Private vs Public Uni: Studying in Singapore from a Non-Singaporean Perspective

lasalle college and nus singapore

Singapore is indeed one of the top destinations for students from all over the world to pursue a quality education. Being a country that heavily invests in education and offers an abundant of career opportunities for high-performing fresh graduates, Singapore continues to be the number one choice for many international students. As much as it’s a monumental setting for diverse educational pursuits, Singapore offers their undergraduate and graduate studies in a variety of tertiary education institutions.

Currently, Singapore boasts 6 top public universities that offer full-time degree programmes:

  • National University of Singapore
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • Singapore Management University
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design
  • Singapore Institute of Technology
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences

On top of that, Singapore also has quite a number of private universities, each offering unique experiences and world-class education for university students. However, it is worth noting that both public and private universities have their own unique features that differentiates them from each other – such as the types of degree programmes offered, campus environment, tuition delivery method, facilities, ranking, and career prospects.

In this article, we will examine the 3 factors that differentiate the private and public universities in Singapore.

1. Admission and Entry Requirements

Private and public universities have different admission requirements to assess their applicants. Public universities in Singapore employ a holistic approach for their recruitment, that evaluates the applicants based on a variety of factors, such as their secondary school qualifications, language test scores, extracurricular engagements, interpersonal skills, leadership positions, and other calibers that the admissions committee believe to be of assets in a candidate. Rather than rigidly defining thresholds for grades, the recruitment officers take into consideration every aspect of a candidate before deciding whether admission is granted. Comparing the six public Singapore universities, NUS, NTU, and SMU are known to be the most selective and also reputed for consistently attracting a diverse, and talented pool of domestic and international student – year after year.

On the other hand, private universities tend to set a standard admission criteria for incoming students. For instance, Singapore Institute of Management Global Education (SIM GE), a private university in Singapore requires its diploma candidates to achieve at least a 5.5 band score in their IELTS and an overall 6.0 band score for their bachelor degree programmes, in addition to a modest high school qualifications on a minimum basis. For more details on the admission prerequisites for SIM GE, click here.


2. Financial Aids and Scholarships Offered

It is apparent to many that university education is a valuable investment. However, not every family will be able to afford the hefty price tag that comes with the degree programmes in these prestigious universities. Fortunately, there are many forms of financial aids available to students, and these can come in the form of:

  • Merit Scholarships
  • Government Grants
  • Student Loans
  • Education Schemes
  • Donated / Faculty Bursary
  • Work-Study Assistance and many more

Merit Scholarships: This most common and widely sought-after type of funding is usually the merit scholarships, which are typically bond-free and are only awarded to high-achieving students with a good educational record accompanied with exceptional leadership experience (reflected in their co-curricular achievements). Merit scholarships are available at all of the major public and private universities in Singapore.

Government Grants: In public universities, both students are eligible to apply for financial assistance from the government, that can cover the entire cost of the degree programme. However, it is worth nothing that these grants are usually not bond-free, and are required to ‘contribute’ back to the Singaporean economy through employment upon graduation with a local company. As an example, the Ministry of Education offers funding to assist the students studying full-time undergraduate courses that comes with a 3-year bond to any Singapore organisations upon graduation.

Related: 5 Things You Must Know Before Pursuing a Double Major


3. Degree Duration, Routes, and Accreditation

Both public and private universities have a vast difference in terms of their degree routes and accreditations.

Public universities have a rather straightforward degree route, in which most of the bachelor degree programmes require no more than 4 years of study, while private universities offer bachelor degrees with varying length of years to complete, depending on the terms and arrangement with the associate partner universities. For instance, in SIM GE, degree routes that are associated with University of London would typically take up to 4 years of study, while similar courses offered in partnership with RMIT Australia might offer an accelerated path that can be completed within one and a half to 2 years.

In public universities, the degrees are awarded by these institutions themselves whilst degrees from private institutions are occasionally awarded in conjunction with the affiliate foreign universities. Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) offer their students world-class degrees which are in affiliation with other prestigious universities from the UK, the US, Switzerland, France, and Australia.


Final Verdict: So, Private or Public Uni?

Deciding on the ideal university for you can be a tedious and daunting process. Nevertheless, it is apparent that universities in Singapore will guarantee a world-class education that will both decorate your CV and groom you well to prepare for the corporate world. On top of knowing which degree to pursue, deciding on whether you should attend a private or public university can also be an issue.

However, it is definitely a good start for you to know which major and industry you want to explore, as it can help facilitate the decision-making process between deciding between public vs private universities – and ultimately which exact institution.

Related: How 3 Thai EdTech Startups are Fixing Our Education System – with AI and Games


Feature Image Credit (Left): William Cho on Wikimedia Commons

Feature Image Credit (Right): smuconlaw on Flickr


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