Public vs Private University: Which one is better?

It’s definitely tough to decide which one is better, especially when it comes to something as important as our future. Some people argue that going to a public university is the way to go, while others swear by private university. It can be really difficult to figure out what’s the best choice for you.

In this article, I will walk you through the differences between public and private universities namely tuition fees, admission, environment, and graduate employability, so you will be able to decide either public or private universities to apply for.


Tuition Fees

One of the most significant distinctions between studying at a public institution and a private institution is the difference in fees.

This is due to the government subsidy given to public universities to cover the actual cost of courses, and as a result, tuition fees at public universities rarely exceed RM20,000.

Below is a comparison of the tuition fees in public and private universities.


Based on this table, getting a degree in Doctor of Medicine at University Kebangsaan Malaysia would only cost you RM13,600 for a total of five years. 

In contrast, the same degree at Monash University Malaysia would cost RM509,850 for the same duration, not including additional fees such as registration, hostel, and facility fees.

You may wonder how students can afford half a million ringgit in tuition fees alone, but private universities do offer various forms of financial aid, including scholarships.

Admission & Enrollment

One of the main reasons why students prefer studying at private universities rather than public ones is the flexibility to choose their desired course. 

In Malaysia, public universities use a centralized system called ‘Unit Pengambilan Unit’ (UPU), which makes it challenging for students to get the course they want. Admission to public universities can be highly competitive, especially for courses related to medicine and pharmacy.

However, there is another way for students to enroll in public universities without competing through UPU. It is called ‘direct intake’ and is offered by public universities. The only difference between UPU intake and direct intake is the course fee. Direct intake courses do not receive government subsidies, which makes them more expensive.


Sizing & Facilities Available

Public universities are designed to be massive as they accommodate a large number of students and offer a variety of courses every year.

However, despite their size, residential college placements may be limited, and many students from different public universities have complained about not getting a placement. Moreover, the condition of these residential colleges is often subpar, and students have expressed concerns about safety.

Fun fact: Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has the biggest campus in Malaysia with 1245.056 hectares!


In contrast, private universities may have smaller campuses but provide their students with fancy and comfortable residences that are superior to those offered by public universities.

In terms of facilities, public universities may have libraries with a wide variety of reference materials and journals available for access. They may also have pools, gymnasiums, farms, and even adventure parks. However, it is undeniable that most of these facilities are outdated and are not serviced frequently.

While many private universities in Malaysia may not have extensive facilities, especially if they involve large areas of land, the facilities they do have are typically more up-to-date and are serviced more frequently to ensure student satisfaction.

Environment & Culture


The environment and culture of public and private universities differ significantly.

Students in public universities are mostly Malaysians, whereas private universities have a more diverse student population, with students from all around the world.

Private universities offer a unique opportunity to learn in a diverse environment, where students can engage and learn with international students from different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds.

Graduate Employability


According to Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education, public universities have a graduate employability rate of 88.2% in 2021, compared to private universities, which have a rate of 80.3%.

However, only certain courses from certain public universities are highly regarded by employers. Meanwhile, most students in private universities have no trouble speaking English fluently. For instance, Taylor’s University alone has a graduate employability rate of 99.1%.


Ultimately, the choice between public and private universities depends on several factors, such as personal preferences, financial capacity, and academic goals. If you are interested in applying to a public university, we have a guide here on how to apply for UPU step-by-step.

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