Should You Study in Thailand or Malaysia?

Thailand and Malaysia will be at the top of your list if you want to study in Southeast Asia. Both are very cheap places to live, especially if you like street food. Both have courses taught in English, and both have a lot of cultural things to see and do in your free time. So, should you go to school in Thailand or Malaysia? The answer will probably depend a lot on your own preferences, since the two countries offer two different but equally exciting ways to study abroad. To help you decide, we’ve compared them on a number of points.

The best college

In the QS World University Rankings® 2021, there are nine top universities from Malaysia, while there are eight from Thailand. The best school in Malaysia is Universiti Malaya (UM), which is ranked 59th in the world. The best university in Thailand is Chulalongkorn University, which is 208th in the world. The table below shows how the remaining candidates from each country compare:



Universiti Putra Malaya (UPM)

·         Ranked 132nd in the world

Mahidol University

·         Ranked joint 252nd in the world

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

·         Ranked 141st

Chiang Mai University 

·         Ranked 601-650

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

·         Ranked joint 187th

Thammasat University 

·         Ranked 561-570

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

·         Ranked 142nd

Kasetsart University 

·         Ranked 801-1000

Universiti Teknologi Petronas

·         Ranked joint 439th

Khon Kaen University 

·         Ranked 801-1000

International Islamic University Malaysia

·         Ranked 601-650

King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi

·         Ranked 801-1000

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM)

·         Ranked 531-540

Prince of Songkla University

·         Ranked 801-1000

 Universiti Teknologi MARA

·         Ranked 651-700

Even though Malaysian universities are at the top of the World University Rankings, this doesn’t mean that they’re the best place to study every subject. If we look at the QS World University Rankings by Subject, we can get a better idea of where Malaysian and Thai universities are strongest. For example, the Thai Kasetsart University is ranked 29th in the world for agriculture, which is higher than any Malaysian university (the highest-ranked in Malaysia for this subject is Universiti Putra Malaysia).

Both Thai and Malaysian universities are good at engineering, but Malaysian universities are better. Five Malaysian universities are ranked in the top 150 in the world for Engineering and Technology, while only two Thai universities are in the top 300: Chulalongkorn University and the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Stall food

Both Thailand and Malaysia are cheap places to study, but to find out which one is cheaper, we put together the table below with some average costs. Keep in mind that your actual costs will depend on your lifestyle, spending habits, and location (large cities are typically more expensive to live in).

Because tuition costs vary from university to university, we’ve listed the costs at each country’s best school:

Annual international tuition fees
Study level Malaysia – Universiti Malaya Thailand – Chulalongkorn University
Undergraduate RM 7,078.22 per year (~US$1,650) From 30,750 Thai Baht per year (~US$930).
Postgraduate RM 11,706.99 (~US$2,700). From 80,000 Thai Baht (~US$2,400).

You may also have to pay an application fee and/or a fee to join the student union.

Costs of living

Average living expenses per month
Item Malaysia Thailand
Accommodation RM 300-450 (~US$70-105) 15,000 Thai Baht (~US$450)
Food RM 400-450 (~US$90-105) 10,000 Thai Baht (~US$300)
Books & course materials RM 50-100 (~US$12-24) [No data]
Clothing RM 60 (~US$14) 1,141 Thai Baht (~US$34)
Public transport RM 30-50 (~US$7-12) 1,203 Thai Baht (~US$36)
Phone costs RM 30-80 (~US$7-19) 500 Thai Baht (~US$15)
Misc. personal expenses RM 100-200 (~US$24-48) [No data]

Total amount needed per month: about RM1,000 to RM1,500 in Malaysia (about US$230 to US$350) and 15,000 to 20,000 Thai Baht in Thailand (about US$450 to US$600). So, even though Malaysia and Thailand are different, you won’t spend more than $7,200 a year on living costs in either country.

Student life & culture

What is it like to study in Malaysia or Thailand, other than comparing the best universities and how much they cost? Both are much more than just cheap choices.

Why take classes in Thailand?

  • Locals will be happy to see you because the country is known as the “land of smiles.”
  • You can dive into Thailand’s rich culture, which is a mix of the old and the new. In the cities of Thailand, you can find international businesses right next to Buddhist temples and open-air markets.
  • Thai street food is tasty and cheap, and Bangkok, the country’s capital, is known for its street food scene. Food lovers will love it.
  • Thailand has beautiful natural scenery and nice weather all year long.
  • The economy of the country is one of the best in the area. Animal lovers will love Thailand, where they can see elephants, tigers, and monkeys, among other animals. If city life gets too busy, a beach is never too far away.

Why take classes in Malaysia?

  • Malaysia has international campuses of well-known universities like Nottingham University in the UK and Monash University in Australia. This means you can get the same high-quality education for a lot less money.
  • Malaysia is one of the most developed countries in Southeast Asia. It has the third-largest economy in the region.
    In the World University Rankings, the country’s universities are getting better and better.
  • Malaysia has a lot of people who speak English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble studying there.
  • It has a lot of different kinds of people, so you can learn a lot.
  • It is also one of the most open-minded Asian countries, but you should still dress modestly.
  • You can spend your free time exploring the beautiful rainforests, beaches, and jungles of the country, or you can stick to the interesting historical sites in the cities.

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