SHARJAH // Malaysia is stepping up efforts to lure university students from the UAE, following a surge in numbers in recent years.
Last week 11 institutions were represented at the Sharjah International Education Fair. From tomorrow until Thursday, 16 will be at the Najah education and careers fair in Abu Dhabi.
Owais Mohamed Aslam Kazi, the assistant marketing manager at Education Malaysia, a government body, said the number of students from the region going to study in Malaysia has been gradually rising since 2007.
Some 200 Emiratis are currently at Malaysian universities, compared with just eight in 2007.
On top of that, about 4,000 UAE-based Arab expatriates are studying there, as are 1,000 or so UAE-based Indians and Pakistanis.
In the past, students from the UAE have tended to choose countries such as the UK or US for their studies, but Malaysia offers fees as low as Dh20,000 a year and low living costs.
In the US, a four-year degree at a top university can cost up to Dh146,000 a year in fees alone, while in the UK, tuition is about Dh120,000 a year.
"For an engineering programme, you are looking at around Dh70,000 for a four- or five-year programme in Malaysia," Mr Kazi said. "It is very cost-effective."
With political unrest in much of the Arab world, Malaysia has had a lot of interest from Libyan or Syrian students who had been enrolled at UAE schools. "They feel Malaysia is a safer option than going home," Mr Kazi said.
Many have gone to Malaysia to study courses not widely offered here, including Islamic banking and finance and Sharia law.
On top of Malaysia's 21 state universities, it has more than 500 private institutions, many of which are branch campuses of international institutions such as Monash University from Australia.
The Asia Pacific University College of Technology and Innovation in Kuala Lumpur has 200 UAE-based students enrolled at the 9,000-strong institution.
Nurul Syakirin Mahdi, its student services executive, said enrolments have been increasing by about 5 to 7 per cent a year since 2004. Its graduates get a dual degree, as the university has a partnership with the UK's University of Staffordshire.
A four-year engineering course costs Dh80,000 - little more than the price of a single year at many UAE universities.
SEGi College in Kuala Lumpur is also expanding and keenly eyeing the Emirates. Anthony Michael, the manager of international marketing, said: "The UAE students are good quality compared to other countries. They are more serious about studying."
About a third of the college's 6,000 students are from the Middle East. "The main reasons are cost and that it is a Muslim country," he said. "It makes the transition much easier."