Study in Singapore

Study in Singapore
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Updated 2022-06-01 12:23

Singapore is home to some of the best universities in the world. In addition to the homegrown National University of Singapore, many international universities have set up branch institutions in the country, offering a wide range of courses both at the graduate and postgraduate levels.

Singapore is a great destination in which to pursue further studies. In addition to being home to reputable institutions, the country offers a great student experience in an environment that combines the influences of the west with a thoroughly Asian mindset.

Even though the rules and discipline which have made Singapore so successful can be stifling in the long run, it's never too difficult to plan weekend escapes to neighboring countries. In fact, a student experience in Singapore doesn't limit itself to the tiny nation-state but also extends to a host of fascinating destinations that are easily accessed through low-cost flights.

Types of universities in Singapore

There are several types of universities available in Singapore. By learning what they are, you can better choose an institution to attend.

There are five different types of higher education: public universities, private universities, polytechnic institutions, institutes of technical education (ITEs), and foreign universities. There are also arts schools that offer diplomas and degree courses.

Public universities

Public universities are funded by the Singaporean government. Everyone is welcome to study here, including locals and foreigners.

Despite being funded by the government, public universities are also autonomous. This means they don't have to create a curriculum based on what the government tells them.

Private universities

As the name implies, private universities are privately funded. This means that private investors keep the universities running.

However, the government does help out. They often subsidize both part-time and full-time students so they can get their degrees affordably.

Polytechnic institutions

You can earn diplomas at these institutions. They allow you to get practice-oriented studies so you have hands-on experience in your field.

You can use enrollment at polytechnic institutions as a way to continue your education or to get post-employment professional development.

Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs)

As the name suggests, ITEs offer you a technical-oriented education. You'll get to develop your technical knowledge and skills in your time at these institutions.

While you can choose between traditional full or part-time studies, you can also enroll in traineeship courses if you wish.

Foreign universities

These are universities that have home bases in foreign countries and have established branch campuses in Singapore. If you've always wanted to attend a certain university but also wanted to get an education in this nation, then foreign universities can be a great middle-ground.

The education might also feel more familiar because the curriculum will be based on the country the home university is in.

A wide range of institutions to pick from

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are the most prominent homebred institutions. The NUS enjoys a healthy international reputation and regularly ranks among the top universities in the world. The NUS comprises 17 faculties offering a wide spectrum of courses, including Medicine, Engineering, Music and Business. The school has also established partnerships with the American universities Yale and Duke.

The Government of Singapore also oversees other public institutions such as the Singapore Management University, the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore Institution of Technology. On top of these local entities, Singapore has also attracted many foreign institutions, including Curtin University, James Cook University, and ESSEC, the French business school. Singapore also houses one of the campuses of INSEAD, which was chosen as the best MBA in the world by the Financial Times.

Below is more information about the top universities in Singapore.

National University of Singapore (NUS)

NUS ranked #11 on the 2022 QS World University Rankings. Not only that, but it has a reputation that precedes it: this university has consistently ranked as the #1 university in all of Asia.

You can choose between 17 faculties and schools, which are spread out across three campuses. In addition, there are four Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 29 university-level research institutes and centers. Needless to say, if you're going into a research-oriented major, NUS is ideal for studying at.

You won't feel out of place either. The student population at NUS is almost 40,000, and they come from 100 countries in the world. There are also student exchange programs and entrepreneurial internships, which are available at 12 NUS Overseas Colleges. Most undergraduates at this university usually study abroad in 40 countries across 300 universities.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

This university has been around for over half a century, even before Singapore gained its independence from the UK. NTU is another university that's highly ranked; it placed #12 on the 2022 QS World University Rankings. Of course, this university's consistently ranked #2 in all of Asia as well. In fact, its strength is engineering, so keep an eye on NTU if that's your area of interest. It's home to the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, as well as the Earth Observatory of Singapore and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight. So naturally, other areas of strength include education and business.

If you're interested in going into medicine, then NTU is a good university to attend. Its Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine is a joint medical school with Imperial College London. Choosing NTU will also give you great access to over 400 partnerships with well-known universities and brands, such as Stanford, MIT, Tokyo University, Robert Bosch, and BMW. There are many joint PhD programs and joint laboratories with joint programs too.

NTU is home to over 24,000 students, with around 30% of them being foreign.

Singapore Management University (SMU)

SMU is an autonomous and public university that's been around since 2000. It's actually the first publicly-funded private university in this nation that has an education style that's similar to The Wharton School. This is the #3 school in all of Asia and has been awarded the Triple accreditation by AACSB International, EQUIS, and AMBA.

SMU has a city campus conveniently located in the heart of downtown Singapore. There are six schools, which encompass several subjects, such as accountancy, business, economics, computing and information systems, law, and social sciences. There are collaborations with international researchers and universities from areas like Europe, India, China, and the USA. SMU's research institutes, centers, and labs also collaborate with the business community and public sector partners. In fact, there are over 200 partner universities across 45 countries, which gives you plenty of opportunities to explore the world while being a student here.

SMU has a student population of 10,000 across undergraduate and postgraduate programs. There are approximately 8% international undergraduate students from 28 countries and 58% international postgraduate students from 50 countries.

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

SUTD is the fourth autonomous and public university in Singapore. It was established in 2009 but has gained quite a reputation in just the last decade or so.

The permanent campus has only just opened in January 2015, which is right next to the Upper Changi Station on the Downtown MRT Line. Before, the interim campus was at the former ITE College Dover campus in Dover. An interesting fact is that it's the only university that's located in the east part of Singapore.

SUTD currently has a collaboration with 61 institutions across 2 countries, including institutions like MIT, Zhejiang University (ZJU), SMU, Berkeley, and Duke-NUS Medical School. There are 35 exchange partners within these collaborations, and they're located in 15 countries. SUTD also has 12 FACT programs in 5 countries and over 50 summer/winter programs across 14 countries.

The university has plans to expand its offerings in aviation, cities, and healthcare, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and data science. So if you're interested in these disciplines, SUTD surely won't disappoint.

Singapore Institution of Technology (SIT)

If you're interested in growth sectors of the economy, then SIT is where you should apply. This is the fifth autonomous university in Singapore, and it was also established in 2009. SIT is Singapore's first university of applied learning, and its aim is to help polytechnic graduates gain more opportunities. While it wasn't initially an accredited university, as of 2017, it is. Also, the accreditation was extended to both the first and second batch of students who graduated in 2015 and 2016.

There are five program clusters here: Engineering (ENG), Chemical Engineering and Food Technology (CEFT), Infocomm Technology (ICT), Health and Social Sciences (HSS), and Design and Specialised Businesses (DSB). While the main campus is located in Dover, its other five campuses are located in the five local Polytechnics. If you do attend this university, do note that in 2024, everything will be centralized in Punggol next to the Punggol Coast MRT station. This will make it a lot easier to attend classes.

SIT has many partnerships with overseas partners in Europe, Australasia, and the USA. They include Newcastle University, DigiPen Institute of Technology, The Culinary Institute of America, University of Glasgow, and University of Liverpool.

There are just 6,000 students at SIT, so it's a more intimate student body. If you're not a fan of bigger, bustling universities, then this can be ideal for you.

Financing your studies in Singapore

Tuition fees vary significantly between universities and courses. However, here are some approximate prices you can expect (per year):

  • Bachelor's degree: S$30,000 to S$60,000
  • Master's degree (non-medical): S$30,000 to S$50,000
  • Master's degree (medical): S$50,000 to S$90,000

It's interesting to note that international students can apply for tuition grants allocated by the Ministry of Education of Singapore. These grants can substantially reduce the fees that need to be disbursed and recipients are required to work in Singapore after graduation.

You can also apply for scholarships. Many of these are geared towards certain demographics, so take a look, as you never know if you fall into one of those categories.

Other avenues include specialized institutions such as Prodigy Finance, which offer loans to international students. Prodigy offers competitive interest rates, doesn't require collateral or a co-signer, and has the added advantage of not imposing any penalties for early repayments.

You should know that you're actually allowed to work while you're a student, so a side job can supplement your tuition fees and everyday expenses as well. However, you can only work 16 hours a week while the university is in session. In between terms or during break, you can work full-time though, so there's a good chance to build up your bank account and gain more experience.

International students in Singapore

English is the main language of instruction in Singapore, and most institutions will require TOEFL or IELTS scores prior to admission, although exceptions might exist for students having completed their studies in a predominantly English-speaking educational system.

The educational system in Singapore is modeled on the British A-level system, and Singapore is well-known for its high educational standards. Therefore, it's very important to ensure that prospective students arrive well-prepared prior to their courses, and in many instances, it's highly recommended that students follow pre-university courses or acquaint themselves with the topics that have been covered by their Singaporean counterparts in order to facilitate their transition into university. In certain instances, students might also be required to take additional tests.

All international students need to apply for a student pass. The process is surprisingly smooth and efficient, and universities generally provide extensive guidance. Students will be registered on an online system called Student's Pass Online Application & Registration (SOLAR), which caters to the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs) in Singapore, including local universities.

Once the application is approved, students will need to book an appointment online and then visit the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building on Kallang Road to pick up their physical student cards, which will cost you S$60. The cards are generally delivered on the same day.

Useful links:

Immigration and Checkpoint Authority

Singapore Ministry of Education

Singapore National University

Nanyang Technological University

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