Life in Malaysia

Malaysia is an Islamic country and is governed by local Shari’a law. It is important to be respectful of this. Under this law homosexual acts are illegal and there are severe penalties for drug possession. If students are from western countries and considering studying in Malaysia it is worth noting these different values. However, Malaysia is a multi-cultural society and tolerant of other religions and races.

A tropical nation in the heart of the Southeast Asia, Malaysia is associated with the cultural and culinary vibrancy of the region. Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes are easily and cheaply available at most restaurants and hawker stalls, whilst fast-food restaurants and western food are easily found too. In addition, various other delectable cuisines are also available, such as Middle Eastern and Thai food. Malaysia is popularly known as Asia’s food paradise.

Malaysia is considered to have very affordable living costs. Accommodation, food, transport costs, food and other essentials are all at a reasonable cost. The average yearly cost of living ranges from RM 12,000 to RM 17,000 (which is $3,430 - $4,850).


The cost of accommodation in Malaysia varies depending on where you choose to study your postgraduate course. In general student accommodation in Malaysia is considered quite costly.

University accommodation – such as halls of residence

Private accommodation – house and flat rentals

Climate in Malaysia

Malaysia has a tropical/ equatorial climate, meaning it can be extremely hot and humid all year round. Seasons are not defined as they are in other parts of the world. There is also likely to be a small amount of rainfall almost every day.


Malaysia has a good system of public transport, but costs vary depending on the city you are studying your postgraduate course in.


The currency of Malaysia is the Ringgit (RM)

Population In Malaysia

The graduate education system in Malaysia is the same as many other countries, such as the UK but there is a higher number of private universities in Malaysia.

There is a wide choice of graduate programs including Masters degrees and research PHD studies at Malaysian universities, and foreign university branch campuses in the country.

Postgraduate study in Malaysia offers high quality teaching with a relatively affordable cost of education and easy immigration procedures compared to other countries

In Malaysia there are government-funded and private institutions. Those that are government-funded include all public colleges, polytechnics and universities. Private institutions include non-university institutions like colleges and university-status institutions like private universities and campuses of foreign universities in Malaysia.

Graduate programs in Malaysia fall into three main categories:

  • Taught Masters (MAs/MScs/MEng)
  • Research Masters (MRes/ MA by Research)
  • Doctorates and PhDs

Taught Masters are postgraduate courses that follow a similar pattern to undergraduate study, with lectures, seminars and tutorials. You will be expected to research topics yourself and take and independent approach to studying.

Research Masters are often seen as pre-cursor to a PhD. You will research a particular topic independently and focus on improving your research skills to produce a dissertation or final projects.

Masters programs in Malaysia generally last between 1-5 years, with PhDs taking up to four years to complete.

Postgraduate courses at both public and private universities in Malaysia are usually taught in English.

Studying abroad can be fun as well as challenging. The fun part obviously lies in being able to travel abroad – that too to a developed country which in most cases is also a tourist hotspot. So, in some ways you feel like floating in a bubble about to conquer the world. But this bubble of excitement gets a reality check of sorts when confronted by the gravity of studying abroad: bouts of loneliness, long-distance travel that gives one a jet-lag, trouble getting acclimatized and managing the necessary funds, to mention a few. If you are planning to study in Malaysia, a similar bitter-sweet moment may challenge you. One way of reducing the bitterness and making your stay in Malaysia sweeter is to work during study in Malaysia. But before we start with part-time jobs, first let’s take a look at what makes Malaysia a viable study-abroad destination.

Malaysia’s stars are rising as a study-abroad destination

Currently, five Malaysian universities are listed in QS world rankings 2016, helping it build a case among students. But there are other reasons as well why students come to study in Malaysia. Prominent among them includes:

  • It is much cheaper to study in Malaysia than in top academic destinations like Australia and USA. For example, the average cost of an engineering degree in the UK is about USD 45,000; the same degree costs USD16,000 in Malaysia.
  • Malaysia’s education system is modeled on the British education system, which is very popular among members of the Commonwealth.
  • A cultural melting pot, Malaysia is cosmopolitan and forward looking with a long list of tourist attractions So, if you have fallen for the charm of Malaysia, we can move to our next topic: work during study in Malaysia


Expats wanting to work in Malaysia will require a work permit. Obtaining a work permit for Malaysia is often a lengthy and complicated process. However, choosing to work without a valid work permit is not an option due to Malaysia’s strict laws.

There are currently restrictions on the number of foreign workers a Malaysian company can employ. If wanting to hire foreign workers, the company will have to prove to the government that the potential employee and their position are of vital importance and the job cannot be filled by a local. The approval of the employment will be granted by different regulatory agencies in conjunction with the Immigration Department, depending on the industry and nature of work the foreigner will be undertaking. Once the approval for the appointment has been granted, the company can then begin the application process for the work permit on behalf of the expat.

Work permits generally last between six months and five years, depending on the duration of the work contract and the type of visa. Application forms are mostly in Bahasa Malaysia, and applications for Malaysian work permits are done within Malaysia.

When entering Malaysia on business or with the intention of staying on, visitors are required to have a sponsor within Malaysia. As part of the visa application process, a reference number will be issued so that it’s possible to track the progress of the application on the Immigration Department of Malaysia’s official website.

Types of work permits for Malaysia

The Malaysian government generally issues three different types of work permits:

Professional Visit Pass

The Professional Visit Pass is issued to foreigners employed by an overseas company but working with a company in Malaysia. This pass is normally appropriate for technical experts and trainees, as well as volunteers. The Professional Pass is normally valid for short periods of around six months to a year.

Temporary Employment Pass

A Temporary Employment Pass is for unskilled or semi-skilled workers in the manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services fields, with a salary of less than RM 5000. The pass is normally valid for two years, with extensions available on a yearly basis.

Employment Pass

An Employment Pass applies to those wanting to work in Malaysia and who have specific skills, generally in technical or managerial positions. It is usually issued for a minimum period of two years. Before the Employment Pass can be issued, the employment of the foreign worker must be approved by the Expatriate Committee or the relevant regulatory agency.


AIMST University

Asia e University

Allianze University College of Medical Sciences

Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation

Bricksfield Asia College

Berjaya University College of Hospitality

Binary University College of Management and Entrepreneurship

Curtin University of Technology

Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences

HELP University

SEGI University

Taylor’s University


Tun Abdul Razak University

TATI University College

Tunku Abdul Rahman University

Twintech University College of Technology

UCSI University

University of Kuala Lumpur

University of Nottingham

Unitar International University

Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia

UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan

Universiti Malaya

International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance

International University College Of Technology Twintech

INTI University

Insaniah University College

Industrial University of Selangor

KBU University College

KDU University College

Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University

Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur

Linton University College

Lincoln University College

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology

Mantissa College

Multimedia University

Melaka Manipal Medical College

Malaysia Theological Seminary

Malaysia University of Science and Technology

Management and Science University

Monash University

Nilai University

Open University Malaysia

Penang Medical College

Petronas University of Technology

Putra Intelek International College

Swinburne University of Technology

Selangor International Islamic University College

Sunway University

Documents required for work permit applications

Generally, the following documents are required when applying for a work permit for Malaysia:

  • Application form and letter of appointment from employer
  • Offer of acceptance letter or employment contract
  • Relevant visa application forms
  • Letter of approval from Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Original receipts of payment of application
  • Copy of employee’s passport
  • Passport photos
  • Copies of employee’s CV and qualifications
  • Letter from employer confirming they will pay salaries and tax revenues for employee
  • Proof that employer operates according to the regulatory conditions of the industry
  • Medical report from the employee’s country of origin approved by the Malaysian Ministry of Health
  • *Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.