Malaysia has set out its terms for overseas universities seeking to operate through local colleges. Education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak told foreign universities not to treat local private colleges as "mere agents", but to create good educational partnerships with them.
Foreign universities should "examine and refine the nature of their partnerships with local colleges to create partnerships in the true sense of the word", said Dr Najib.
Overseas institutions wishing to participate in Malaysia's expanding academic market "should manifest a degree of long-term commitment and assume nearly as much responsibility as local counterparts in maintaining and enhancing their market presence", he said.
As in industrial and corporate ventures, the process of ploughing back and reinvesting ideas and resources was a prerequisite if the educational market was to be served efficiently in the long term, said Dr Najib. Serving the market effectively did not mean merely introducing one or two units of Malaysian related studies in an imported curriculum.
He said he was referring more to the transfer of academic knowledge, management and experience to upgrade continuously academic programmes and identify new ones to ensure the programmes offered by overseas institutions remain current and relevant to market needs. Foreign universities should also endeavour to transfer their teaching and learning methodologies to local institutions. He said that he expected they would also work with local institutions to restructure, change and if necessary replace old programmes.
Universities and private colleges have been "slow to change", and the minister said he was actually proposing that foreign universities and local institutions "be more customer-oriented, service customers properly and not let strong market demand turn into an excuse for deep complacency".
The gradual evolution of Malaysia into a regional centre of educational excellence will generate competitive forces that will separate mediocre institutions from the market leaders. Those now assuming themselves to be leaders must recognise that to remain at the cutting edge, they must run faster than the ever-increasing number of entrants into the private education market.
Foreign institutions were expected to invest in more comprehensive libraries, containing large stocks of up-to-date journals, magazines and computerised learning resources.
Dr Najib emphasised that for Malaysia to achieve its goal of becoming a centre of educational excellence, it was not necessary for it to copy advanced western countries in every respect.
There was no reason why Malaysia should not come up with its own better system.