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Last updated in 2018

Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1.: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System


Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

The familiar degree structure containing Bachelor, Master’s and PhD programmes is found in Malaysia and is supplemented with undergraduate and postgraduate diploma programmes. Minimum credit values are proposed for the qualifications pegged to the Malaysian Qualifications Framework.

Programmes offered by private higher education institutions are accredited on a programme-by-programme basis. Only the programmes listed by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) on the Malaysian Qualifications Register (MQR) are considered to be national awards.

Diploma courses are MQF Level 4 awards, offered by universities, polytechnics and accredited private providers. These awards are available in both the higher education and vocational sectors. The Diploma programmes require the completion of at least 90 credits in the credit system.

The Advanced Diploma is a 40-credit level 5 award in the MQF. It aims to provide individuals with the knowledge, practical skills and managerial abilities to take on more complex and higher responsibilities in the workplace.

Bachelor degree
The duration of a Bachelor degree (MQF Level 6) is between three and four years (120 credits and above), although courses in certain programmes may last longer, for example, medicine and dentistry are five-year degrees. Degree programmes usually comprise some general study courses, general and specific core courses and some chosen subjects. An Honours degree may be awarded if a sufficiently high score has been achieved. A dissertation or a final -year project may form part of the programme.

Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma
Graduate Certificates (30 credits) and Graduate Diplomas (60 credits) are also available in some universities and accredited institutions. They are normally taken by students who wish to change their field of study or continue their professional development.

Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma
Some institutions offer postgraduate certificate and postgraduate diploma programmes lasting between one and two years with a minimum credit value of 20 and 30 points, respectively. Most of the content of these courses are at Master’s degree level, but they tend to be shorter and include less independent study.

Master’s degree
A Master’s degree requires one to three years of further study after a Bachelor degree. There are three types of Master’s degrees; a coursework only Master’s (e.g., Master of Business Administration), a research only degree and mixed-mode programmes that include a mixture of coursework and research. The programmes that contain coursework have a credit value of at least 40 credits in the framework.

Some universities also offer Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degrees. In some cases, these are the same as Master’s degrees (e.g., Master of Arts, Master of Science) by research. In other cases, they are higher research degrees that allow a student to convert their candidacy to doctoral programmes subject to specified requirements

A PhD is awarded after the completion of a further three years of study following a Master’s degree. In certain subjects, the course can last up to seven years. Doctoral students are expected to conduct independent research that contributes to the broadening of knowledge within their area of expertise.

Collaboration between Private and Overseas Higher Education Institutions

Local colleges working with overseas institutions either offer a split degree programme or offer the entire degree programme in Malaysia.

split degree programme can take the form of the following:

  • Twinning programme – the student partially completes the award at the private college and completes the remaining years at the partner institution, which then awards the qualification.
  • Credit transfer programme – the private college has an agreement with a number of foreign institutions so students can transfer the credits from their studies towards a degree programme at their chosen overseas institution.
  • Advanced standing programme – students study for one or two years at the private college. They can then get recognition for part of or all of their study to gain advanced standing to complete the remaining portion of the degree programme at a foreign institution.
  • Entire degree programmes can be taken at one of the private colleges. This can be done in the following ways:
  • 3+0 programme – the entire programme is offered in Malaysia by a private college on behalf of the foreign partner institution.
  • External programmes – the student registers for the external programme of a foreign university, and the private college acts as a tutorial centre. The degree gained is identical to the one awarded to the internal students of the foreign university.
  • Distance learning – similar to the external programme, students learn through video conferencing and audio-visual materials with tutorial support provided by the private college.


Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

  • Public Universities: 20
  • Polytechnics: 36
  • Community Colleges: 94

Cut-off date: 31 December 2017


Private HEIs: 467

  1. With University Status: 53
  2. With University Status (International University Branch Campus): 10
  3. With University College Status: 38
  4. With College Status: 366

Cut-off date: 31 August 2018

Source: Registration and Standard Division, Department of Higher Education, MOE


Section 1.4 Number of Students in Higher Education

General number of students (enrolment) & number of students divided by type of institution 

Higher Education Institutions
Public Universities
Private HEIs
Community Colleges

Number of foreign students

Level of Studies
Postgraduate Diploma

Number of outgoing exchange students with credit transfer:   not available

Number of incoming exchange students with credit transfer:  not available

Cut-off date: 31 December 2017, Source:


Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

Typical structure of an academic year are as follows:

Long Semester
Short Semester
No. of Weeks*
No. of Semesters


Long Semester
Short Semester
No. of Weeks*
No. of Semesters


Long Semester
Short Semester
No. of Weeks*
No. of Semesters

*Including study week and exam

The beginning of academic year varies by institution. For public institutions, the academic year for most programmes begin in September and ends in May. Some institutions begin their academic year in February and ends it in November. There are also institutions which begin their academic year in June.


Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

The Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) is a national instrument, which develops and classifies qualifications based on a set of criteria that is nationally agreed and internationally benchmarked, and which clarifies the academic levels, learning outcomes and credit system based on student academic load. There eight levels of outcome-based qualification in the MQF.

No credit rating
PhD by Research
Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)
Doctoral Degree by Mixed Mode & Coursework
No credit rating
Master’s by Research
Master’s by Mixed Mode & Coursework
Postgraduate Diploma
Postgraduate Certificate
Bachelor’s degree
Graduate Diploma
Graduate Certificate
Advanced Diploma
Advanced Diploma
*Technical and Vocational Education and Training.
**Inclusive of 6 credits from general studies subjects.


Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

Learning outcomes are statements that explain what students should know, understand and can do upon successful completion of a period of study, which generally lead to a qualification or part of a qualification.

Below are the five clusters of learning outcomes in MQF:

Knowledge and understanding
Cognitive skills
Functional work skills with focus on:
  1. Practical skills
  2. Interpersonal skills
  3. Communication skills
  4. Digital skills
  5. Numeracy skills
  6. Leadership, autonomy and responsibility
Personal and entrepreneurial skills
Ethics and professionalism

Further, the learning outcomes are asserted in three categories, which are levels of qualification, fields of study and programme.


Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

The general entry requirement for undergraduate degrees is the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM), Matriculation or an equivalent pre-university programme. The minimum entrance requirement is three passes in the STPM and applicants are generally expected to have achieved at least two principal passes, but in practice higher scores are needed. A minimum CGPA of 2.00 (grade C) in the Matriculation Examination is required to be considered for university admission, but a higher grade is normally needed to gain a place. The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) Senior Middle Level Certificate is not accepted for entry into public universities, but often allows access to private institutions.

The minimum entry requirement to higher education are as follows

Qualification/MQF Level
Bachelor (Level 6)
  • Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM) with minimum Grade C in two subjects; or
  • Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (the Malaysian Higher Islamic Religious Certificate) with minimum achievement of Jayyid; or
  • Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) with minimum Grade B in five subjects; or
  • Matriculation/Foundation/Pre-University programme with minimum CGPA of 2.00; or
  • Diploma (MQF Level 4)/Advanced Diploma (MQF Level 5) with minimum CGPA of 2.00; or
  • Any other equivalent qualification.
Masters (Level 7)
  • Bachelor Degree (MQF Level 6) or its equivalent with minimum CGPA of 2.50 out of 4.00 as accepted by the Senate of the HEI; or
  • Bachelor Degree (MQF Level 6) or its equivalent but not meeting CGPA 2.50 out of 4.00 can be accepted subject to a minimum of 5 years of working experience in relevant field.
Mixed-mode and Research
  • Bachelor Degree (MQF Level 6) or its equivalent with minimum CGPA of 2.75 out of 4.00, as accepted by the Senate of the HEI; or
  • Bachelor Degree (MQF Level 6) or its equivalent with minimum CGPA of 2.50 out of 4.00, and not meeting CGPA 2.75 can be accepted subject to a rigorous internal assessment; or
  • Bachelor Degree (MQF Level 6) or its equivalent not meeting CGPA of 2.50 out of 4.00 can be accepted subject to a minimum of 5 years of working experience in relevant field.
Doctoral (Level 8)
  • Masters Degree (MQF Level 7) as accepted by the Senate of the HEI; or
  • Other qualification equivalent to a Masters degree that is accepted by the Senate of the HEI.

Language requirements

For Diploma level programmes, students are expected to achieve Band 2 in the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) or a Score of 4.0 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or its equivalent. For Bachelor level, it is MUET Band 3 or IELTS 5.0 or its equivalent. For postgraduate programmes, international students are expected to achieve language proficiency of IELTS 5.0 or its equivalent. But, some fields of study require higher score, for example, programmes in the field of Business Studies require IELTS Score of 6.0 or its equivalent.


Section 1.9: Grading System

Grade Point
Conditional Pass


Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

The fees for international students include tuition fees and other study fees depending on the field of studies and duration of a programme. The Ministry of Education (Higher Education Sector) is the entitty that monitors and controls the fees for international students studying in Malaysia.


Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

For Bachelors Programme minimum graduation credit is 120.
For Masters Programme minimum CGPA for graduation is 3.00 and above with a minimum graduating credit of 40.


Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

Mid-Term Review of Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) 2015-2025 (Higher Education)


  • Based on the current political and socio-economic progress in Malaysia and the internal restructuring of the Ministry of Education, a review of the successful implementation of Wave 1 and the progress of Wave 2 of the MEB (HE) is needed for timely intervention, re-strategizing and ensuring the success of Wave 3 implementation.
  • With the fast changing global patterns and trends (emergence and awareness of Industrial Revolution 4, Industry 4.0 and Society 5.0, etc.), further realignment of the MEB (HE) is needed to embrace these changes for a happier, loving and mutually trusting education ecosystem.


  • Thorough review of the effectiveness of the implementation, current achievements and challenges of the ten transformational shifts of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) 2015-2025 (Higher Education).


  • A comprehensive review of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) 2015-2025 (Higher Education).
  • Transformational programmes and appropriate interventions in improving the next phase of implementation based on:
    • best practices from benchmarking
    • the needs of current challenges and future trends


Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA)

The establishment of a new entity which merges the National Accreditation Board (LAN) and the Quality Assurance Division, Ministry of Higher Education (QAD) was approved by the Government on 21 December 2005. This entity is responsible for quality assurance of higher education for both the public and the private sectors.

The new entity, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), was established on 1 November 2007 with the coming in force of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act 2007. The MQA was officially launched by the Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Dato’ Mustapa Mohamed, on 2 November 2007.

The main role of the MQA is to implement the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) as a basis for quality assurance of higher education and as the reference point for the criteria and standards for national qualifications. The MQA is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the quality assurance practices and accreditation of national higher education.

The establishment of the MQA saw LAN dissolved and its personnel absorbed into the MQA.

With the vision to be a global authority on quality assurance of higher education and the mission to put in place a system of quality assurance that is recognised internationally, the MQA is set to chart new boundaries in higher education quality assurance.


As a quality assurance body, the functions of MQA are:

  1. To implement MQF as a reference point for Malaysian qualifications;
  2. To develop standards and credits and all other relevant instruments as national references for the conferment of awards with the cooperation of stakeholders;
  3. To quality assure higher education institutions and programmes;
  4. To accredit courses that fulfil the set criteria and standards;
  5. To facilitate the recognition and articulation of qualifications; and
  6. To maintain the Malaysian Qualifications Register (MQR)

Programmes offered by public institutions are listed on the MQR if they are recognised by the Public Service Department or by the relevant professional body.

There are two processes involved in the current MQA accreditation system:

  1. Provisional Accreditation – this initial process is designed to help higher education providers achieve accreditation by enhancing the standards and quality of provision.Accreditation – this is a formal recognition that the certificate, diploma or degree programme meets MQA standards.
  2. New courses are initially given provisional accreditation and full accreditation is awarded once a full cycle has been completed.


Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

5 years
5 years
Further explanation
Every 5 years HEIs have to go through programme maintenance audit to maintain the accreditation status of their programmes.
For self-accrediting institutions, they have to go through self-accreditation maintenance audit to maintain their self-accrediting status once every five years and submit a biennial report to MQA. 


Malaysian Qualifications Register (MQR)

Section 81 of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act 2007 (Act 679) provides that the Agency shall establish and maintain a national register known as the Malaysian Qualifications Register (MQR), containing programmes, qualifications and higher education providers accredited under the Act.

The MQR is the reference point for accredited programmes awarded by higher education providers. These programmes or qualifications (i.e., certificate, diploma, advanced diploma, or degree) must conform to the Malaysian Qualifications Framework.

The objectives of the MQR are:

  1. to provide information on accredited programmes and qualifications;
  2. to enable stakeholders to know, understand and make comparison on the features of a qualification and its relationship with other qualifications;
  3. to facilitate the credit transfer process.

Contents of MQR are as follows:

  1. name and address of the higher education institution
  2. application reference number
  3. name of the qualification
  4. field of the qualification
  5. validity period
  6. qualification level
  7. credit requirements to graduate and
  8. Mode and duration of study.

Additional information such as learning outcome statements of the programme, admission criteria and other relevant information will be uploaded from time to time.

The MQR plays a significant role in ensuring that accredited higher education qualifications are registered and made available for reference to all stakeholders. Higher education providers, both local and foreign, may apply to have their qualifications registered in the MQR provided that the programmes fulfill the standards and criteria set and are accredited.

The MQR also contains information on the credit requirements of each qualification or programme, and thus facilitate the credit transfer process from one level to another.

The information in the MQR can also be used for certification or clarification regarding any registered qualification. Any interested party may refer to the MQR in order to obtain verification on the status of any qualification. An extract from the MQR is available upon request.


Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

Provision for credit system is stated in MQA Act 2007 section 36(f) ‘to establish a credit system to facilitate credit accumulation and transfer which is acceptable within and outside Malaysia’.

Credit system plays an increasingly important role in higher education, both at national and international levels.

Its key importance lies in its ability to quantify and record student-learning achievements.

Credit system:

  1. helps to measure student learning and programme transparency;
  2. provides flexibility to HEPs in programme design and delivery;
  3. helps to achieve common understanding and secure standards of qualifications;
  4. facilitates credit transfer and recognition within, and among the skills, technical and vocational, academic and professional sectors;
  5. facilitates comparability of qualifications locally or internationally by comparing credit load;
  6. aids access and credit transfers based on assessment of prior formal, informal and non-formal learnings; and
  7. promotes mobility of students and workers between institutions, regionally and globally.Credit has both qualitative and quantitative value overall. MQF is also seen as Credit-Reference Qualifications Framework as mandatory minimum credit accumulation for each level and transferable credits are prescribed and regulated. At the institutional and programme levels, policies and requirements on credit exemptions and transfers between programmes and between institutions locally and abroad, must be provided.

Key elements to be observed on the credit system:

  1. The MQA Act 2007 defines a credit as ‘a representative measure to reflect the academic load’. Within the MQF, ‘credit is a quantitative measure that represents the volume of learning or academic load to attain the set of learning outcomes.’ It is a measure of the total academic/learning load or volume of learning a student must undertake to achieve a defined group of learning outcomes.
  2. In this aspect, ‘academic load’ is a quantitative measure of all the learning activities required to achieve a defined set of learning outcomes: lectures, tutorial, seminar, practical, clinical practice, self-study, retrieval of information, studio work, research, fieldwork, WBL as well as preparing and sitting for an examination.
  3. The Malaysian credit value is 1 credit equivalent to 40 Notional Learning Hours (NLHs). This took into consideration the semester system and assumption of availability of learning hours of average students, various learning activities, guided or independent learning and non-face-to-face-learning.
  4. Credit(s) may also be acquired by learners through assessment and validation of prior experiential learning in other settings.
  5. The minimal credit load for each level is defined by the Framework (and is independent of the mode of delivery of learning). However, higher credit requirements for specific qualifications are established, indicated based on fields of study or for professional programmes accordingly.
  6. Credit transfer is subject to the policy and framework set to enable learners to accumulate credits and to transfer credit.
  7. Credit exemption: Allows a student to be granted credit on application for exemption for a course(s) based upon learning achieved in another programme. However, this does not preclude institutions from requiring, of those granted credit transfers or exemptions, obligations to meet all graduation requirements, including the satisfactory completions of the minimum number of courses of that institution.


Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

Not applicable.


Section 3.3: Additional Information


  • CT can be performed either vertically or horizontally through subject to subject mapping. A strict subject-to-subject compatibility in terms of intended learning outcomes, content and performance is expected to be applied for curriculum components that define the body of knowledge of a programme. These include subjects classified as core, major, minor and specialisation.
  • CT is subjected to the general policy of credit transfer:
    1. The applicant must have obtained a minimum grade of C or its equivalent (satisfactory performance or a pass) in the previous course;
    2. The credit transfer must be for the same credit as the course credits of the programme being transferred into;
    3. The credit transfer must be based on subject or course mapping with at least 80% match in content and equivalent course outcomes (parity of course); and
    4. The programme from which the course credits are transferred from are accredited or approved in the country of origin (recognition).

CT for APEL(C)

  • APEL(C) prescribes method of assessing knowledge gained from work or life experiences. On top of that, knowledge gained from previously subscribed short courses may allow credit transfer for related courses in academic programmes enrolled at higher education institutions.
  • APEL(C) permits individuals to be exempted from taking certain subjects which will eventually help to accelerate in the completion of their study. Upon the mapping exercise conducted on the candidates, the achievement of learning outcomes can be measured for the credit transfer to be awarded.

This initiative is consistent with the government aspiration in supporting lifelong learning


  • Acumulative experiences and learning through MOOC are assessable and can be awarded with credits. Thus, the national policy recognises the award of credits for learning through MOOC and it covers all disciplines and levels of qualifications in the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).
  • Candidates with MOOC whose achievement were verified based on the competency assessed can be awarded with credits. However, MOCC offered has to be confirmed on its quality, sufficiency of curriculum content and equivalency of credits for the related courses in academic programmes at higher education institutions.

CT for Mobility Programme

  • The mobility programme aims at enriching students’ learning experience through residential programme in other institutional environment. The programme may involve collaboration between local institutions or between local institutions with foreign institutions. The credits earned through this programme at the host institution are transferable to the academic programme conducted at the sending institution.
  • The HEPs involved in student mobility programme must have a clear advance standing arrangement with their partners which describes CT applications and options according to different curriculum components of the main programme of studies. A strict subject-to-subject mapping is expected for core, major, minor and specialisation as compared to mapping for open elective courses. In principle, student should enjoy a greater flexibility in completing the overall credit requirement of open elective components through mobility programme.


Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?



Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

The number of credits per standard academic year is 50 credits.
Semester system


Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

  • Short cycle programmes (level 5) are 40.
  • Bachelor programmes (level 6) are 120 credits.
  • The number of credits for a Master programme (level 7) is minimum 40 credits
  • PhD by Mixed mode and Coursework is minimum 80 credits (there are no credits for Masters by Research (level 7) and PhD (level 8)).


Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

The Malaysian credit value is one credit equivalent to 40 Notional Learning Hours (NLHs). This took into consideration the semester system and assumption of availability of learning hours of average students, various learning activities, guided or independent learning and non-face-to-face-learning. These activities include lecture, tutorial, seminar, practical, self-study, retrieval of information, research, fieldwork, as well as preparing for, and sitting of, an examination


The MQF defines a credit as a representative measure to reflect the academic load. Academic load is a quantitative measure of all the learning activities required to achieve a defined set of learning outcomes.



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