After SPM Pathways and Courses in Malaysia

If you are wondering what to do after SPM, or in this case, what courses you should take after SPM, then you’ve come to the right place.

After SPM or IGCSE, many students choose to further their studies up to a diploma or Bachelor’s degree level in a university or college, so that they can specialise in a field that is relevant to their desired career.

To progress to degree studies after secondary school, the 3 common after SPM pathways in Malaysia are diploma, foundation and pre-university courses.

These pathways are available in both public and private institutions in Malaysia but the course options that are offered vary and each has different learning outcomes.

The fourth pathway, which is less known, is the overseas bridging programme, which offers preferential entry to partner universities abroad e.g. in UK or US.

Read here to find out more about each pathway options and the things that you should watch out for when choosing your course after SPM.


    Part 1

    How to choose your course after SPM

    Here are the key factors to consider when you decide what courses you should take after SPM or IGCSE.

    Course options

    Public institutions (e.g. STPM) and private institutions (e.g. A-Level) offer different courses for each pathways.

    As the seats in public institutions are limited, the student acceptance process is also more complicated compared to private universities and colleges.

    Therefore. if you aim to study in a public university like Universiti Malaya (UM) or Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), then you should ideally choose to study courses offered by public institutions like Asasi, Matrikulasi and STPM.

    Entry requirements

    This refers to the minimum number of Cs in SPM or IGCSE (also known as credits), that you need, in order to qualify for a pathway.

    Keep in mind that this does not include subject requirements for your chosen diploma or degree course. e.g. you will also need a C in SPM/IGCSE Mathematics to study Computing & IT diploma or degree courses.


    In this guide, we indicate the fee ranges for pathways and courses at private institutions only, to help students gauge the affordability.

    Fees at public institutions are generally affordable for students from all income level because the cost is subsidised by the government and are thus not covered here.

    You can read more about tuition fees and general cost of higher education here.


    PTPTN (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional) is a government organisation that offers low-interest study loans to all Malaysian students, who wish to pursue diploma/degree and need financial aid to offset the cost.

    The loan amount changes based on the institution type (public vs. private) and course of study. As for how much you can get, i.e. 100% or 75% or 50% PTPTN, it is based on your family household income.

    As you go through each study pathways, you will learn which courses are applicable for PTPTN and the loan amount available for 100% PTPTN in private institutions.

    Recommended Reading: All you need to know about PTPTN


    What course you choose to study now, right after SPM/IGCSE, greatly impacts your flexibility to choose what to study later in your degree.

    For example, diploma courses are specialised and tied to a field of study. Therefore, its flexibility is low because you can only progress to a degree in the same field.


    It will be easier for you to be accepted for your degree programme, if your course is a widely recognised qualification by other universities.

    This is why some students choose to study international pre-university courses like A-Level or AUSMAT, for easier acceptance by foreign universities.

    On the other hand, private universities in Malaysia would generally accept courses that are accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).


    Find out which after SPM pathways are more popular based on our study of 14,000 SPM students, who used Uni Enrol’s Pathway Match service in 2022 to be matched with scholarships and universities globally based on their profiles.

    Part 2

    Pathway 1 – Diploma courses

    Diploma students get to directly study and focus on their field of interest during the entire 2 (or sometimes 3) years of studies.

    Unlike the other 2 pathways, where students still study more general subjects, Diploma courses cover more specialised topics related to their intended careers, making it ideal for practical-based courses like e.g. Culinary Arts, Hotel Management, Communication and Design.

    Therefore, instead of progressing to degree studies, Diploma graduates have the choice to directly join the workforce in a related field.

    This effectively gives students the flexibility to “pause” their studies if necessary, e.g. for those who do not wish to study 4 years continuously after SPM due to timing or financial constraints.

    Key consideration factors

    • Options. Diploma (both public and private).
    • Entry requirements. Minimum 3Cs. If you only have 1C, then you may consider to take a Certificate course first before continuing to study diploma.
    • Fees. Diploma courses start from RM 30,000 for private institutions.
    • PTPTN. The loan for Diploma courses covers up to RM 6,800/year. Higher for Health Science courses e.g. Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry.
    • Flexibility. Low, because you can only continue to study degree in the same major or field.
    • Recognition. Medium, provided the diploma courses are recognised by MQA.
    • Popularity. 44% of SPM students in our 2022 database chose Diploma.
    • Highlights. Diploma students get up to 1-year exemption for degree course of the same major.

    Part 3

    Pathway 2 – Foundation courses

    SPM and IGCSE school leavers, who already know what degree and which university they want to study in, often choose Foundation and Asasi programmes.

    This is the most direct and secure pathway to a known university after SPM/IGCSE. Both programmes take 1 year to complete and offers students an introduction to the field of study.

    Key consideration factors

    • Options. Foundation in Arts/Science (private), Asasi (public)
    • Entry requirements. Minimum 5Cs. To qualify for Foundation in Science, you’ll need a C in Mathematics and relevant science subjects.
    • Fees. Tuition fees for Foundation courses start from RM 10,000.
    • PTPTN. The loan covers up to RM 6,800/year. Only applicable for Foundation courses from Multimedia University (MMU), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), UNITAR International University (UNITAR), and Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK).
    • Flexibility. Medium, because you will still be able to switch universities for your degree course as long as your Foundation programme is recognised by MQA. For Asasi programme, more often than not you will continue with your degree course at the same public institution.
    • Recognition. These 2 programmes are mainly recognised in Malaysia. However, Asasi is only for public universities and Foundation is offered by private universities.
    • Popularity. 41% of SPM students in our 2022 database chose Foundation as the pathway after SPM.
    • Highlights. Both Foundation and Asasi programmes cover the introduction of your field of study.

    Part 4

    Pathway 3 – Pre-University Courses

    International pre-university courses are intended for students, who are planning to study abroad.

    Recipients of full scholarships to study overseas after SPM would generally be sponsored to study international pre-university in Malaysia first.

    As for those who want to enter public universities in Malaysia, then STPM and Matrikulasi are the pre-university courses to consider.

    Such courses take between 1 to 2 years to complete and offer general topics that might not be related to your degree. Hence, why this pathway is also a popular choice who unsure of what they want to study after SPM/IGCSE.

    With Matrikulasi, you are required to live in a dormitory, dress in formal attire for class but at the same time you will receive a monthly allowance.

    Key consideration factors

    • Options. A-Level, AUSMAT, SACE and CIMP (Private), STPM and Matrikulasi (Public).
    • Entry requirements. minimum 5Cs.
    • Fees. International pre-university courses start from RM 13,000, excluding exam fees.
    • PTPTN. Not applicable for international pre-university courses.
    • Flexibility. High for those who want to have more degree options to choose from.
    • Recognition. High, STPM and other international pre-university qualifications are well-accepted for entry into local private universities as well as internationally.
    • Popularity. 15% of SPM students in our 2022 database chose this pathway.
    • Highlights. Among the international pre-university courses, A-Level is the most similar to SPM as it is exam-oriented. AUSMAT/ SACE and CIMP place emphasis on both a student’s coursework and exam result.

    Part 5

    Pathway 4 – Overseas Bridging Programmes

    Overseas bridging programmes offer students an alternative pathway to progress to selected degree courses at foreign universities in US, UK, Europe and Australia.

    Compared to international pre-university courses, bridging programmes are generally less demanding and stringent, making it an easier pathway to secure degree placements in universities affiliated with the programme providers.

    If you wish to study abroad directly after your SPM/IGCSE, then you can consider bridging programmes that are directly taught at your study destination country.

    Key consideration factors

    • Options. American Degree Transfer Programme and UK Undergraduate Foundation (Private)
    • Entry requirements. minimum 5Cs
    • Fees. Bridging programmes in Malaysia start from RM 19,000/year.
    • PTPTN. Not applicable for bridging programmes.
    • Flexibility. Medium. You may not be able to progress to competitive degrees like Medicine. Similar to foundation, you have to choose a stream or subject combination that is closest to your intended degree course.
    • Recognition. Low. The bridging programme will only be accepted as an entry qualification by the universities that are directly affiliated with the respective bridging programme.
    • Popularity. Only a handful of our students have selected this pathway.
    • Highlights. Joining bridging programmes could improve your chances of getting into some of the top tier universities abroad. e.g. the UBridge Undergraduate Pathway Programme for entry into University of California (e.g. UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley).

    Let’s Wrap This Up

    There you have it. Those are the 4 pathways and courses you can take after SPM or IGCSE. Ready for the next step?

    If you are still unsure of what to do after SPM or IGCSE, or need more information on what courses you should take after SPM, then do reach out to our counsellors at Uni Enrol for free guidance.