Studying in Singapore

Why study in Singapore?

Of all the four Asian tiger economies, Singapore is probably the easiest for students from overseas to adjust to.

  • Despite its cosmopolitan population, its history as a centre of trade and entrepreneurialism positions it closer to the West than its neighbours. While Chinese, Malay, and Tamil are also official languages, English is widely spoken and understood by 75% of the five million population, and is the officially designated language for the education system.
  • Although dented by the recession in the early part of the century, the economy has rebounded strongly and it is described as the world’s fourth financial centre, while its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. The International Monetary Fund has rated it the third highest country in terms of per capita income,
  • Contrary to international trends, Singapore is aiming to restrict the number of international students at its universities in the face of local anxiety that too few places were available for nationals. Foreign enrolment at Singapore's universities will be capped while 2,000 new university places will be added for local students by 2015, so that the proportion of foreign students will come down from 18% of the student body to about 15%.

Entry and visa regulations

Once accepted by a university, applicants must apply within two weeks to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for a Student’s Pass (S$90). The application is processed online.

  • Successful applicants will be issued with an in-principle approval (IPA) letter. Applicants need not apply for a separate visa as it is incorporated in the IPA letter, which can be used at entry checkpoints.
  • On arrival in Singapore, complete formalities on production of a range of documents including passport, disembarkation/embarkation card, and a medical report in the prescribed format (available on ICA’s website).

Singapore’s universities have demanding entry standards and are unlikely to accept anyone without good English.

  • For applicants whose mother tongue is not English, the individual universities will set their required IELTS/TOEFL scores. Do not expect to be admitted without high scores.
  • Read more about English language tests.

The university system

Singapore’s two most prominent universities are highly regarded internationally. The National University of Singapore is a global leader, and the Nanyang Technological University is also a fast-rising institution.

  • These universities each have in excess of 30,000 students and provide a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes including doctoral degrees. Both are also established research universities with thousands of research staff and graduate students.
  • The government supports three other public institutions: the Singapore Management University offering programmes in business management, accountancy, economics, law and the social sciences; Singapore University of Technology and Design; and the Singapore Institute of Technology. Many private universities exist, including the SIM University which caters only for part-time students, offering part-time degree programmes to working adults, although plans are in train to add full-time degree programmes.
  • A number of foreign universities have established campuses in Singapore such as the Chicago Business School and Technische Universität München.
  • Applications for entry and visa formalities are handled by the university to which you are applying. Each university has minimum entry requirements.
  • The closing date for normal applications is in February of the year of entry.

Tuition fees and funding your study

Tuition fees vary widely between institutions and courses. At the NUS for the current year (2012–13) fees range from S$13,730 up to S$40,010 for medicine and dentistry.

  • International students can apply for a tuition grant which is administered by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and offered to all admitted students. Students who are approved for the tuition grants need only pay subsidised fees.
  • While the tuition grant is not repayable, international students who have received it are – in common with Singapore nationals – required to work in Singapore after graduation to contribute to repayment. The period of the employment bond is longer for international students than for nationals.
  • For medicine and dentistry students from overseas the service bond with the Singapore Ministry of Health is either for six years (medicine) or five years (dentistry). For other courses international students will be required to work for a Singapore-registered company for three years after graduation.

Student housing

The admitting university will help with finding accommodation but students are advised to arrange short-term accommodation in a hostel before leaving home.

  • Hostel fees range from S$12 a night upwards.
  • Long-term accommodation ranges from on-campus residencies to student hostels and private rented accommodation.

Costs of living

Singapore is an expensive place to live by international comparisons, let alone in the Far East.

  • While inflation for much of the past five years has stayed around 4%, the cost of food, transport, and eating out has risen faster.

Typical costs in Singapore (GBP, March 2015) are:

  • Apartment rent, 1 bedroom: £996 - £1,487 per month
  • Meal, inexpensive restaurant: £4.87
  • Meal at McDonalds: £3.41
  • Domestic beer (0.5 litre draught): £3.35
  • Imported beer (0.33 litre bottle): £3.90
  • Cappuccino: £2.54
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle): £0.75
  • Water (0.33 litre bottle): £0.52
  • Loaf of bread: £1.02
  • Cigarettes: £6.23
  • One-way ticket local transport: £0.83
  • Cinema ticket: £5.60

Working while studying

  • Full-time undergraduates are allowed to work part-time of up to 16 hours per week during term, and work full-time during vacation as the Ministry of Manpower has exempted them from applying for work permits.

Health and safety

Students entering Singapore are screened for TB and HIV. A medical certificate showing that neither condition is present is required before a student pass is issued.

  • Polyclinics are medical service providers whose fees are cheaper than private clinics. You can expect to pay about S$15 per visit. This includes medication, which you can pick up at the polyclinic on the same visit. Foreign students can see a doctor at any polyclinic, but must produce their Student’s Pass.
  • The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. While petty crime such as pickpocketing and street theft occurs at airports, tourist destinations, hotels and on public transport, violent crime is rare.
  • Importation of large quantities of chewing gum is prohibited and you may be fined for failing to flush the loo. A large number of anti-social acts attract fines, and corporal punishment is sometimes imposed.
  • Drug laws are draconian – you risk arrest simply by being in the company of drug users – and trafficking in modest quantities of illegal drugs carries the death penalty.

Helpful links

International Rankings

University Rankings 2018–19

University QS
QS World University Rankings 2018–19

Global university rankings compiled annually by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). QS ranks institutions by the following key indicators; academic peer review, faculty student ratio, citations per faculty, recruiter review, international orientation.

See the QS World University Rankings here, and more on making sense of international rankings here.

THE World University Rankings 2018–19

Global university rankings compiled annually by the Times Higher Education (THE). THE ranks institutions by performance in the following categories; Industry Income, Teaching, Research and Citations.

See THE World University Rankings here, and more on making sense of international rankings here.

Nanyang Technological University 12 51
National University of Singapore 11 23

Business School Rankings 2019

Business School Financial Times
Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2019

Global MBA rankings compiled annually by the Financial Times. MBA programmes are ranked by a number of key indicators including salary increase, value for money, career progression. Note this ranking only applies to each business school’s full-time MBA programme.

The Economist
The Economist Which MBA? Ranking 2018

Global MBA rankings compiled annually by The Economist. MBA programmes are ranked by the following categories; career opportunities, personal development, salary increase and potential to network. Note this ranking only applies to each business school’s full-time MBA programme.

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

More about the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation here.

Association of MBA

More about the Association of MBA (AMBA) accreditation here.

European Quality Improvement System

More about the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) accreditation here.

Boston University School of Management 68 64 Y
Vanderbilt University: Owen 52 26 Y