Challenges faced by Malaysian private HLIs in providing quality education: a thematic analysis

Date02 July 2018
Publication Date02 July 2018
AuthorAzilah Anis,Rafikul Islam,Nur Anisah Abdullah
SubjectEducation,Curriculum, instruction & assessment,Educational evaluation/assessment
Challenges faced by Malaysian
private HLIs in providing quality
education: a thematic analysis
Azilah Anis
Department of Business Management, Universiti Technologi MARA,
Puncak Alam, Malaysia
Rafikul Islam
Department of Business Administration, Kulliyyah of Economics and
Management Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and
Nur Anisah Abdullah
Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
Purpose The paper aims to identify the emerging themes on the challenges faced by the Malaysian
privatehigher learning institutions (HLIs) in the provision of providing quality education.
Design/methodology/approach Semi-structured interviews were purposively conducted with 29 of the
Malaysian private HLI internal and external stakeholders ranging from the relevant personnel of the institutions
(the quality director, administrators and senior academics), regulatory agencies, prospective employer, students
and parents. Thematic analysis was then applied to analyze the participantsresponses in determining and
clarifying the challenges faced by the Malaysian privateH LIs in theissue of providing quality education.
Findings Eight overarching themes were identied,namely, Academics, Facilities, Students, Programs
and curriculum, Competition, Accreditation, Finance and Research. Academics represent the most frequent
challenge raised by the participants,whereas Research emerged as the least mentioned challenge during the
Research limitations/implications The present paper focusedsolely on Malaysian private HLIs, and
thus, the ndings may not be applicableto the foreign private HLIs that are operating in Malaysia as well as
to the public HLIs.
Originality/value The ndings are expected to provide valuable guidelines to the Malaysian Private
HLIs in areas where resources need to be criticallydisbursed. To the regulatory agencies and policy-makers,
the ndings could enlighten them on the difculties faced by these privately funded institutions so that
further policiescan be designed and implemented to assist these institutions in theiroperations and long-term
Keywords Challenges, Thematic analysis, Malaysian private higher learning institutions,
Quality of education
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Specically, the emergence of Malaysian private higher learning institutions (HLIs) in the late 1990s
stems from two main factors. The rst was seen as a complementary move to assist the public
HLIs in their role as the nations main education provider (Li, 2014). The increase in the nations
population paralleled a similar increase in the demand for tertiary education, which could not
private HLIs
Received1 October 2015
Revised27 December 2017
8 February2018
Accepted4 May 2018
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.26 No. 3, 2018
pp. 349-373
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-10-2015-0039
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
be absorbed by the 20 public universities, 33 polytechnics and 91 community colleges. Thus,
the responsibility of providing tertiary education is shared with private HLIs, comprising the
70 private universities (including Malaysian private universities and foreign branch campuses),
34 university colleges and 410 colleges in Malaysia (Malaysia Education Blueprint (2015/2025)
(Higher Education). Second, the private HLIs emerged as a direct result of the enactment of the
National Council on Higher Education Act 1996, the Private Higher Educational Institutional
Act (1996) and the National Accreditation Board 1996. These three Acts were instrumental in
establishing private HLIs as an important, alternative source of the nations tertiary education
(Shin and Harman, 2009).
Besides complementing the public HLIs in providing tertiary education to the public,
private HLIs are also recognized as contributors to the countrys gross domestic product
(GDP) and economic growth (Arokiasamy, 2011;Becket and Brookes, 2008;Fahmi, 2006).
The nation has capitalized on the new private HLIs, garnering an estimated RM1.3bn in
revenues to the national economy, derived signicantly from the growing international
student body (Abu Bakar et al., 2009). Yen et al. (2015) further predicted that these revenue
contributionsproduce a 2 per cent rise in the near future.
The pertinent roles played by these private HLIS have provided the impetus for several
studies on private HLIs in Malaysia. Some of the popular research areas included service
quality (Abdullah et al.,2015;Chong and Ahmed, 2014;Kong and Muthusamy, 2011),
especially from the studentspoint of view, as the main recipients of these educational
services. Other related issues are the lecturers (Long et al., 2014;Arokiasamy, 2011;
Arokiasamy et al.,2009;Arokiasamy and Ismail, 2007), factors that inuence student
enrolment in private HLIsfrom both local (Osman et al.,2013;Hassan and Sheriff, 2006) and
international studentsperspectives (Migin et al.,2015;Padlee et al.,2010), knowledge
sharing (Rahman et al., 2017;Yuen et al., 2015;Chin et al.,2014) and others. Yet, few
researchers (Anis et al.,2014;Tang and Hussin, 2011;Anis and Islam, 2011;Jaladin et al.,
2010;Fion,2010, 2008;Ahmad et al.,2007;Sohail et al.,2006;Sohail et al.,2003) have
attempted to investigate quality issues. Among these names, none investigated the
challenges faced by the private HLIs, particularly Malaysian private HLIs, inthe provision
of quality education. Indeed, providingand maintaining quality has been acknowledged as
one of the toughest challenges for HLIs worldwide to remain sustainable in a highly
globalized environment (Mohsinand Kamal, 2012;Belle, 2009; Eric, 2007; Donald 2003). For
Malaysian private HLIs, providing and maintaining acceptable quality as required by the
regulatory agencies namely, the MQA (Malaysian Qualication Agency) and MOHE
(Ministry of Higher Education) appears even more challenging. They not only face stiff
competition within the industry but are also struggling with limited resources in achieving
the regulated quality standards(Yaakob et al.,2009).
This paper, thus,aims to discuss various challenges faced by theMalaysian Private HLIs
in the provision of quality education from the perspectives of its internal and external
stakeholders.The remaining parts of the paperproceed as follows: Section 2 will examinethe
challenges facedby private HLIs in providing quality education (LITERATURE REVIEW).
Section 3 will explain the methods used in obtaining participant responses. The responses
will then be elaborated in section 4 (RESULTS) and followed by Section 5 (DISCUSSION).
The conclusion(Section 6) recapitulatesthe main ndings of the presentstudy.
2. Literature review
2.1 The education system in Malaysia
At present, public HLIs and private HLIs are the two types of institutionsin the Malaysian
tertiary education sector. Among the salient features of these institutions are their

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