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.
A Masters from a Singaporean university should be recognised by UK employers.
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).
A number of UK institutions partner with Singapore universities creating exchange opportunities for students. For example, The University of Nottingham has an agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS), as does Durham University and Kings College London.
Make your own enquiries at your institution to find out what arrangements are in place.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Work Holiday Programme allows university students and recent graduates between 18 and 25 years of age to work for up to six months on a holiday visa.
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.
How to apply
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).
- High Standard of Education
Singapore is now the host of two universities ranked in the top 15 in the world and two in the top 3 in Asia, according to the QS World University Rankings 2016. The universities in Singapore are recognized particularly for their technology and engineering courses, as well as those in natural sciences. Singapore is considered to be one of the leading educational nations in Asia.
- The Employment Opportunities
Singapore’s strong economy, resulting from its strong industrial focus, means that there are a number of employment prospects for graduates. In 2016 the unemployment rate sat at a mere 2.2% and with many organizations offering graduate programs, there is bound to be plenty of opportunities available.
- Education Grants
All international students are eligible to receive a grant for their tuition fees, which the amount varying depending on the course and institution. You do not have to pay these fees back, but instead, students are required to stay in Singapore and work for a minimum of three years, again, depending on the course.
- Immersion into the Asian Century
With Asian countries set to dominate innovation and technological advancements in the coming years, what better way to get a head start in the new era of development than by studying in what has become one of the most competitive economies in the world. The Asian Century has in part been led by the growth of India, but Singapore is predicted to play a key role in the future, so a degree from one of its’ top universities will no doubt be incredibly beneficial.
- Global Educational Focus
There is strong collaboration between universities in Singapore and others around the world. These partnerships will mean that as a student you are given an enormous range of opportunities and as a result, your studies can truly be a global experience.
- The Bilingual Education Policy
A strength of Singapore’s education system is its bilingual policy. The curriculum is in English but also incorporates Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin into its teachings, which emerged with the aim of giving students an advantage as multilingual professionals capable of navigating a globalized world.
- Reasonable Affordability
While it is true that amongst the majority of the countries in Asia Singapore is one of the most expensive to live in, it is still relatively comparable to other popular study destinations, like the USA and UK. With the tuition grants available to international students, Singapore is one of the most economic study abroad options you can make.
- The Gateway to South- East Asia
Studying and living in Singapore will mean you will be in close proximity to numerous other countries, which means both you can experience both a culturally rich and cheap trip to some the beautiful countries located just around the corner.
Just as Singapore is located close to the hub of south- east Asia, Singapore itself is a multicultural and diverse island nation. People living, studying and working in Singapore have originated from all over the world and as a result, the country is the collection of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions. This incredible diversity functions in harmony, as the nation is relatively free from conflict.
- Close to Home
Studying abroad is very difficult for many people, as it often means moving to another side of the world, away from home, friends, and family. Singapore, in comparison with the US or Australia for example, is very close to India and with an Indian population of nearly 10%, living in Singapore won’t feel very far away from home at all!
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