Determine Study Pathway

Many students jump through hoops to determine what pathway to take after they have completed their secondary school education.

Some end up making wrong choice because they don’t have visibility of all their study choices.

So let’s look at your options for higher education.


    Part 1

    Private and public institutions in Malaysia

    In Malaysia, students who have completed their SPM, IGCSE, UEC and IB Diploma can choose to study at private and public institutions in Malaysia.

    However, not all institutions accept all the qualifications so you’ll need to make sure that your results are accepted at where you want to go for higher education.

    Study Options With SPM or IGCSE Results

    For those with SPM or IGCSE results, your study options are pre-university, diploma, certificate, and degree courses.

    Certificate courses only require you to have 1 credit in your SPM/IGCSE results.

    A minimum of 3Cs including designated subjects are required for diploma courses.

    For pre-university courses you’ll need at least 5 credits with designated subjects a requirement for entry.

    Degree courses require at least 5Cs and a relevant pre-university course such as A-Level, Foundation, SACE, and more.

    Study Options With UEC, IB Diploma, and International Pre-U Results

    For those who have completed UEC, IB Diploma, and international pre-university courses, your study options are pre-university courses, diploma, and degree courses.

    UEC students with 3B in your results can enroll into pre-university and diploma courses.

    With 5Bs in your UEC results including pass in designated subjects and also from your SPM results, you will be able to enroll into the degree course of your choice.

    IB Diploma (24 points) and international pre-university (minimum of 60%) qualifications will enable you to enroll into the degree course of your choice.

    Study Options After Diploma or Degree

    As you prepare for graduation, it’s time to consider your next step.

    Most diploma and degree students will be looking forward to starting their career after graduation. 

    However, a small group also would opt to continue with their studies.

    For diploma students, they will be able to enter a degree course of the same field of study as a Year 2 student upon successful exemption of credits.

    Having a degree qualification would bring better career progression and higher pay.

    For degree students, that option would be a Master’s degree.

    In some fields of study, like engineering, a Master’s degree is a requirement to be professionally certified as an engineer.

    The more popular Master’s degree, in fact, is the Master in Business Administration (MBA).

    Graduates choose this degree because it elevates their career prospects to the management level. 

    Part 2

    Overview of study pathways


    This is a pathway for students who only have 1 credit in their SPM, IGCSE, or 1B in UEC.

    It can lead you to a diploma course should you continue your studies after completing the certificate course.

    Most of the subjects you will learn in the course are fundamentals of the field of study, ie Basic Mathematics, Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship, and also Effective People Skills.

    It is offered by both private and public institutions in Malaysia and usually takes between 1 to 1.5 years to complete.

    Cost for a certificate course at private institution in Malaysia starts from RM 2,500.


    A diploma course is in many ways a viable option for those who are looking to enter the workforce early but still want practical skills they can build on later.

    Students only need 3 credits in their SPM, IGCSE, or UEC to enroll into a diploma course.

    Subjects in a diploma course are geared towards the specific field of study and focuses more on the required skills for that area of study.

    For that reason, top diploma courses in Malaysia are generally in the field of business, accounting, IT, nursing, communication, graphic design, interior design, early childhood education and culinary arts.

    Some students choose to advance to a degree course upon graduation and they begin as a Year 2 student.

    Most often than not students will receive credit exemption from their related diploma course.

    It is offered by both private and public institutions in Malaysia and takes between 1.5 to 3 years to complete.

    The cost for a diploma course starts from RM 10,000 and the courses are covered by PTPTN loan.


    STPM is a pre-university programme that is recognised worldwide.

    Many students choose STPM because of its cost and wide recognition.

    To apply for STPM, you will need to have 3 credits in SPM and a pass in Bahasa Melayu.

    The flipside is that you are required to take general subjects and it takes about 1.5 years to complete.

    It is only available at government schools and not all schools offer the full 23-subject lineup.

    STPM results are accepted by private and public institutions in Malaysia but competition is tight for a spot in public institutions.

    The cost for STPM is RM 100 for MUET.


    Matrikulasi is a public institution programme that students can apply when they are in Form 5.

    It is the preferred choice of many students who are cost-sensitive and want to attend a public institution.

    It requires 5 credits in SPM and equivalent.

    The course can go either 12 or 24 months as it runs on 2 systems (Two Semester System and Four Semester System).

    It offers 4 streams: Science, Accounting, Professional Accounting, and Engineering.

    Most of the subjects have been set with few options to choose.

    The cost for Matrikulasi programme starts from RM 600 and you will receive a stipend each semester from the government.


    Asasi is the public institution’s equivalent of a foundation course in Malaysia.

    Only 12 public universities offer this 1-year course but only the qualification from 2 public universities are accepted by the rest of the public institutions for entry into a degree course.

    To apply, students will need to have 5 credits in SPM or equivalent.

    The cost for Asasi course starts from RM 1,100 and financial assistance is provided by the Ministry of Higher Education towards eligible students.


    Foundation courses in Malaysia are one of the more popular options for SPM and IGCSE students who know what they want to study at a private university.

    Foundation courses are only recognised in Malaysia and require 5 credits in SPM or equivalent.

    All Foundation courses take 1 year and students can proceed to a related degree course after that.

    The subjects give you a general understanding of your degree studies and some universities offer specialised Foundation courses such as Business, Law, or Computer Science.

    The cost of a Foundation course starts from RM 10,000.


    The A-Level course is one of the most recognised pre-university courses in the world.

    The 1.5-year course is 100% exam based and students choose it because of the wide acceptance by universities everywhere.

    To enroll into an A-Level course, you must have 5 credits in SPM or equivalent and also additional entry requirements for specific subjects in degree courses.

    Only private universities offer the A-Level course.

    The cost starts from RM 14,000.

    Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT, SACE)

    There are 2 Australian Matriculation courses being offered in Malaysia: AUSMAT and South Australian Certification of Education (SACE).

    These are offered by private universities and primarily taken by students who want to study abroad, especially in Australia and New Zealand.

    It requires 5 credits in SPM or equivalent.

    The 1-year course offers students general subjects such as Accounting, Biology, Psychology, Mathematics, and English as an Additional Language.

    The cost starts from RM 17,000.


    The Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) is a Year 12 grade school programme that is recognised by many institutions worldwide.

    It takes a year to complete and requires 5 credits in SPM or equivalent.

    Students choose CIMP because of its assessment methods and also worldwide recognition.

    The subjects offered in the programme are general and you will be assessed through your coursework, exams, and community service.

    Its cost starts from RM 27,000.

    Bachelor’s Degree

    Both private and public institutions offer bachelor’s degree courses for a wide range of fields of study.

    To enroll in a degree course, you’ll need above average results (60%) and credit in specific SPM subjects.

    Degree courses take anywhere from 3 to 4 years to complete.

    You’ll get to learn more in-depth the specific topics and skills that are key to the field of study.

    In addition to that, you’ll also be involved with internships and practical projects with industry partners.

    The cost for a degree course starts from RM 17,000 and PTPTN loans are available.


    Just like degree courses, Master’s courses also are available at private and public institutions in Malaysia.

    To be considered for a Master’s course, a student will need to have a relevant bachelor’s degree and in some cases, work experience.

    Students can opt for coursework, research, or a mix of both to complete their Master’s degree.

    In all instances, a final project/thesis is required to be produced by the student in order to graduate.

    The cost for a Master’s course starts from RM 1,500 and PTPTN loans are only available for courses at public universities.

    Doctorate (PhD)

    Doctorate courses are available at public and private universities in Malaysia.

    To be eligible you must have a Master’s degree and are able to demonstrate your research experience.

    Doctorate courses are solely on research and can take anywhere from 3 years onwards.

    The cost starts from RM 10,000.

    Part 3

    Alternative options

    There are also other study options that are available to students.


    For instance, students can opt for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). 

    Students who did not excel academically can learn skills and knowledge for specific jobs at these private and public institutions.

    The duration of the courses are usually short and the entry requirement varies depending on the course.

    The cost is low so that it is affordable for the potential students.

    Professional Certification

    Another option is professional certification like the ACCA.

    Students who want a direct route can begin with the ACCA Foundation in Accountancy (ACCA FiA) then proceed to the ACCA course.

    The ACCA FiA provides students with exemptions to selected papers and takes 1 year to complete.

    The ACCA course takes about 2 to 2.5 years to complete.

    The cost for both courses start from RM 14,000.

    Now that you have gone through the major study options, do you know which is suitable for you?