Educational Links One of the most, if not the most, important factors that has linked Australia and Malaysia is in the area of education. There has been over 120,000 Malaysian graduates from Australian institutions. This number along with tourists and migrants has created an emotional bond by the Malaysians for Australia. It is through this link that Malaysia's underlying endorsement of Australia springs.

4.1 Historical Links

Overseas students have been coming to Australia since 1904. However, the numbers of students were small until the advent of the Colombo Plan ( see Appendix F) in the 1950s with student numbers increasing from around 1,000 in 1950 to over 5,000 by 1965. This represented approximately 10 percent of the full-time university population in 1965. Virtually all of the directors of the Malaysia-Australia Foundation are Colombo Plan Scholars and the establishment of the Malaysia-Australia Foundation is testament to the lasting positive benefit to Australia and success of this policy.

In 1966, an extensive review of Australia's overseas educational aid program was undertaken. A standardised English test was introduced. The objectives of Australia's overseas education policy were made explicit and redefined as "seeking to educate and equip students to contribute to the economic progress of their countries, and to ensure they return home with a true understanding of Australia and with a favourable impression of Australia and Australians". (See Mutual Advantage: "Report of the Committee of Review of Private Overseas Student Policy" Canberra 1984.)

In 1973 the development or aid objective of the overseas student program was discarded and a quota of 10,000 students introduced. Also fees for both local and foreign students were abolished in 1974. However, in 1980, an overseas subsidised charge was introduced, ranging from $Al5OO to A$2000 per annum and in 1986, universities and other institutions were permitted to offer places to overseas students at full cost. This saw the number of overseas students double between 1986 and 1989.

4.2 Current Situation

At present, there are over 1 1,000 students from Malaysia studying in Australia, this includes tertiary, school and university preparatory students. In fact, Malaysian students are the second most important source of overseas students for Australian institutions. Figure 4.1 below shows that since the introduction of full-fee paying scheme in 1986 at Australian institutions, the number of Malaysian students has increased from less than 1,000 in 1987 to over 9,000 by 1994. Malaysian student intake is only bettered by those from Hong Kong.

The other interesting feature of this figure is the high level of students from China in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was concentrated predominantly in English language courses at private colleges and therefore can be seen as an anomaly, particularly since the Australian government has moved to restrict this type of student entry.

Figure 4.1 Overseas full-fee paying students study in Australia

Sourc: Australia Department of Employment, Education and Training.

More important than total numbers is the distribution of students by major fields of study with the majority of Malaysian students being concentrated in a few prominent areas. In 1994, Malaysian students accounted for 24.6 percent of the total overseas students studying architecture and 22.4 percent of those studying engineering. They accounted for 18.2 percent of the business students and 20.4 percent of the economics students.

The most striking statistics are in the Health and Community Services field where Malaysian students make up 51.4 percent of the total number of the overseas medical students and 44.9 percent of the overseas dental students in Australia. The next highest in both these fields respectively is Singapore with 12.2 percent and Thailand with 11.6 percent. Malaysian students also make up the bulk of the overseas law students in Australia with 45.8 percent of the total followed by Fiji with 1 1.4 percent and Singapore with 5.3 percent. In contrast Malaysia accounts for only 3.5 percent of the education students, and only 4.7 percent of the nursing students.

Figure 4.2 below gives a breakdown of Malaysian overseas students by sector. It can be seen that of the total number of Malaysian overseas students in Australia, more than half are studying business or economics courses. This is indicative of the high demand for such skills in the Malaysian economy, the relative length of enrolment and the availability of twinning courses targeting this sector. Engineering is the next highest with 12.9 percent, followed by medicine with 1 1.4 percent.

Figure 4.2: Malaysian 1994 student enrolment by field of study in Australia

For the Malaysian students in Australia, it is clear that business and commercial studies are the most important. However, Australia is also training a large number of Malaysia's future doctors, lawyers and engineers. Hence, the Malaysian graduates from Australia will play an extremely important part in Malaysia's continued development and growth.

Apart from full fee paying entry, Malaysian students can enter Australian institutions under two scholarship schemes. The Australian Development Cooperation Scholarship (ADCOS) and the Malaysia-Australia Scholarship Scheme (MASS).

To date, there are very few Australian students who have come to Malaysia as part of their studies either at an undergraduate or post-graduate level. However, there are a number of scholarships and awards to encourage Australian students to study in Asia. These are targeted predominantly at the post-graduate level. The Malaysia Australia Foundation is sponsoring 3 one-semester places at Penang International Education Technology Centre in 1996.

4.3 Twinning Courses

In response to the down turn in the Malaysian economy in 1985/6 and due to large amounts of money, for education, flowing out of Malaysia, the Malaysian government encouraged the establishment of private education institutions. As a result, twinning courses began to appear in Malaysia.

They involve a component of the higher education degree or diploma program to be undertaken at private colleges in Malaysia with the remainder undertaken at the affiliated overseas university or college. This reduces the outflow of money for overseas education and at the same time providing much needed training and skills as well as encouraging a viable private education sector. The Malaysian Education Act is currently under review and it is expected that the new Act will make explicit the role and scope of private institutions along with twinning courses.

Metropolitan College became the first private college in Malaysia to offer a twinning program with an overseas university in 1987. They offered a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) Degree in collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Since then, Metropolitan has expanded its program with RMIT to include Economics and Finance. In 1993, the College expanded its twinning programs to include the University of Kentucky, Lexington; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Oklahoma State Universi ty, Stillwater; Queens University of Belfast and Curtin University of Technology in Australia. As a result the College now offers twinning in fields of business, computer science and engineering. However, the Australian component of Metropolitan College's twinning program remains the most important with RMIT having a total enrolment of 500 students and Curtin an enrolment of 600 students in 1994/5. This is in comparison to a total enrolment for the College of 1,500 students annually.

Metropolitan is the only twinning College to offer two years in Malaysia with the final year in Australia. Also, each twinned university has its own staff at the College and the course content, exam setting and exam marking are all conducted at the respective Universities. The College also has visiting lecturers with 30-33 percent of the course being taught by these lecturers.

The Help Institute was established in 1986 as a private college in Malaysia which specialised in management and professionally related courses at pre-university, degree and post-graduate levels. Help Institute has twinning programs with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and the University of South Australia. Currently, they have over 3500 students but only a small number of those enrolled in Australian programs.

Sunway College initiated its twinning programs shortly after Metropolitan and currently they have twinning arrangements with Monash University, Flinders University of South Australia, University of Western Australia, Victoria University of Technology as well as universities in other countries. Sunway is the largest private college offering twinning programs and the college now has over 4000 students in various programs, 2,000 in pre university programs, 1,000 in twinning programs with the rest enrolled in local courses, with approximately 300 of these enrolled at Australian institutions. The college is constructing a new campus which will accommodate up to 8,000 students.

More recently, the Sepang Institute of Technology (SIT) is being constructed specialising in technical and applied university courses. SIT has twinning arrangements with the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia as well as other overseas universities. SIT expects an initial enrolment of over 1,000 in 1996 to be expanded to 5,000 over the next three years.

Penang International Education Technology Centre is linked to a consortium of Australian universities, some of which include the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne and Sydney University. They offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. However at present most of the students are enrolled in the preuniversity courses. The campus has capacity for 1, I 00 students and currently has 400 students enrolled.

To date, there is no complete listing outlining all the twinning courses that Australian institutions are involved in, nor the structure of such courses.

4.4 Other University Links

Along with twinning courses the Australian Universities also have links with Malaysian Universities. These are predominantly in the form of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUS) and are focused on promoting joint research, staff and student exchanges and curriculum development. For example the University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) has signed a Memorandum of -Understanding with Flinders University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), University of Queensland, University of Canberra, University of Adelaide, University of New South Wales (UNSW), and Monash University. The nature of these memoranda are for specific exchanges or purposes such as the University of Queensland remotely supervising PhD candidates or student exchanges in medicine and medical curriculum development with Flinders University. More recently the Universiti Malaya (UM) and the University of New South Wales signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage joint research programs and the setting up of a new joint masters program in business technology (engineering management).

4.5 Educational Centres in Australia

Along with close affiliation through twinning programs, there are many Australia university initiatives that focus on the Asia Pacific region with some focussing specifically on Malaysia (For a complete listing of all the programs by Australian universities which focus on Asia see the University section of Harman D. and Forf J. (1005) "Asia Iniatives Directory") . Virtually all Australian universities have either an Asian research school, department, institute or centre. The majority of these have been established in the last couple of years, thus indicating the relative importance placed on Asia by universities and the Australian government.

The Centre of Malaysian Studies was established at Monash University in 1993 and it promotes the development of Malaysian studies and language as well as exchange programs between other institutions. To date, Monash is the only university to establish a centre which specifically focuses on Malaysia, rather than Asia as a whole.

In late 1995, the Asia-Australia Institute of the University of New South Wales coorganised the Malaysia-Australia Dialogue with the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre.

The aim of the dialogue was to build a better bilateral relationship based on mutual understanding. It also provided a forum for discussion on enhancing political, economic, cultural and social interaction.

4.6 Alumni Associations

Given the large number of Malaysian graduates from Australian Institutions it is not surprising that most of the Australian universities have alumni associations in Malaysia.

In late 1993, the Australian Government engaged K.P.M.G. Peat Marwick to assist in the establishment of the first complete Australia-Malaysia Alumni Network (AMAN). However, of the 120,000 graduates, only 3,000 have responded and joined AMAN. This is despite there being no cost to either join the network or receive the newsletter. (Australia's privacy laws restrict the use og grafutes information and therefore members must give permission for their details to be use either by the Australian High Commission or for released to other interested parties.)

In September 1994, the first and only AMAN newsletter was published and sent to AMAN members. The newsletter provides a forum for discussion and the dissemination of information that would be of interest to Malaysian graduates. It is hoped that AMAN can provide a functioning network of people for business, education and other purposes.

The Australian New Zealand Graduates Association of Malaysia (ANZGAM) and the Sarawak Australian Graduates Association (SAGA) are the only two Malaysian organised associations. They both provide information to students enroute to Australia and New Zealand as well as organising sporting and social events for the interaction of there members.

Individual university alumni associations are much smaller and therefore face the same problems as AMAN.

4.7 Malaysia-Australia Foundation

The Malaysian-Australian Foundation (MAF) was incorporated on 20 April 1993 and was officially launched by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at an inaugural dinner on 14 September 1994.

The primary objective of the Foundation is to promote and foster, in Malaysia and Australia, the interests of both countries. In particular the Foundation wishes to promote mutual understanding, goodwill, harmony and fraternity between the two countries. To these aims, the Foundation is supporting a number of schemes that sponsor young Australians to come to Malaysia (see Box 5). This is a deliberate attempt to encourage a reverse flow of people from Australia to Malaysia. It is hoped that through such exchanges and interaction, better people networks, cultural understanding and business links will be developed.

All of the directors of the Foundation are alumni from Australian universities with the majority being recipients of Colombo Plan scholarships. They all still have strong affinities with Australia and their respective universities. Background information on MAF is given in Appendix D.

In December 1995, the Australia-Malaysia Society (AMS) was launched in Canberra by the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. The AMS is the reciprocal body of the MAF and both bodies will work closely together to enhance bilateral relations.

4.8 Observations of the MAF Economics Research Fellow

During the course of conducting the research for my fellowship I gained an exposure and an appreciation of Malaysian culture and their way of life. One of the aspects of Malaysia that I found comforting was the prevalence of the English language, particular in East Malaysia. This greatly helped in my research and interviews. From the business and tourist point of view this gives Malaysia a considerable advantage over non-English speaking East Asian countries. However the most striking aspect of Malaysia that I was exposed to was the goodwill that was extended from Malaysians to myself, as an Australian. It was encouraging to see that despite media perceptions, Australians are highly regarded in Malaysia. Other comments on my personal experience in Malaysia include, the development of infrastructure meant ease of travel, the variety and different foods available were highly pleasurable, and the overall development in the country allowed me to enjoy many of the comforts of Australia; including cinema, music, parks and golf. I was very appreciative to all who helped and gave of their time both professionally and socially.

4.9 Future Requirements for Malaysia

Malaysia has recognised that it cannot continue to grow at current rates without upgrading the skills and education of its workforce. In particular, there is a shortage of semi-professional and vocational workers in Malaysia.

Australian institutions can and already are playing a major role in catering for Malaysia's educational requirements. Twinning courses are now moving into technical training, such as engineering and computer training. However, there are still great opportunities for TAFE colleges to participate in Malaysia's education system.

Box 5: Malaysia-Australia Foundation
Activities of the Foundation in 1995
Engineering Fellow : Steven Cowgill
    A six month attachment programme to KTA Tenaga Sdn Bhd Steven returned to Australia on 7 August 1995.

Journalist Attachment: Georgina Windsor

    A six week attachment to 'The New Straits Times' from the Australian (July/August 1995).

    Economics Fellow: Martin Stokie

      A six month research study, four months in Malaysia and two months in Australia. Undergraduate Scholarship at Kolej Antarabangsa, Penang: Hugh Hunter Jamieson MAF is sponsoring four Australians to take a semester of their undergraduate studies at Kolej Antarabangsa in Penang. Hugh Hunter Jamieson commenced his studies on 24 July 1995.

    Sporting Exchanges

      Two Australian women hockey coaches were sponsored for one month to conduct coaching clinics in four regions of Malaysia (commenced August 1995).

      A seminar on the maintenance and operation of swimming pools was conducted in October 1995

    Sponsorship of one-man play: Robin Ramsay in 'Accidental Mystic'

      MAF jointly sponsored play with Actors Studio, Kuala Lumpur. Also a theatre workshop was conducted

4.10 Observations and Conclusions

From this discussion it can be seen that Malaysia's link via Australian education is a long and deep one. As a result Malaysians have a strong emotional tie to Australia and from this stems Malaysia's endorsement of Australia. It originates from the people who have studied in Australia, visited there as tourists or who have family there.

The 120 000 Malaysian alumni from Australia are an important people link for Australian companies and Australia in general. Making effective use of this link was partly the role of AMAN. However prior to AMAN there had been little done by government and academia to foster this bond. If Australia is to fully realise the potential of such a substantial alumni network then more resources need to be provided to AMAN so that a complete list of Malaysian graduates and what positions they now hold can be obtained.