According to the recently released Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education), the number of students in private higher learning institutions (HLIs) is projected to grow from 455,000 in 2012 to an estimated 867,000 by 2025, an annual increase of 5.1%. In contrast, the number of students in public universities is expected to grow from 545,000 in 2012 to an estimated 764,000 by 2025, an annual increase of 2.6%. In other words, students in private HLIs are expected to outnumber their counterparts in public universities – 53% versus 47% - by 2025.
At the same time, the number of foreign students in Malaysia is projected to grow from 97,000 in 2012 to an estimated 250,000 by 2025. A majority of these foreign students are expected to be enrolled in private HLIs which already take in approximately 75% of the foreign student population currently enrolled in our universities.
Is the growth in the number of students enrolled in HLIs a healthy phenomenon which is sustainable and therefore should be encouraged?
Research by two experienced academics, Dr. Geoffrey Williams and Dr. Paul Lim, on the financial health of 41 private universities, 8 foreign branch campuses and 27 university colleges (2 of whom have since been upgraded to full universities) reveal serious challenges faced by private HLIs in terms of financial sustainability.