MQA (Malaysian Qualifications Agency) and Higher Education Study Pathways
MQA - The national quality assurance agency of Malaysia
The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), the national quality assurance agency of Malaysia, was established on 1 November 2007 under the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act 2007. Its key function is to quality-assure all programmes and qualifications offered by higher education providers. MQA comes under the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education.
MQA was established to replace the following three quality assurance agencies, namely :
- Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (established under Act 556 in 1996), for private higher educational institutions
- The Quality Assurance Division of MOHE, for public universities
- The Quality Assurance Division of MOHE, for polytechnics and community colleges
What does MQA do?
- Accredits higher educational programmes and qualifications
- Implements the national framework known as MQF
- Supervises and regulates the quality and standard of higher education providers
- Establishes and maintains the Malaysian Qualifications Register
- Facilitates the recognition and articulation of qualifications
- Evaluates and assesses the comparability of foreign qualifications against the MQF
Two types of higher education programme accreditation by MQA
In general, MQA quality-assures programmes through two distinct processes:
- Provisional Accreditation – an exercise that determines whether a programme has met the minimum quality requirements preliminary to Full Accreditation.
- Full Accreditation – an assessment exercise that ascertains if the teaching, learning and all other related activities of a programme provided by a higher education provider have met the quality standards and are in compliance with the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).
MQA implements the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF)
MQA is entrusted with implementing the national framework known as the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) to accredit higher educational programmes and qualifications, to supervise and regulate the quality and standard of higher education providers, to establish and maintain the Malaysian Qualifications Register and to provide for related matters.
The Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF)
The implementation of MQF means that there will be a unified system to bind and interlink all the qualifications awarded in Malaysia (which includes higher education qualifications and Malaysian Skills Certificates – SKM Level 1 to 5) and serve as a reference point for all Malaysian national qualifications.
MQF is an instrument that develops and classifies qualifications based on a set of criteria that are approved nationally and are on par with international good practices at the level of learning attained by the learners. These include learning outcomes achieved and a credit system which are based on the learner's academic load. All the qualifications in the framework are based upon four classifications which are: (1) learning outcomes; (2) credit; (3) objectives; and (4) field of study.
MQF has eight levels of qualifications in two national sectors, namely, the academic sector which is the higher education sector; and the TVET sector which consists of the skills, vocational and technical sectors.
The two sectors of education are the:
- Academic (higher education) sector
- TVET (skills, vocational and technical) sector
The eight levels of higher education qualifications are:
- Levels 1 to 3 - These are the levels for skills certificates awarded by the skills sector; vocational and technical certificates awarded by the Vocational & Technical Sector; and certificates (Level 3) awarded by the Higher Education sector.
- Levels 4 and 5 - These levels are for diplomas and advanced diplomas (general degree) respectively awarded by the Technical and Vocational Sector, Skills Sector and Higher Education Sector.
- Level 6 to 8 - Level 6 is for the first tertiary qualification, i.e. bachelor degree with honours while Level 7 is for master degrees and Level 8 for PhD / doctoral degrees. Under the lifelong learning category, there are graduate certificates and diplomas and postgraduate certificates and diplomas.
Minimum graduating credits for a programme:
The framework specifies that a programme is required to achieve the following minimum credits before an academic qualification can be awarded by the approved higher educational institutions, e.g. certificate (60 credits), diploma (90 credits), bachelor degree (120 credits), and taught master degree (40 credits). Master and doctoral degrees obtained by research do not have credit values.Please refer to the diagram below for the various levels of higher education qualifications based on MQF and their entry requirements.
Diagram 1: MQA - Malaysia Qualification Framework (MQF): the qualification levels, academic and TVET sectors and minimum number of graduating credits
Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)
Many of you in the work force today may not have had the chance to study at college or university, choosing instead to enter the working world right straight from secondary school. Like many other working adults who may have considered pursuing higher education, you would not have been able to meet the minimum entry requirement of a higher education institution without a pre-university qualification or a first degree.
In 2011, all that changed when the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) introduced the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) which enables individuals who have work experience but lack formal academic qualifications to pursue their studies at higher education institutions. In short, APEL provides an alternative entry route to formal programmes of study for certificate (level 3, MQF) to master's level (level 7, MQF) through the recognition of prior learning and experience regardless of how and where it was acquired.
If you are interested in applying for courses at HEIs through APEL, the entry requirements are as follow:
- Certificate (level 3, MQF) - 19 years old at the time of application with relevant work experience and passed APEL assessment conducted by MQA or its authorised test centres.
- Diploma (level 4, MQF) - 20 years old at the time of application with relevant work experience and passed APEL assessment.
- Bachelor's degree (level 6, MQF) - 21 years old at the time of application with relevant work experience and passed APEL assessment.
- Master's degree (level 7, MQF) - 30 years old at the time of application with at least STPM/diploma/equivalent, relevant work experience and passed APEL assessment.
(At the moment, for master's level programmes, the disciplines offered through APEL are limited to business, performing arts, information technology and education)
Study Pathways for Higher Education Qualifications
There are many routes to acquiring a tertiary qualification for SPM and STPM/pre-university qualification holders. The Diagram below indicates the various options and study pathways at tertiary level.
(Note : Public Universities accept STPM or MOE's matriculation certificate with MUET qualification for entry into Year 1 Bachelor's Degree.)
How to Apply to Higher Educational Institutions for Undergraduate Programmes
For courses at public universities e.g. Asasi (foundation studies), diploma, bachelor degree (full-time mode) for the September intake, students need to apply through the Centralised Admission Agency (UPU), Bahagian Pengurusan Kemasukan Pelajar, Jabatan Pengajian Tinggi, Ministry of Higher Education.
For courses at private higher educational institutions e.g. programmes at pre-university, diploma and bachelor degree levels, students have to apply directly to the institution of their choice. There are a few intakes per year at Private HEIs.
For PHEIs: The general requirements for pre-university studies, certificate, diploma and bachelor degree programmes at PHEIs are shown below:
|Education Level||General Entry Requirement|
|University Foundation Programme||SPM/IGCSE with 5 credits, or its equivalent|
|Certificate Level||SPM/IGCSE with 1 credit, or its equivalent|
|Diploma Level||SPM/IGCSE with minimum 3 credits, or its equivalent|
|Year 1 Bachelor Degree||STPM/GCE A-levels + English Proficiency or its equivalent|
For Public Universities: The general requirements for pre-university studies, certificate, diploma and bachelor degree programmes at public universities are shown below:
|Education Level||General Entry Requirement|
|University Degree Foundation Programmes / Pre-university studies||School leavers with SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) qualification, minimum of 5 credits|
|Diploma Programmes||School leavers with SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) qualification, minimum of 3-5 credits|
|Bachelor Degree Programmes||
Source : myCOURSE Guide (2nd edition, 2020) published by STUDYMALAYSIA Sdn Bhd)
STUDYMALAYSIA Editorial Team
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