How to do a Doctorate Degree Programme in Malaysia - Part 4

Entry Requirements
Students hoping to pursue postgraduate programmes must have at least a minimum qualification of an undergraduate degree. Also bear in mind that some universities may require that you have conducted studies at the particular Department that you wish to undertake research in before they would finally admit you to their postgraduate programme. You are advised to enquire at the Department where you would like to do your postgraduate research in if you are uncertain about your qualifications.

Another basic expectation is that students in postgraduate programmes must have a good proficiency in English before admission is allowed.

In general, students wishing to apply for postgraduate programmes must make sure they have the following minimum requirements:

For Master's Programme/Master's of Philosophy
• a recognized Bachelor's degree with Honours; or
• other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Bachelor's degree, & relevant experience.

For Doctorate/Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)
• a recognized Master's degree; or
• other recognized qualifications equivalent to the Master's degree, & relevant experience.

Finally, bear in mind that a neat, comprehensive application form is much more appealing to an academic selector than an untidy application. Applications that are mailed on time and are carefully put together make a good impression on an admission committee. It is also wise to use black ink, as the form is likely to be photocopied.

It is important that you present a convincing case and make the most of the sections on the application form that would ask you the reason why you would like to follow a particular degree. If you are a prospective Master's student, you should display your understanding about the aims and content of the course and be able to explain your motivation. Any information which may help the selector decide if the course meets your needs, and that you are able to cope with the course, should be included.

You should be prepared to submit an initial research proposal with your application form and supply further information as requested by the university, in order to establish a basis for negotiating the direction of your research degree.

Duration of Study
Post-graduate students may choose to pursue the programme on a full or part-time basis. However, some universities require students to fulfill a residential requirement, e.g., one semester for the Master's/Master's of Philosophy programme and two semesters for the Doctorate/Doctor of Philosophy programme.

Students can also apply for the transfer of credit hours as most universities will consider waiving the requirement of student having to undertake certain courses that he/she has already undergone. Generally, in such cases, a student can apply to transfer his/her credit hours if he/she has passed a certain subject in any public or private institution of higher learning that is acknowledged by the university offering the post-graduate programme. In addition, universities may impose some conditions for the transfer of credit hours from another university, for example the condition in ensuring that the credit hours do not exceed a set percentage of the credit hours allocated for the programme.

Overall, the duration of completing the programme depends on the progress of the individual student and the type of course chosen. Basically, the minimum and maximum periods are as follows:

Duration of Study at Master's and Ph.D Levels

(usually full-time students)
(usually part-time students)
Master's2-6 semesters 4-10 semesters
Ph.D 4-12 semesters8-16 semesters

No matter what your postgraduate orientation is like, your first responsibility is to get to know your potential advisors well and to talk with them about which courses you need to take.

The first two or three years of most Doctoral programmes involve a heavy dose of course work. In the third or fourth year, students must prepare for a series of gruelling tests known variously as orals, qualifying exams, comprehensive exams, candidacy exams, or doctoral exams. Every Department structures these differently, but in general, the intent is to test your expertise in your area of specialization, along with your more general knowledge of a broader field. Passing the exams demonstrates that you are both prepared to begin independent research on your dissertation and able to teach undergraduate courses in your field.

Concurrent with the preparation for exams or shortly after, you'll also work on formulating your dissertation project. Your advisor and committee will discuss the project with you and help you put together a prospectus, which will include a short description of your topic, a plan for research, and a bibliography. You'll use your prospectus as a road map for your own work and perhaps more importantly as the basis for grant applications.