Vol. 5, No. 1 (2009): 81–113.
What is the middle class? This conceptual conundrum remains unsolved, yet higher education in Malaysia is deemed as one of the constituents. With special reference to higher education reforms in the 1990s, this paper agrees with the literature arguing that the Malaysian middle class is heterogeneous. Empirical evidence from Population and Housing Census Malaysia 2000 indicates the diversities and complexities within higher education that flow over to the terrain of the Malaysian middle class. Meanwhile, this paper leaves open an old but fundamental question: what is the notion of a class underlying the Malaysian middle class studies that accept its heterogeneity but use the term, “the middle class” or “the middle classes”?
Akihito Aihara is currently completing PhD in Economics at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), The University of London. His research interests include development economics and economics of education and labour markets, especially in Southeast Asia, and his doctoral research is on the political economy of higher education and labour markets in Malaysia. His most recently presented paper is “Myth and Realities of Human Capital Theory: Evidence from Higher Education and Labour Markets in Malaysia” at the 6th International Malaysian Studies Conference in Kuching, Malaysia. Other recent works include “Unique Provision and Equal Access for All? Evidence from Higher Education in Malaysia,” “Public-Private Differentials and Sector Selection: Evidence from Malaysia”, and “Public-Private Choice in Higher Education and Employment with reference to Ethnicity in Malaysia.” Previously, he served as researcher/adviser at the political division of the Embassy of Japan in Malaysia where he focused on domestic politics, in particular ruling political parties and political-economic issues.