Another Australian university to establish Malaysian branch

Wollongong move reflects Malaysia’s allure and hot competition back home

十一月 19, 2018
KDU University College, Glenmarie, Malaysia

An Australian university has announced its intention to establish the country’s fourth branch campus in Malaysia, demonstrating the Southeast Asian nation’s promise as a transnational education hub.

The University of Wollongong plans to buy KDU, a 35-year-old private education provider that won university college status in 2010, from education services and property development company Paramount Corporation Berhad.

Subject to approval from Malaysia’s education ministry, the university’s subsidiary UOW Enterprises – which already runs a branch campus in Dubai, a college in Hong Kong and a pathway college on the main Australian campus – will acquire a majority interest in KDU’s university colleges in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Rebranded University of Wollongong Malaysia, it will operate alongside the existing branch campuses of Melbourne’s Monash University and Swinburne University of Technology, and Perth’s Curtin University.

With its largely English-speaking population and proximity to many of the world’s most populous countries – including China and neighbour Indonesia – Malaysia is a logical and considerably more affordable destination for internationally mobile students than Australia or nearby Singapore.

In 2015, the Malaysian government set a target of 200,000 international students by 2020, up from about 150,000 at the time. UOW has offered higher education there for the past decade or so through partnerships with providers including INTI International University, an affiliate of US-based Laureate Education.

But while UOW’s enrolments with partners in Malaysia and other Asian countries have grown, a declining number of students from these offshore programmes have gone on to study in Australia – suggesting that overseas operations may be the only way the university can hope to attract such students.

UOW Enterprises chief executive Marisa Mastroianni promised a “smooth” transition for KDU’s staff and students, and said that UOW would phase in new undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Ms Mastroianni said that a decade of experience with Malaysia had demonstrated “strong demand” for UOW’s offerings. “Our programmes and global network of campuses will offer international mobility opportunities that support strong graduate outcomes,” she said. 

Wollongong has relied on its offshore operations to boost its international enrolments since the numbers coming to Australia slumped at the end of last decade. Annual intakes of new overseas-based students surged from about 1,600 in 2010 to 2,800 two years later, with offshore enrolments overtaking onshore ones in 2012.

Offshore commencements have stagnated since then, while onshore foreign commencements have increased by more than 40 per cent. But Australian competition for overseas students is heating up, with big-spending Chinese students in particular being monopolised by large research-intensive universities in Sydney and Melbourne.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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