Students of such programmes who do not complete the final dissertation (which can be up to 20,000 words) have been known to be awarded postgraduate diploma qualifications. Postgraduate diplomas which can be taken as a stand-alone qualification, or used to proceed to a full Master's degree, may require a shorter dissertation.


Master's Degree

A Master's degree programme normally consists of several compulsory subjects and a choice of optional modules. It could also involve a number of extended essays and / or a lengthy dissertation (up to 20,000 words). A specialist or professional Master's degree generally takes one to two years to complete.


Doctorates (PhD)

Taught business-related doctorate programmes are on the increase. Some business schools offer a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme. This is aimed at high-level executives who may have completed an MBA already.

Some schools offer a Professional or Practitioner Doctorate, mainly on subjects with a vocational orientation such as education, engineering, clinical physiology and business studies. In subjects such as education and business studies, essays, projects and dissertations can be structured around work experience as well as academic content. In technology subjects, group projects are conducted in relation to industrial placements, highlighting the vocational orientation of the degree.

Types of
Taught Master's Degrees

1) Specialist or Professional Master's Degrees 2) Conversion Course
In the US, Professional or Specialist Master's programmes may comprise entirely structured courses or with an additional special project work. These programmes rarely require a lengthy thesis or research paper. Some programmes may require several years of work experience before admission.

In Malaysia, the most popular taught Master's degree programme is the post-experience business-related programme which is the Master's in Business Administration (MBA). This particular programme teaches finance, statistics, managerial economics and knowledge of how companies compete and operate in different global environments and situations. MBA degrees are frequently sought by individuals with little or no educational background in the field of business but with some work experience.

In many cases, MBA programmes are sought by many engineers to strengthen their interpersonal and management skills so as to enhance their technical background. Another example could be the specialist postgraduate programme such as the Master's in Computer Science which is almost exclusively for those who have already earned Bachelor's degrees in related subjects and who are actively working in that field.

Some taught-programmes classify themselves as 'conversion courses'. They aim at students who are not from the study discipline but who wish to change the direction of their careers. Conversion courses are characterized by an intense and in-depth introduction to the subject. A classic conversion course is one that moves a student from, for example, any undergraduate degree into a position where he or she could embark on a career in IT.


Programme Structure for Doctorate Degrees

An Example of a PhD Programme Structure

First and Second Year Involve a heavy dose of course work.
Third and Fourth Year Students must prepare for a series of grueling tests known as orals, qualifying exams, comprehensive exams, candidacy exams, or doctoral exams.

Requirements for MA and MSc as well as PhD vary widely from programme to programme and from one university to another. If your long-term goal is the PhD degree, some universities prefer that you apply directly to the PhD programme. Once admitted, you may pursue a Master's degree first or may proceed to the PhD degree without taking a Master's degree. Some universities will require that you complete a Master's degree before gaining admission to the PhD programme.

Master's Degrees and Doctorate Level

A basic requirement of postgraduate programmes must have a good proficiency in English.

1) Master's Degree Level

English, languages, humanities  Foundation bio sciences, built environment Foundation specializing in finance Foundation arts, sciences, social sciences Foundation civil engineering, mechanical
Taught-course or research
Taught-course or research


Mixture of taught and research or purely research

Can be a mixture of seminars, practical, lectures, project work
Assessment - continuous assessment with exam / dissertation /
coursework or oral exam
Assessment - exam plus dissertation or thesis; sometimes
coursework and oral exam
Assessment - assessment of modules, sometimes extended
project work
Assessment - thesis plus oral exam
Comments - higher level than MA, MSc. Can sometimes be
used to convert to PhD
Assessment - exams plus some coursework
Requirement : a recognized Bachelor's degree in the relevant field; or other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Bachelor's degree with relevant experience Requirement : a recognized Bachelor's degree in the relevant field; or other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Bachelor's degree with relevant experience Requirement : a recognized Bachelor's degree with lower second and higher honors in any field two to three years of relevant working experience is usually a prerequisite for this type of course Requirement :  a recognized Bachelor's degree in any field Requirement : a recognized Bachelor's degree in the relevant field; or other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Bachelor's degree with relevant experience

2) Doctoral Degree Level

PhD / DPhil
For all areas
Delivery - research
Assessment - thesis plus oral exam
Requirement : For Doctorate / Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) a recognized Bachelor's degree AND Master's degree that are relevant to the area of research; or other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Master's degree with relevant experience
Requirement : For Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) a minimum requirement of MBA / its equivalent plus substantial management experience; or a recognized Master's degree and sound knowledge in business and management-related fields
Requirement : For Professional doctorate (Doctor of Medical Science, Doctor of Engineering, Doctor of Manufacturing, etc) The minimum requirement is a Bachelor's degree PLUS a Master's degree in the relevant field

Master's in Business Administration and the Fees for Malaysian Students
Master of Business Administration (MBA)

  1) Private Universities Master of Business
 Course Fee
Full-time / Part-time
1 Binary University College Rm 27,000  16 Months
2 HELP University College Rm 21,300 1.5 Years
3 Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College Rm 20,750 2 Years
4 Multimedia University (Kampus Melaka) Rm 24,500 2½ Years
5 Open University Malaysia Rm 21,390 2 Years
6 Sunway University College
(MBA awarded by Victoria University, Australia) 
Rm 30,000 Years
7 Universiti Tenaga Nasional Rm 22,470 2 Years
8 Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (Distance Learning) Rm 16,875 1.5 to 5 Years
9 University College Sedaya International Rm 26,000 1 Year
10 INTI University College
(MBA awarded by Southern Cross University, Australia) 
Rm 28,080 1 to 2 Years

  2) Foreign University
 Branch Campuses in Malaysia
Master of Business
 Course Fee
Full-time / Part-time
1 Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Malaysia Rm 28,000 2 to 7 Years
2 The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus Rm 46,000 1 Yr

  3) Public University Master of Business Course Fee Duration
Full-time / Part-time
1 International Islamic University Malaysia Rm 18,500 16-30 Months
2 Universiti Malaya Rm 19,219 2 Years
3 Universiti Malaysia Sabah Rm 13,500 2-5 Years
4 Universiti Sains Malaysia Rm 16,940 2 Years
5 Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka Rm 14,470 2 Years
6 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Rm 20,000 3-6 Semester
7 Universiti Utara Malaysia Rm 250.00 per credit 6 Semester
8 Universiti Putra Malaysia Rm 20,250 2 Years (evening class)

  4) Private College Master of Business
Course Fee

Full-time / Part-time

1 Olympia College Rm 28,300 2 Years (F/T)
2 SEGi College
in collaboration with University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Australia
Rm 29,884 2 Years
  SEGi College
in Collaboration with University of Sunderland, U.K 
Rm 31,400 2 Years
3 Stamford College
awarded by Lansbridge University Canada 
Rm 32,000 15 Months

  Aid for postgraduate studies :  
1 • University Fellowships: Some universities award fellowships on the basis of merit and department recommendation. These fellowships usually cover tuition fees and provide a stipend.
2 • Scholarships: Many universities give scholarships from endowed funds that have been donated by individuals who wish to assist students in their academic endeavors. In some cases the donor may specify certain characteristics that a student must possess in order to receive the award. Check with your university to see if there is an application for these sorts of scholarships.
3 • Assistantships: These are usually sponsored by the institution at which you are applying for and are most commonly available for Doctoral candidates in the Science and Engineering fields.
4 • Teaching Assistantships: These usually provide full or partial tuition benefits as well as a competitive hourly wage. Responsibilities include teaching undergraduate courses, grading papers, compiling bibliographies, leading discussion sections and monitoring laboratories. However, these positions can be time-consuming as you are often expected to maintain office hours and grade examinations. On the other hand, if you are interested in teaching or are considering pursuing a Doctoral degree, this is a great way to gain experience in the classroom.
5 • Research Assistantships: These types of positions are most widely available in the Sciences areas, although some Humanities and Social Science Departments hire Research Assistants as well. Research assistants work with the faculty on their research projects and receive tuition benefits.

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