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Higher Education in Singapore

Posted on Dec 07, 2012 by Sergio Ulloa ()


Singapore has four universities and a number of smaller technical colleges and institutes which can offer a wide range of subjects and courses. But how do these education centers fare on the global stage? How does the standard of higher education available in Singapore compare with its regional neighbors?

In May 2012, the global network of research-intensive universities, Universities 21, published its top 48 countries and cities in the world that are the best providers of higher education. Four main criteria were used to determine the list: Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output. In the final list of results Singapore came 11th, an impressive result that places it highest in Asia and well ahead of the likes of Hong Kong - 18th, Japan - 20th, Taiwan - 21st and Malaysia - 36th. The United States came in 1st place.

In an attempt to learn more about higher education in Singapore, we will take a look at each of the four main universities to see what subjects they specialize in, how portable the qualifications are and their attractiveness to international students.

National University of Singapore

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is arguably Singapore's flagship university. It is spread out among four separate campuses and it has a total number of students in excess of 20,000.

With over 100 years of education experience, NUS has progressed from a simple medical college to an institution recognized throughout the world. It offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, double degree, double major and concurrent degree programmes. Its main programme subjects are Science with 15 separate degree courses, and Engineering with courses available in 10 individual branches of engineering.

A qualification from NUS is globally portable and its graduates can be found among the leading industries within Asia and around the world. One of the missions of NUS is to provide well educated people to serve the interests of Singapore both locally and internationally, and a number of partnerships with universities from Australia, the United Kingdom and America allow students to attain a so-called Western qualification in addition to their NUS degree. This means that students in certain fields are now able to study for a double degree, one issued by NUS and the other by the overseas university, and are typically required to spend at least one academic year at the partner university.

NUS is popular with international students and there are more than 100 different nationalities represented at the university. NUS operates a dedicated Career Center and international students are able to receive advice, information and support in a number of different areas to help them integrate with their fellow students. NUS also provides international students with post graduate assistance and various alumni services.

Nanyang Technological University

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is the world's largest engineering university. It has roughly 16,000 students and over 2,000 faculty and staff members. The university is divided into six separate schools of engineering and it ranks within the top three universities in the world for its research engineering output. In 2011, NTU ranked in 26th place in the Engineering and Technology category of the QS World University Rankings.

Unsurprisingly, NTU specializes in engineering and it offers 14 undergraduate engineering courses in total. It also has a choice of nine undergraduate science programmes, plus courses in medicine, humanities and arts. With regard to postgraduate programmes, NTU offers a variety of research and scholarship courses.

As one of the preeminent engineering universities in Asia, NTU is a popular choice for students from Asia and around the world. In excess of 20 percent of all undergraduates are overseas students with the majority of those coming from countries within the Asia Pacific region and China. NTU is also affiliated with some of the world's leading engineering universities, such as Stanford and MIT in the United States, Tokyo University and Shanghai's Fudan University.

Given NTU's status as a leading engineering university, an engineering or science degree from NTU is highly regarded and well respected by multinational companies and universities worldwide.

Singapore Management University

The Singapore Management University (SMU) was established in 2000 to help Singapore create future entrepreneurs for its knowledge based economy. There are approximately 8,000 students enrolled at SMU each year, and the university is split into six schools that focus on a specific subject, such as business, economics, accounting, information systems, social sciences and law. Within each school there are a wide choice of undergraduate and graduate programmes.

SMU's primary focus is on courses related to business and commerce. Students studying at SMU can avail of smaller class sizes and a more personalized approach to learning. SMU encourages daily interaction between students and teachers, and this method is designed to improve the creative abilities of the students and increase confidence.

SMU will also work proactively with students and graduating students to help them find suitable employment. SMU's faculty staff comprises many former students and it has been commended on numerous occasions for its dedication to human resources.

International students are central to SMU's multi-cultural ethos, and through its Office of Student Life it organizes numerous social and recreational events that will help all overseas students integrate and settle quickly.

Singapore Institute of Management

The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) was founded in 1964 as a private university offering higher educational opportunities to adults that are already in employment. SIM has approximately 12,000 students enrolled on a variety of programmes each year, and it operates in such a way to allow its students to progress their career and to study at the same time.

SIM is partnered with a number of leading universities and institutes from around the world. In conjunction with these partners, if offers over 50 full-time and part-time degree courses in a variety of areas. The majority of SIM's full-time and part-time undergraduate programmes are business orientated, with numerous courses also available in the areas of IT, Communications and Arts. In addition, SIM also offers over 600 executive programmes, conferences and seminars for executive level individuals. Each year, over 11,000 professionals in Singapore participate in a SIM executive management programme.

Because SIM caters to mature students, its overseas students are predominantly long term expats in Singapore who are studying part-time while working. These expats will typically study business and management courses that will help them with their future careers. There are approximately 2,500 overseas students in total currently enrolled in the various courses and programmes offered by SIM.

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