PETALING JAYA: More than 70% of Malaysian undergraduates harbour hopes of studying overseas and obtaining permanent residence (PR) abroad. A survey of more than 1,100 undergraduates here found that 72.2% would prefer to study overseas and apply for PR status upon completion of their studies abroad. The survey revealed that the top choices for Malaysian students aiming to go abroad for further studies are the United Kingdom (49.5%), United States (16%), Australia (14.4%), Singapore (10.1%) and India (1.9%). The survey conducted by Anderson Market Analytics over six months polled students from six local private varsities, four of which are locally-owned and two owned by foreign universities. "These students perceive that a foreign degree enhanced their ability to obtain the right career. However, due to cost prohibitions and other considerations, they had to pursue tertiary education locally," said Anderson's executive director V. Prathab. "The students revealed that if they were able to find the funding needed to finance their studies abroad, they would likely emigrate upon completion of their studies," said Prathab, adding that this was a worrying sign as it could possibly deprive Malaysia of bright young talents. As such, he said local universities and policy-makers should look into ways to increase their attractiveness to students and enhance their competitiveness. He said the study also revealed that the cost of tertiary education was the biggest factor for students when selecting their choice of higher learning institutions. "While most want to get the best education, which is costly, they eventually decide based on affordability. As such, financing of tertiary education plays a big influence in their final decision." According to the survey, 71.7% of the students had applied for loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) but only 56.1% were successful. The rest were funded by their parents (24%), government or corporate scholarships (15.2%) and self- funded (4.7%). Prathab said as financing is the biggest factor when choosing tertiary education, universities here could also make themselves more attractive by giving incentives such as lower fees for excellent academic performance, easy payment schemes and discounts for upfront fee payments.