Malaysia sees role in market

September 29, 1995

Malaysia has urged more Australian students to study at its universities.

Education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that the recent "twinning" of Australian and Malaysian institutions had led to a trickle of Australian students arriving in Malaysia.

"I hope that the trickle can quickly become, if not a flood, then at least over time a strongly flowing river," Mr Najib said.

There was great scope for Malaysia and Australia to work together to raise skills levels and to develop education opportunities in the region. There were now 120,000 Malaysian graduates of Australian tertiary institutions and even some of his colleagues in the Malaysian cabinet had been educated in Australia, Mr Najib said.

"This colossal figure can make both our countries something to be proud of, and a testimony of our long-standing relationship in the field of education," the minister said.

But times had changed and Malaysia would need fewer places at Australian universities than its students currently occupied.

The two countries could become competitors in education provision in Asia.

"As our economy has changed, so dramatically have our needs. No longer do we need from countries like Australia the sort of assistance that we received in the past. These days, what we are looking for are partnerships."

Mr Najib called for "greater sophistication" in the education relationship between the two countries.

Malaysia was trying to build a larger, more flexible education sector, more responsive to its rapidly growing and changing economic requirements - and ultimately capable of exporting services to its neighbours.

While there was a growing need for intensive skills training - industry was expanding so rapidly it had outstripped the capacity of the education system to supply all the skilled workers needed - it was time for the two countries to move beyond the one-way traffic in undergraduate students.

According to the latest education statistics, more than 8,000 fee-paying students from Malaysia are now enrolled in Australian universities, easily the biggest group of foreigners on campus.

They are estimated to contribute up to Aus$100 million (Pounds 50 million) a year to university incomes.

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