Malaysian government aspires for Malaysia to become the center of educational excellence both regionally and internationally and the country currently hosts some 40,000 foreign students and this number Is expected to grow to 95,000 by 2010. Being new in the business of recruiting foreign students, Malaysian government has to be realistic in analyzing its potential by looking at the strength and weaknesses that Malaysia has.
Economic and political stability is one plus factor but Malaysia is still at its early stage in terms of having well established and renowned institutions hat will attract quality students by Itself. Nevertheless, the recent World university Ranking by Times Higher Education Supplement has listed two Malaysian universities I. E. University Malay and Universities Gains Malaysia among the 200 universities of the world and therefore enhancing the Image of Malaysia as education provider.
Marketing Malaysia as Destination for Education The government through the Ministry of Higher Education has established various policies that will encourage the flow of foreign students into Malaysia such as the setting-up of branch campuses of foreign universities that provides avenues for dents to receive degrees from established universities from developed countries but with a more complacent cost of living. The branch campuses alone are not good enough and the aspiration of the Malaysian government will materialize only when all Institutions of higher learning In Malaysia work hard in marketing themselves regionally and internationally.
The questions here is how could Malaysia compete with other countries that have been more well established as education provider such as united Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the US. Malaysian higher learning institutions are rather young compared to those in the countries mentioned. Therefore, in marketing the Institutions of higher learning In Malaysia, It Is very Important for the government and the institutions to identify “the competitive edge” that would attract foreign students to Malaysia.
The Ministry of Higher Education has made serious efforts in marketing the institutions of higher learning in Malaysia by organizing fairs and exhibitions in various targeted countries within Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Middle East. But these exhibitions will become expensive and not effective if institutions are not marketing their good programs accordingly. This is much so for public universities, Nell are mostly very comprehensive Ana sometimes teen to compete Walt can other in promoting the same programs they offer.
The Ministry has made an effort to identify the niche areas of each public university and though this is still at a discussion level, it seems to be very crucial and important especially in directing foreign students to the correct institutions during the exhibitions and also when the Ministry is answering enquiries. Besides niche areas, during these exhibitions, institutions need to provide potential foreign students with complete information on the programs they offer, support socialites available at their institutions, cost of living etc.
It is very important for each institution to walk the talk as foreign students have hopes, aspirations and expectations towards the institutions that they are applying to, there is a need to be accurate and honest about courses and facilities, especially if we want to continue taking students from the same market region. In marketing overseas, one of the strategies is to compile the perspective and view of current students towards Malaysia and the institutions they are at. One aspect in this is that enrolled students are ambassadors for future and prospective students.
Foreign students who are studying at an institution can be either the greatest advocates or adversaries. There can be a large gap between what an institution thinks a foreign student wants and what the student actually expects or enjoys. The foreign students’ perspective is also important in allowing institutions to find out what matters to them and addressing deficiencies, which will help ensure positive influence on future recruitment. After sale service should not be forgotten.
Prospective students will continue to contact institutions if they need more information. It is very crucial that marketing officers are prompt in answering enquiries and provide specific answers to specific questions. Delays would mean losing students to others who are more responsive and effective. Communicating back with those who have indicated interest is also something that cannot be ignored. Institutions must remember that marketing and communications both come hand in hand. Each is important in its own vital way.
Good communication does not only attract prospective students, it also enhances the image of the institution and helps build loyalty to prospective and enrolled students. This is where it is necessary for Malaysian institutions to look at what institutions in other countries are doing in order to recruit foreign students. Some institutions in the USA has developed what they call Peer Recruiting Strategy where good foreign students are appointed as ambassadors to talk to prospective students from their countries about the education opportunity available in the USA.
The students are sent home to meet with prospective students in an organized forum/seminar and these students will then follow-up with the enquiries that prospective students have hen they are back on campus. The prospective students get first hand information on the quality of programs, living in USA etc. Recruiting I-erelong students tongue Regional cooperation Globalization and internationalization has resulted in the mushrooming of regional networks, which provide platform for interaction and cooperation among institutions.
For networks within Southeast Asia, Malaysia has an advantage over some of the other developing countries when comparison is made in terms of age of institutions and availability of existing infrastructure for education purposes. In Malaysia, there is a strong growth inclination towards postgraduate studies especially when the government is stressing on the importance of research and centralization of research products.
By using the networks as platforms to market Malaysian potential in education, especially in displaying the research capabilities, there will be a strong possibility for other institutions in the region to send students to Malaysia. This targeted approach is much more reliable as prospective students who are nominated by institutions usually are provided with funding, either by their own institutions or y other agencies within their countries, as part of staff or human resource development.
In conclusion, we would like to stress that marketing Malaysia as education destination requires strategic planning and clear policy direction, be it at the country level or institutional level. There need to be a feedback mechanism and evaluation on current strategies and policies to ensure long lasting efforts that will benefit the country and also the institutions. Malaysia has its potential to become education destination and believing in it and working hard to achieve it will make the dream come true.