LAST_UPDATEWed, 20 Jun 2018 8pm

Public And Private Universities – Is The “Product” Any Different?

Convocation ceremony in one of the local universities. Pic: ceremony in one of the local universities. Pic: and large, university is a higher learning institution that provides education for the intellectual and moral enlightenment of an individual, or in its simplest term – it is the transmission of civilization – whether you agree or not.

Over the past few decades, we have witnessed the burgeoning of both public and private universities in Malaysia. Remarkably, the number of government-funded local universities grew from just a handful in 1980s to more than 20 today, let alone private universities and colleges. According to UNESCO, Malaysia is ranked the world’s 11th most preferred study destination.

This leads us to an inevitable question: Do public universities really outperform private universities with its grants and funding from the government? Or are private universities automatically superior to public universities with its partnership with leading universities worldwide? To put it simply, which one is better?

Let’s delve deeper and find out more.


Public And Private Universities: A Quick Comparison

In Malaysia, the most notable difference between public and private universities is the tuition fee. This is mainly because public universities receive research grants, funding and direct subsidies from the government. Take, for example, a Finance degree course in local public universities only costs around RM9,800 - RM15,000 for 3 years of studies. While in private universities or colleges, it may cost a lot more, usually 3-5 times higher.

Some of the public universities in Malaysia. Pic: sportandstock.blogspot.comSome of the public universities in Malaysia. Pic:

In the last budget, the government allocated RM600 million in research grants for the more prominent national public institutions of higher learning (research universities) namely Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Also, earlier this year, the government said it will continue to allocate funding for public universities encouraged by the performance of local academics in research and publishing articles in international journals.

“We would like to maintain the same budget. Our research universities are getting better now. We are more competent now,” said Education Minister II Idris Jusoh at an event last February.

In addition, some public universities in Malaysia receive assistance for scholarships, seminar sponsorships, study tours and research equipment from international agencies, which is certainly good news for its students and academicians alike.

Private universities and colleges, on the other hand, usually rely on corporate investment, alumni and student funding under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 to sustain their operations. Hence, it is no surprise that the cost of tuition in private institutions is relatively higher compare to public ones. Among the prominent private universities in the country include AIMST University, HELP University College, INTI University College, Monash University – just to name a new.

Speaking of academic staff, public universities have over 80% of their teaching staff who are PhD holders while less than 20% of those in private universities fall under this category. Although some may argue the fact that PhD graduates may not necessarily be the best academicians or lecturers, but they are most likely to be better researchers.

In terms of the entry requirements, there is no denying that most Malaysians are of the view that it is harder to get into public universities as they impose strict admissions due to limited space, though this perception may be true to a certain extent. Speaking of which, although private universities or colleges have minimum admission requirements to meet, the requirements are comparatively lenient compared to public universities.Some of the private universities and colleges in Malaysia. Pic: sportandstock.blogspot.comSome of the private universities and colleges in Malaysia. Pic:

However, on the diversity of courses available, most of us would reach a consensus that private universities offer more choices to aspiring students as compared with public universities. For instance, some private universities and colleges offer courses like Urban Planning & Design, Mobile Computing, Transport Design, Games Technology, Aircraft Maintenance Engineering and so on.  These courses are uncommon or, to be precise, rarely available in public universities.

With regards to the learning experience, both public and private universities and colleges have their own strengths. Public and private institutions of higher learning offer different exposure but similarly engaging and attractive learning environment from students from more than 150 countries all around the globe. According to the Institute of International Education, there was a 26.5% increase of international students from 50,788 to 69,154 in 2009. It is indeed something applaudable and worth praising!

Facilities are of utmost importance for any university. In this regard, public universities are arguably better than private universities since the former are partially funded by government. It is thus understandable that the database and library in public universities are incomparable to those of private universities. For example, Universiti Malaya (UM) provides library facilities for the whole campus and the collection comprises of books, journals, databases, citation indexes and other electronic resources. On the contrary, library systems offered in some private universities are not always comprehensive, user-friendly and accessible.

Last but not least, the university ranking, without much doubt, is oftentimes used as the barometer to gauge the competitiveness of a university. Both public and private universities have over the years strived to be the best among the rest.

Following Are The Top Ranking Malaysian Universities in 2014 (QS Ranking):


Employers' Perception On The Marketability Of Graduates

Last Friday, Malaysian Digest contacted Ms. Lai Pei Yoong, Human Resource Manager of Consumer Financial Service (CFS) division from Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) Bank, Kuala Lumpur Headquarter. Pic: teachthebudget.comPic:

“When it comes to recruitment, the quality of the job applicants, above all else, is the most important criteria. I strongly believe that both public and private universities produce highly competent undergraduates,” she said when being asked on the matter.

Lai added that there is no bias in the recruitment and selection process even if the candidates consist of both local and private university graduates.

Another interview was with Ms. Liew Yen Ming, a Senior Recruitment Consultant from Agensi Pekerjaan & Perundingcara Bright Prospect Sdn. Bhd.

“I am of the view that graduates from both public and private universities are equally skilled and competent. As long as the applicants fulfill the requirements, we hire them,” said Liew.

She further mentioned that there is no so-called ‘preferred choice’ between them.

Hence, from the interviews, we can at least conclude that both public and private universities graduates have equal employment opportunities in the workplace.


A Final Word To Aspiring Students

Lectures and tutorials in any university, regardless of its ranking, are merely a part of formal education. In fact, a proper education should be more than just memorizing names and facts in order to pass with flying colors.

Since it has always been an obsession in our Asian society to get good grades in any public examinations, here comes the question: Do you think scoring a string of A’s a good yardstick to one’s future? Or has it always been your belief or mindset that by entering a reputable university, you are therefore successful? I’m afraid that is no longer the case.

Instead, a true and decent education must come in the form of a self-enrichment process where the students utilize their knowledge and skills to the improvement and betterment of oneself, society and the nation as a whole; learning is an on-going process after all.

In a nutshell, the basic prerequisite of a successful education is how well-suited is the university to the individual. Thus, a comprehensive and thorough survey or research is very much needed before one embarks on a higher educational journey.

- mD