The Malaysian education ministry has warned private colleges that they face legal action if they mislead students about the foreign status of their degrees.
Private colleges have mistakenly taken as a blanket approval education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's announcement in December that they could conduct entire foreign degree programmes locally to offset the public cost of financing study abroad.
To the dismay of college principals, private education official Sri Nusa Ahmad Thaharuddin said colleges had to apply individually for state approval. "So far, we have only received five applications", he said.
Of particular concern to the ministry was that some private colleges were enticing students for foundation programmes on the basis that they would be conducting foreign university degree programmes fully in Malaysia.
Colleges could be charged under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 for making false, deceptive, offensive and misleading advertisements.
If found guilty they could face fines not exceeding M$50,000 (Pounds 6,400) or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.
The enforcement unit of the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry can also take action against errant private colleges for misleading advertisements under the Trade Description Act, 1972.