Malaysia had 127,583 international students in 2018, with 70% enrolled in private institutions of higher education. (rawpixel pic)

PETALING JAYA: An economist has highlighted how Covid-19 travel restrictions meant the country could have lost out on RM15.6 billion in revenue last year from international students.

Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow Madeline Berma noted that the closing of borders across the world not only prevented international students from returning, it also put a stop to any plans that potential students might have had about furthering their studies in Malaysia.

“In Malaysia, the higher education sector is a real income earner,” Derma told an online forum last night.

“From the most recent data that I have, in 2018, Malaysia had 127,583 international students, with 70% enrolled in private institutions of higher education.

Madeline Berma.

“It was estimated that the number would grow to 200,000 in 2020 and they would have contributed RM15.6 billion. Now, this is just a dream.”

The forum , titled “Fast Forward: The Pandemic Era; Higher Education at a Crossroad”, was organised by Angkatan Wanita Amanah Negara (AWAN).

A former associate professor at the Faculty of Economics and Management, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Berma also highlighted the “lost generation” of graduates as a result of the pandemic.

Noting that the unemployment rate reached a 30-year high of 5.3% last May, she said fresh graduates had been struggling to secure jobs during the pandemic, which would have an impact on the country’s socio-economic development.

She said that 75,000 out of 300,000 fresh graduates were unemployed last year, preventing them from contributing to the country’s tax base and their household incomes.

Former education minister Maszlee Malik, who also took part in the forum, urged the government to re-double its efforts to improve online learning, provide better internet access across the country, and carry out a more concerted drive to procure laptops and digital devices for needy students.

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