Fewer students from Sarawak studying abroad

The Malaysian Today  Saturday- June  07 June 2003 

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by : Steven Urut

KUCHING: The number of students from Sarawak, pursuing tertiary education abroad, had declined since the Asian economic crisis, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr. George Chan disclosed yesterday.

Without disclosing the figure, he said the decline was `quite substantial' when compared with figures in the years prior to the crisis.

He said the reason behind the decline was due mainly to the higher costs of studying abroad.
"Institutions of higher learning overseas had raised their fees for foreign students," he told The Malaysian Today when asked on the decline in the number of Sarawakians pursuing tertiary education in New Zealand.

Dr. Chan too pointed out that Sarawak, of all states in the country, has the highest number of graduates from foreign universities based on a per capita basis. He said this after declaring open the New Zealand Centre here.

He added the devaluation of the Malaysian currency against the US dollars and other European currencies and the raise in fees by foreign institutions had almost doubled the fees for Malaysian students to pursue their studies overseas.

"It is not that they do not want to pursue their studies in foreign universities. But the cost now is just too high for most parents to bear with," he added. He said the decline in Sarawak students pursuing their studies overseas was also due to the existence of several universities being set up in the state now.

"It costs much cheaper to get a degree locally than in overseas countries, unless of course they want to pursue their masters or PhD where they may have no choice but to pursue in countries that offer such courses," he added.

According to Dr. Chan, a total of 1,086 fee paying tertiary students from Malaysia enrolled in various universities in New Zealand in 2002 and "this brings in about NZ$38 (RM80) million to the country's economy annually".

He disclosed that an estimated 13, 000 Malaysians had been educated in New Zealand so far, many among whom now secured senior positions both the private and public sectors.

Earlier in his speech, Dr. Chan said New Zealand and Malaysia had enjoyed a history of close and friendly relationship with each other dating back originally from the education-related Colombo Plan, Commonwealth ties, and shared security concerned.

He said the two-way trade between the two countries was significant and valued at around RM2,415 million for the year ending December 2002.

"Malaysia is New Zealand's eighth largest bilateral trading partner, 12th largest export market globally and the sixth largest source of imports," he disclosed.

He said most of New Zealand's export to Malaysia agriculture-related products while Malaysia's exports to the former had also grown rapidly over the years.

"Besides petroleum products, major exports of Malaysia to New Zealand include electrical and electronic goods, machineries, vegetable oils and rubber," he said.
Touching on New Zealand and Malaysia economic relationship, Dr. Chan said it was a two-way investment.

"About 20 New Zealand companies have major investment in Malaysia covering a wide variety of sectors, including telecommunications, electronics, software, information technology, building products and food technology while Malaysia businesses in turn, have invested in the hotel and property sectors, forestry and food processing," he disclosed.

Commenting on the New Zealand Centre which was officiated by Jim Sutton, the New Zealand's Minister For Trade Negotiations, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Forestry, Minister for Bio security and Minister For Rural Affair, Dr. Chan noted that the vision of the centre was clear and simple that was "to become the centre in Sarawak for matters pertaining to education and business with New Zealand".

He said one of it key missions was to actively promote education links between Sarawak and the country via education.

"Sarawak welcomes this type of establishment to improve people-to-people links which is more naturally followed by other links such as business trade," he added.