Most Popular UK Universities Among Malaysian Students

An Exclusive Report By Britannia StudyLink Malaysia – Published October 2020

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most popular uk universities among malaysian students
Our data reveals which UK universities are most popular among Malaysian students. From our research, we have compiled a list of the top UK universities ranked by the number of Malaysian students enrolled.

Key Findings

Overview

Most Popular UK Universities Among Malaysian Students By UK University Ranking

We’ve put together the league table below that lists the top 30 UK universities by ranking along with its total Malaysian student population and its 2021 rankings in the country.

UniversityUK RankingTEF RatingMalaysian Students
University of Cambridge1Gold190
University of Oxford2Gold105
University of St Andrews3Gold100
London School of Economics and Poli...4Bronze352
Imperial College London5Gold450
Loughborough University6Gold100
Durham University7Gold80
Lancaster University8Gold125
University of Bath9Gold235
UCL (University College London)10Silver610
University of Warwick11Silver365
University of Exeter12Gold174
University of Birmingham13Gold180
University of Bristol14Silver380
University of Edinburgh15N/A375
University of Leeds16Gold280
University of Southampton17Silver340
University of Manchester17Silver745
University of Glasgow19N/A175
King's College London, University o...20Silver275
University of Nottingham20Gold425
University of York22Gold40
Newcastle University23Gold225
Royal Holloway, University of Londo...24Silver45
University of East Anglia UEA25Gold125
University of Aberdeen26N/A65
Queen's University Belfast27N/A140
University of Sheffield28Silver420
Heriot-Watt University29Silver230
Cardiff University30Silver430

League Table Breakdown

According to UCAS, 89.8% of Malaysian students apply to higher tariff providers, which means that Malaysian applicants have a preference for universities that require higher UCAS Tariff points which is a numerical value assigned to your grades. In other words, most Malaysian applicants tend to apply to universities that have higher entry requirements. For this reason, we have selected the top 30 ranked universities for our league table.

We also used the most recent data available about each university’s total Malaysian student population. However, not all universities will include student population by country in its annual student diversity reports. The number of Malaysian students admitted to UK universities might differ from year to year, so to ensure consistency and to make a fair comparison, we used student population figures from 2018/2019 by HESA for all universities in our league table.

The Malaysian student population numbers refer to all students currently enrolled in the university which includes new, returning, and postgraduate students.

Other UK Universities Popular Among Malaysians

There are some other UK universities that are notably popular among Malaysian students. The following table displays the 2018/2019 figures for enrolled Malaysians in the following universities.

UniversityUK RankingTEF RatingMalaysian Students
University of Northumbria at Newcastle52Silver280
City, University of London57Silver350
UWE Bristol64Gold460
University of Hertfordshire81Gold235

Most Popular UK Universities Among Malaysian Students - Virtual Map

The map below shows where Malaysian students attend UK universities.

Legends - virtual map malaysians in uk universities

Trend of Malaysian Student Enrolment in Top UK Universities

The table below shows a detailed breakdown of Malaysian students enrolled in the top 30 UK universities over a four-year period.

University2015/20162016/20172017/20182018/2019
University of Cambridge185190185190
University of Oxford110110110105
University of St Andrews10095100100
London School of Economics and Poli...345340360352
Imperial College London540520475450
Loughborough University100100105100
Durham University105957580
Lancaster University140175155125
University of Bath340260255235
UCL (University College London)625625630610
University of Warwick490460435365
University of Exeter160160170174
University of Birmingham265240190180
University of Bristol330335335380
University of Edinburgh415405395375
University of Leeds385375330280
University of Southampton500455410340
University of Manchester1,0501,015900745
University of Glasgow195180185175
King's College London, University o...270280285275
University of Nottingham580560500425
University of York120905540
Newcastle University340275235225
Royal Holloway, University of Londo...50605545
University of East Anglia UEA115130145125
University of Aberdeen1301209065
Queen's University Belfast385400355355
University of Sheffield635610525420
Heriot-Watt University140145185230
Cardiff University580570510430
Total Students Enrolled (Top 30)9725937587407996

The following graph shows the number of students enrolled in UK universities in the past four years.

Malaysian Student Population in UK Universities

Key Facts - Malaysians in UK Universities

The overall trend shows that UK universities are declining in popularity among Malaysian students. Despite this, the number of Malaysians in the top 30 UK universities account for over half of all Malaysian students in UK universities.

Among the top-ranked universities in the UK, the most popular university among Malaysians is the University of Manchester with 745 Malaysian students enrolled in the university. The second-most popular university among Malaysians is University College London, which has 610 Malaysian students. Other universities that are popular among Malaysians are Imperial College London, Cardiff University, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Sheffield which each have over 400 Malaysian students.

All of these six most popular universities are also part of the Russell Group, which is a collective of research-intensive UK universities. Russell Group Universities are popular among applicants as the universities in the group have garnered a great reputation for its teaching standards and research quality. 

The University of Cambridge has 190 Malaysian students while the University of Oxford has 105 Malaysian students. The top UK universities that have the least Malaysian students are the University of York and Royal Holloway, University of London with around 40 enrolled Malaysian students in each university.

Some universities that are not among the top 30 universities are also quite popular with Malaysian students. Among these few universities, the University of the West of England Bristol (UWE Bristol) is the third-most popular university among Malaysians, with 460 Malaysian students enrolled.

Britannia StudyLink’s Analysis of Malaysians in UK Universities

There are a number of factors that could explain some of these patterns and the trend of declining popularity of UK universities among Malaysians.

First, let’s consider the factors that contribute to the popularity of some UK universities. The University of Manchester is consistently the most popular university among Malaysian students. We think this may be due to the university having a great reputation for its quality of education, being a Russell Group University. Aside from that, the city was made popular by the football team Manchester United. Similarly, UCL is located in a popular city and it is among the world’s top universities. This shows that overseas applicants may tend to choose top universities that are located in cities that they may be familiar with.

Some specific universities are popular due to its location, namely universities located in London and Bristol. Imperial College London, UCL, and City, University of London, are popular with Malaysian students and these universities are located in London. Imperial and UCL are top universities which explains its popularity. It is likely that students enrol at City, University of London due to its location and lower entry requirements compared to other universities in London.

Bristol is also a popular destination for Malaysian students. Compared to London and Manchester, Bristol is a less densely populated city with a population of around 430,000 people. UWE Bristol is the third-most popular university among Malaysians (460 students) while the University of Bristol has 380 Malaysian students. Bristol has been rated numerous times as the most liveable city in the UK – Bristol is walkable, has a vibrant youth culture, and is located just 90 minutes away from London. These factors make for a great experience for overseas students.

Overall, we could see that the most popular cities among Malaysian students are Manchester, London, and Bristol. Our analysis suggests that Malaysian students have a tendency to choose universities located in cities they are familiar with.

The overall decline in popularity of UK universities among Malaysian students may be largely due to stringent immigration policies made in 2012 that have affected work opportunities for international graduates. At the time, international students were only allowed to stay in the UK for up to four months after graduation. As many students choose to study in the UK to stay on and work after graduation, it’s likely that this policy influenced many Malaysians to opt to study in other countries instead. The policy was later revised in 2019 to allow international graduates to stay up to two years for work after graduation.

Another factor that may explain the lower number of Malaysian students in UK universities is the increased tuition fees and living costs in the UK. New laws have permitted universities to increase tuition fees annually in line with inflation rates after 2020. As a result, Malaysians are thinking twice about studying there.

UK University Entry Requirements for Malaysians

Most universities vary greatly in terms of entry requirements and acceptance rates. Generally speaking, top-ranked universities and Russell Group Universities will have higher entry requirements compared to most other UK universities. The entry requirements for UK universities also vary depending on the course you’re applying for. Any medical programmes and top-ranked universities will have higher requirements compared to most other UK universities.

There are also other non-academic entry requirements for Malaysians applying to UK universities. Depending on your qualifications, you may be required to take an English proficiency test such as IELTS or TOEFL. While a few UK universities may accept 1119, most UK universities will not recognise your 1119 grades as an exemption for English proficiency tests. The UCAS application process also requires a written personal statement and you may be required to provide additional documents for your visa application.

Here is a list of entry requirements that a Malaysian will need to fulfil before being accepted at a UK university:

  1. English Language Test requirement – such as IELTS or TOEFL.
  2. Criminal records declaration (DBS/Disclosure Scotland for Scottish Universities)
  3. Health checks.
  4. Entrance interviews.
  5. Personal statement. This is a supporting document and part of your application to a UK university. Usually, you will write about what you hope to achieve studying at the course, what you plan to do after graduating and why you are applying for this specific university. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Among the top 30 ranked UK universities, the University of Manchester has the most Malaysian students, with 745 enrolled students in the university.

Aside from having the necessary academic qualifications equivalent to the O-Levels or A-Levels, you may be required to take an English proficiency test. You may also have to submit a personal statement, complete interviews, and health checks before enrolling.

The University of Cambridge has 190 Malaysian students while the University of Oxford has 105 Malaysian students.

The total number of Malaysian students enrolled in the top 30 UK universities are 7,781 students for the year 2018/2019.

Applications for Oxford, Cambridge, and some courses such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine have a 15 October deadline. The UCAS deadline for most other subjects is 15 January in the year of admission.

Conclusion

Based on our observations, the overall trend shows that UK universities are declining in popularity among Malaysian students which could be attributed to changes in immigration policies and rising tuition fees. Despite this, the top 30 UK universities are still largely popular among Malaysians as these universities attract over 50% of all Malaysian students in the country. Malaysian students also tend to choose universities in Manchester, Bristol, and London as their top destinations to study.

Bristol has marketed its city effectively as the ideal destination for international students – the city has been recognised as one of the most liveable cities in the UK and it boasts a city that is pedestrian-friendly and walkable. Perhaps other universities that wish to attract international students could look at Bristol as a good case example.

Overall, despite the downward trend, we believe the quality of education offered by UK universities will always attract Malaysian students. With the recent changes to the UK immigration policies which now allow foreign graduates to stay in the UK for up to two years, it remains to be seen how this will affect enrolment numbers from Malaysian and international students.