FOUNDATION and matriculation programmes are two well-known stepping stones to a university degree.
Students should consider these pre-university options if they already know their fields of interest. The subjects will give students a taste of their future undergraduate studies.
In Malaysia, foundation programmes offered by public universities serve as a direct route to specific degree courses at the same institution, while the matriculation programme is run by the Education Ministry.
Students taking matriculation enjoy wider prospects as the course is recognised by all local public universities and many others abroad. It comes in four streams — Science, Engineering, Accounting and Professional Accounting — with a study duration of between two and four semesters.
Other universities might not recognise the foundation programme if one decides to pursue undergraduate studies elsewhere. However, students who pursue their foundation programmes at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Universiti Malaya (UM) can apply to other public universities via the Central University Admission Unit.
Foundation students can experience a campus learning environment, said UiTM Dengkil Selangor corporate coordinator Rozi Hanum Shaharudin.
“The syllabus comprises highly intensive content, which strengthens their cognitive skills.”
UiTM offers five foundation courses in science, engineering, Teaching English as a Second Language and two law programmes — UiTM Law Foundation and KPTM Law Foundation.
“Students in the Law Foundation can go on to study law, humanities and languages,” she added.
Eirene Nabila Amani Williams-Hunt, 20, who completed her foundation at UiTM before reading law at UM, chose to do foundation because it focuses on a particular area of study.
“This is easier for me as I didn’t have to learn any unrelated subjects. I had the opportunity to understand how tutorials work and experience group and individual assignments as well as presentations. It helped me to adapt when I pursued my degree studies.”
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Centre of Agricultural Science Foundation Studies deputy director (academic and research) Associate Professor Dr Shamarina Shohaimi said foundation students would face similar assessments in undergraduate studies.
“This involves less didactic teaching and more student-centred learning. Students can get an idea of which undergraduate programme they want to pursue.”
UPM Biomedical Sciences degree student Yasothaa Velusamy, 21, said: “Although I was accepted into both UPM foundation and matriculation, I selected the former because it is a highly-ranked university. The comprehensive syllabus helped me realise where my interest lies.”
The tuition fees for foundation studies at public universities are subsidised and they range between RM2,013 at UiTM and RM3,000 at UPM.
Underprivileged students are entitled to RM1,420 tuition waiver by the Education Ministry. They also receive an allowance of RM2,500 and return airfare from Sabah and Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia and vice versa.
Matriculation by the Education ministry is more affordable as students only need to pay the registration fees. They range between RM446 and RM521, depending on the college. Tuition and accommodation are fully funded by the government. Eligible students will also receive an allowance of RM1,250 per semester.
Coming from a big family, Negri Sembilan Matriculation College student Esther Law Cong Jie, 19, said matriculation was a cost-effective choice.
Through the Matriculation Programme Teachers Training Scheme, scholarships are given to students upon completing their studies to pursue a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degree in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Siti Najihah Mohd Sariff, 25, who studied at Kedah Matriculation College before pursuing her chemistry degree at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said her pre-university studies offered flexibility and other advantages.
Entry to foundation programmes at public universities requires at least five Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) credits, including Bahasa Melayu, and a pass in History. For medical and engineering courses, they would have to fulfil additional requirements.
For matriculation, general entry requirements include at least a B in Bahasa Melayu, English and Mathematics, credits in Additional Mathematics and two other science subjects, as well as a pass in History. Its Professional Accounting stream is more competitive, requiring a minimum A in Mathematics, English and three other subjects.
Students can also opt to do their foundation and matriculation programmes at private universities, where entry is not only open to SPM, but also O Level, International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) holders.
Compared with public universities, they present a variety of options and more specified foundation courses, such as creative multimedia, mechanical engineering and hospitality.
With an average tuition fees of RM10,000 to RM25,000, the cost is higher than its public university counterparts.
With eight foundation programmes to choose from, Taylor’s College Pre-University Studies School head Dr R. Sivabala Naidu said foundation was a great transition from a dependent learning environment to an independent one.
“Excellent students can apply for Taylor’s merit, talent, sports and community scholarships.”
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Centre for Foundation Studies senior lecturer Nabilah Abdul Aleem Sidek said the UTAR foundation programme was tailored to suit the degree courses there.
“The comprehensive programme equips students with a wider understanding of different fields. Students can expect better acquisition of theoretical knowledge and skills required prior to entering degree study life.”
Students can also consider international matriculation programmes provided by private institutions in the country.
Among the programmes offered are South Australian Certificate of Education, Australian Matriculation and the Canadian International Matriculation Programme, which is based on the Ontario (Canada) Education Ministry standards.