Global Engineering Capability Review


The knowledge category measures a country’s contribution to and advancement of knowledge in engineering and technology using four indicators. These include research and development (R&D) spending as a percentage of GDP, and the number of universities in the top 500 for engineering.

Malaysia: State research entities and engineering advocacy

Malaysia ranks 23rd in the world for investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP (1.44%), and 24th in the world for patent applications, with 1,116 filed in 2018. It also punches above its weight (19th) for the number of universities ranked within the world’s top 500 for engineering. This belies a global GDP ranking of 41[14] and reflects a strong emphasis on engineering in education.

Malaysia’s engineering education programmes mostly date from the 1980s and 1990s. The 1996 decision by the Ministry of Education to reduce the length of study in engineering in public universities from four years to three (in order to supply a growing labour market) has since been reversed, as part of a broader agenda to improve R&D [15]. In 2006-07 the government also launched the Malaysian Research Universities (MRU) programme, designating five state universities as research entities, an initiative modelled on similar schemes in Singapore and South Korea. Under the programme, MRUs gain financial autonomy, allowing for funding for research activities and related needs, as well as independence regarding long-term research agendas. The state set out to provide 90% of required funding and to facilitate partnerships with various ministries. MRUs can use the funds for the development of facilities and infrastructure, the purchase of equipment, and payment for researchers and support staff. These universities then give priority to R&D, commercialisation and graduate studies. The programme has produced favourable results, boosting publication rates and Malaysia’s reputation for engineering excellence. [16]

Malaysia also has a proactive independent body to advance engineering education, the Society of Engineering Education Malaysia. [17]The group organises conferences and seminars, and it co-hosted the 2017 World Engineering Education Forum and the 2017 Global Student Forum. This commitment to enhancing domestic engineering education is reflected in the country’s strong ranking (18th) in the labour force category of the Index, as well as its success in the knowledge category. [18]

Malaysia is listed in 29th place in the overall Knowledge ranking, despite the country's education programmes in engineering being relatively new