An island state, Singapore boasts world-class universities and its strong reputation for educational excellence means that top, global institutions have campuses in the city. Discover more reasons to study in this vibrant location
Located in the heart of southeast Asia, Singapore has plenty to offer international students.
The country offers a cosmopolitan blend of cultures, languages and religions – its population is made up of Chinese, Malay and Indian citizens and a large number of expatriates, but while crowded, it’s known for its cleanliness (chewing gum is banned to prevent it clogging up the pavements) and safety (Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world).
Studying in Singapore offers a fast-paced, big-city lifestyle, tropical climate and a whole bunch of attractions and activities to keep you occupied in your spare time, such as parks, museums, cinemas and restaurants. The city also has a thriving arts scene, perfect for creative types. Superb transport links also make it a great base for exploring the rest of southeast Asia.
For a small country Singapore’s higher education landscape is varied and well respected. In recent years it has been recognised as a world leader in research and innovation, adding to its appeal with foreign students.
Singapore houses a number of public and private universities, as well as polytechnics, art schools and foreign institutions.
It has six national universities (five public and one private). These include:
- Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
- National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Singapore Institute of Management (SIM)
- Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
- Singapore Management University (SMU)
- Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
Many world-leading foreign institutions also have campuses in the country, for example, INSEAD (France), James Cook University Singapore (Australia), Newcastle University Singapore (UK) and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Singapore (USA).
The NUS (the oldest higher education institution in the country) and NTU are the largest and most high profile, placing 11th and 12th respectively in the QS World University Rankings 2019.
Degree courses in Singapore
National institutions offer Bachelors courses and these usually take three to four years to complete. Popular subjects include business, creative arts, engineering, law and medicine. Entry requirements vary, but you’ll typically need a high school leavers certificate to be admitted onto a undergraduate course.
Certificates and diplomas can also be studied.
Postgraduate study in Singapore is often referred to as graduate study. Masters degrees are split between coursework programmes (equivalent to taught courses in the UK) and research programmes.
Masters by coursework are usually taught through a series of lectures, seminars and group work like in the UK and are completed by the submission of a dissertation.
Full-time study usually lasts one or two years, with intakes in August and, for some courses, January. Part-time study is also possible. However, the duration of courses varies considerably as each institution decides its own curriculum. MBA programmes can take 12 to 18 months to complete full time.
Postgraduate entry criteria includes a good undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, proficiency in English and evidence that you can support yourself financially. Certain programmes may require some work experience. However, check with your institution as requirements do vary.
Singapore’s top universities are research-led and offer an ideal environment for PhD study. You’ll need a Masters degree in a related subject and may have to pass entrance exams. You’ll also need to submit a research proposal.
There are research institutes that offer opportunities in science and engineering in collaboration with local universities.
Applications are made through the relevant faculty. Generally, PhD study will last two to five years if studied full time, with a qualifying exam after year one before you start your thesis.
Fees range from about 22,000 to 30,000 Singaporean dollars a year (£12,440 to £16,964).
Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s unsurprising that a high quality of living comes with increased living costs, but while Singapore has some of the most expensive tuition fees in Asia, when compared to international standards fees are relatively reasonable.
Bear in mind that course costs vary widely depending on the level of study and what subject and institution you choose, so check with the university that you’re applying to.
At the National University of Singapore undergraduate fees for international students during the 2018/19 academic year ranged from 17,550 to 60,800 Singaporean dollars (£9,942 to £34,491), whole postgraduate fees ranged from 18,950 to 52,750 (£10,735 to £29,885).
Masters fees usually fall between 20,000 and 54,000 Singaporean dollars (£11,330 to £30,593).
Science, engineering and medical programmes usually fall at the higher end of these scales.
What you have to pay will typically be divided into separate sections. Tuition fees will be the main expense, but other costs may include application, matriculation, amenities, computer and exam fees.
Funding to study in Singapore
Singapore makes regular appearances on lists of the most expensive cities in the world so it’s worth seeking out additional sources of cash to help with your finances.
Over half of international students receive financial aid when studying in Singapore.
Check with your university to see what financial help they offer, it’s also worth researching what government support is available at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Singapore – Financial assistance.
Scholarships may be available depending on your country of origin, for example, ASEAN scholarships are for students who are from a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
International students on many degree programmes (who have not been awarded a scholarship) are eligible to pay significantly reduced tuition fees. However, if you take up this offer you’ll have to agree with the MOE to work in the country for at least three years after your course ends.
Alternatively, repayable tuition fee loans are available to postgraduates who are not on a scholarship. These are worth up to 90% of the fees payable by Singaporean citizens for the same course.
You can work up to 16 hours a week part time while studying and full time during holidays, which can help off set some of your costs but remember to get approval from your university first.
When your university accepts your application it will issue an in-principle approval (IPA) letter. Your entry visa will be included in this document.
Within two weeks of receiving your IPA letter you need to apply for a Student’s Pass, issued by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). The pass covers the duration of your course and you’ll need to apply for one through the Students Pass Online Application & Registration System (SOLAR), at least one month – but not more than two months, before your course starts.
On arrival in Singapore you’ll have to produce various documents, including your passport, disembarkation/embarkation card and a medical report, at a pre-booked appointment with the ICA.
You don’t need a Student’s Pass if you already hold a Dependant’s Pass or an Immigration Exemption Order.
Most applications for Masters programmes are made online through the university website. You may have to send supporting documents, such as exam transcripts and a copy of your passport, and pay an application fee.
Check with the university as some courses have different application processes. For example, there may be different deadlines depending on your home country, previous qualifications, or for the January and August intakes.
For international students, admission to Singaporean universities is increasingly competitive as the number of foreign students is being capped by the government.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin. The vast majority of Singaporeans speak more than one of these. Your course will be taught in English as it’s the official language of business and education.
Be aware that universities in Singapore set high standards for proficiency in English, so if you’re a non-native speaker you’ll need a good score in a test such as the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
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