Journal of International Development Studies
Online ISSN : 2434-5296
Print ISSN : 1342-3045
How Studying Abroad in Malaysia Leads to Transnational Migration: Interview Results from Former International Students
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2018 Volume 27 Issue 1 Pages 93-107


This paper aims to reveal how studying abroad in Malaysia acts as a catalyst for transnational migration and forms cross-border epistemic networks that may extend into the countries of origin.

This study focuses on Malaysia, an emerging country that accepted more than 130,000 international students in 2017. The author of this study spent three weeks in Malaysia and Australia interviewing twenty-one former international students and two Malaysia-based professors responsible for international student admissions.

Interview results provide evidence of transnational relationships beyond home and host countries, including mutual benefits between developing countries including region of origin, as well as relationships with Western countries chosen as destination for remigration. The transnational activities of former international students include business matching between African countries, Malaysia, and even Japan; involvement in technological development of Malaysia; and assistance for university marketing campaigns in the countries and regions of origin.

Most of the former students plan to move again in the future owing to the difficulty in obtaining permanent residency in Malaysia. Those who will go home may bring the outcomes of studying and working in Malaysia. Although some of them expect to move to Western countries, owing to the promise of employment stability and higher salaries, many intend to remain in Malaysia provided that they can pursue a satisfying career and maintain the current favorable environment for families.

According to previous research, transnational education had the effect of transforming Malaysia into a “transit point” to Western countries. This study finds that conventional education by public research universities also plays a role in this transformation, owing to improved facilities and overall quality of education.

Also, the fact that some students intend to return home after getting a master's degree in Malaysia and PhD in Australia shows that Malaysia as a transit point may indirectly contribute to human resource development in the student's home country. The intention of a former student to engage in future research collaboration between Malaysia and Australia shows the possibility of reimporting advanced research outcomes from developed countries to Malaysia through transnational former students, showing the new perspective of the transit point.

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© 2018 The Japan Society for International Development
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