The authoritative Indonesia Digest, edited by Ibu Wuryastuti Surnario, reports:
Bali has unexpectedly drawn a new market segment. Malaysia's Bernama
reports that Bali's Udayana University has become a school of choice for Malaysians seeking to further their tertiary studies overseas.
According to the Malay news service Bernama, there are already 123 Malaysian students at the Udayana University, including 50 who arrived just a few days ago, who attended their first lectures on Monday, September 11, 2006. Except for one student studying Hindu theology on this Hindu-dominated island, all of the Malaysians are studying medicine.
A Malaysian bank officer from Bangi, V. Sreenivasan, who has a daughter, Deepa, studying medicine in Bali, told Bernama that he chose Bali because the education costs and living expenses on the island were relatively cheaper compared to Europe, the US, Australia and even India, which has been the traditional destination for many Malaysian medical students.
Secondly, according to the Malaysian parent, Bali was only a two hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, which makes it easier and cheaper for parents to visit their children or for students to regularly return to Malaysia.
More importantly for Sreenivasan and other parents, and for sponsors like the Malaysian MARA foundation and the Public Service Department, the quality of education as well as the teaching and learning systems at Bali's Udayana University are considered as good as any other Malaysian government accredited overseas universities.
Malaysian Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, during a recent visit to Jakarta, agreed that it was much cheaper to send Malaysian students for medical studies to Indonesia.
No official figures were given, but it is understood that for the cost of sending one student to Europe or the US to study medicine, the Malaysian government can send seven students to Indonesia.
This may be why Mustapa enquired during his meetings in Jakarta with several universities whether it was possible for all 13 Malaysian-accredited universities in Indonesia to accommodate more Malaysian medical students.
And, as the result of persistent personal lobbying by Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia, Datuk Zainal Abidin Mohamed Zain, a number of Indonesian universities have now allocated more seats to Malaysian medical students starting from this year.
Zainal Abidin told Bernama recently that the cost factor was only one reason for the increasing number of Malaysian students in Indonesian medical schools, while another was the relevance of their studies here for the Malaysian situation, allowing students to learn about diseases prevalent in Malaysia and Indonesia, both being tropical countries.
Meanwhile, the Bali branch president of the National Association of Malaysian Students in Indonesia, M. Sujatharan, said another factor preferred by Indian parents was the strict Hinduism practiced and observed in Bali. 93.2% of a total 3.22 million population (2002 statistics) on the island are adherents of the Hindu faith while Muslims make up only some 4.9%, with other religions constituting less than 2%.
However, not just Malaysians of Hindu faith or Indian origin are studying medicine in Bali. There are currently also 18 Malaysian Chinese students and 15 ethnic
Malays who have no qualms regarding the predominantly Hindu culture in Bali, says Bernama.
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