Singapore might be a small country, but in the realms of tertiary education and research, Singapore is a big deal. A whole lot of international reports have recognized Singapore as a world leader in research and innovation over the past few decades. In recent times, it’s been ranked seventh in the 2015 INSEAD Global Innovation Index, third in IMD’s 2014 World Competitiveness Rankings and second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-15. On top of that, tuition costs in Singaporean universities are cheap and affordable for locals and international students.
Tuition and Living Expenses
Singapore’s strong economy and high quality of living is accompanied by correspondingly high living costs, and commands some of the highest tuition fees in Asia. However, it’s still a very affordable option when comparing tuition costs internationally. Annual tuition for international undergraduates is roughly US$14,400 but please note that depending on the relevance and ranking of the university and the type of program you undertake, you may have to pay considerably higher fees. The good news is that more than half of international students receive some form of financial aid.
To provide context, the National University of Singapore’s current annual tuition fees for international undergraduates goes from S$17,550 (~US$12,750) to as much as S$50,800 (US$36,900) for programs in medicine and dentistry. These are for students with an MOE Tuition Grant (read more on this below) – fees for those not subsidized by the government start at S$29,850 (US$21,685).
Living expenses are another significant expenditure. You can expect housing, bills and other necessary expenses to cost you, on average, around US$8,000 a year.
Applying to Universities in Singapore
To study in Singapore as an international student, you’ll have to apply directly to your institution. So your first port of call, to check deadlines, application procedures and any other details, will be with the university itself – do well to consult the official website, and contact the international office directly with any questions you may have. Please understand that there may be a couple of limitations on how many programs you can apply for at any given institution, so do well to check the fine print.
International students who desire to study in Singapore will require a student visa. This visa will be issued along with your letter of approval (also known as your in-principal approval or IPA) once your application has been accepted by a recognized university. Your application will be subject to previous recognized qualifications, evidence of the required paperwork, and proof of sufficient English language skills.
While this automatic issuance means you do not have to worry about applying for your student visa, you will have to apply to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for a Student Pass within two weeks of getting accepted. This also has to be no earlier than two months before and no later than one month prior to the start of your course. This you can do this through the Student’s Pass Online Application & Registration System, popularly known as SOLAR, which the institution at which you have been accepted will register you with.
To apply online for your Student Pass, log on to SOLAR with the registration details your school has provided and fill in and submit eForm 16 via SOLAR. This will require valid passport details, the address of your university, your email address and a recent photo.
To complete the process after arrival in the country, you’ll have to make an appointment with the ICA and bring your disembarkation/embarkation card granted on entry into Singapore, a passport-sized picture, a printout of a signed and completed eForm 16, a copy of your in-principle approval, and a recent medical report on the correct form. When collecting the Student Pass, a signed copy of the terms and conditions form must also be supplied. You will be charged S$30 (US$22) when submitting your application and a further S$60 (US$44) when the pass is issued.
The Student Pass you possess will allow you to work full-time in the school holidays and 16 hours a week per term for most students.
Funding to Study in Singapore
Both domestic and international students are eligible to apply to the Singaporean Ministry of Education for a tuition grant, after having accepted a place on a program. This covers majority of the costs of university tuition fees. In return for this grant, however, international students are to sign a bond committing themselves to work for a Singapore-registered company for at least three years after completing their program, in order to ensure the country benefits from the skills of those it educates. The period of this bond is longer for students of medicine and dentistry (five or six years).
Life in Singapore
A crowded, yet safe and efficient city state, Singapore is often called the four “Asian Tiger” economies, along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a group renowned for enjoying rapid economic growth in the second half of the twentieth century.
This fast development and prosperity has handed Singapore a population density among the world’s highest, with the allure of such a strident economy and the ease of doing business proving hard to resist for many immigrants. It is also known for its cleanliness – famously, you aren’t allowed to chew gum in Singapore, to ensure none ends up on the pavements – as well as for its punctual public transport and clear roads filled with gleaming automobiles, for which time-limited certificates of entitlement must be purchased. Singapore currently has strict laws governing drug use, leading to one of the lowest rates of drug use across the world.
Beyond that there’s more to this island republic than strict laws and a booming financial services sector. Singapore is a fantastic melting pot of cultures, languages and religions, with a nice mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian populations each contributing elements from their native traditions to create a hybrid identity which is fantastic to the city.
British culture has had a big influence on Singapore, which is as a result of both a large expatriate population and colonial past. This has led to the region being called a place where “East meets West”, and gives a vivid insight into the cosmopolitan, inclusive nature of the place. One good example of Singapore’s diverse cultural influences is the meals, with its authentic mix of Asian, Asian-fusion and Western tastes and styles talked about reverently by nearly all who visit.
Although it’s a secular state, Singapore has an eclectic multitude of religious beliefs, making it not so strange to find a mosque sitting next to a temple amidst the gleaming skyscrapers, adding beautiful colors and much needed interest to the cityscape and thus reinforcing the ideas of mutual respect and social cohesion which are so super important here.
In recent times, Singapore has invested massively in arts and culture, to aid its plethora of festivals, museums and public gardens, with the goal of helping to develop its image as more than just a hub of finance and business.