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While there are no real private universities in Singapore there are definitely bachelor degree awards that can be achieved through privately owned institutes. In fact, there are many more options than one would expect. So if you’re considering pursuing a degree from a private-owned institute, this article will shed light on what to expect on this underrated path and explain why this private education could be what you need after all
We should start by defining what private education is – it’s simply any education system that is offered as an alternative to the government (or ‘public’) education system.
These private alternatives are governed by the committee for private education also known as CPE. CPE is the appointed governing body for private education and private universities in Singapore. They also govern private institutes at the primary and secondary school level as well as training organisations that offer courses to working adults to private universities and institutes of management. All these fall under the purview of the committee for private education. For the record, they were formerly known as the council for private education but since they were re-organised under the SkillsFuture Singapore grouping, they were renamed to ‘committee for private education’.
They have a wide range of requirements that span from expectations of management all the way to student protection, campus requirements, planning and day to day operational controls. These are basic expectations that should be met by every private institute in Singapore. Even institutes with partner universities that offer degree programmes must meet the requirements of the private education under the Singapore Ministry of Education.
Private universities in Singapore who offer degree programmes almost always offer degree and masters programmes in association with a foreign university. These foreign university partners are often referred to as partner university or partner universities. Under the private education act CPE requires that there are several undertakings by the partner university such as quality, equivalence of the award, and backup plans in the event of the private universities in Singapore run into problems operating. There is a lost of pressure on the partner universities but also an equal amount of pressure on the partner universities from abroad.
Examples of partner universities include:
Back in its hay day, Singapore hoped to attract some of the top talent in the world by become Asia’s classroom. However, that strategy has since been abandoned and as a result, the number of private universities here has fallen through the floor. Many of the smaller, low-quality institutes simply have closed and the ones that are around today are more operationally sound and reliable than before.
The best place to check for the current status of a private university would be to refer to the commitee for private education maintained listing here:
As of the date of writing (March 2021) there are 283 private institutes that range from specialist institutes like Auston Institute of Management to mega institutes that run IB programmes for tens of thousands of students.
It depends. If you did not qualify for medical school elsewhere but intend to take a private degree and become a practicing doctor in Singapore – I’m afraid the answer is NO. This is the same situation for a variety of careers such as lawyers, engineers, and other professions.
However, private degrees in medicine, law, and engineering will always be recognized for a career. This means that while you are not qualified to be a bar-lawyer, a chartered engineer, or a licensed doctor in Singapore, there are always parallel careers that these degrees are recognized for.
Example: You may not be a bar lawyer but you can be a para-legal or an in-house counsel that may provide similar career prospects.
Another Example: While you may not be a chartered engineer, your role as a practicing subject matter expert in electronics design firms may have higher earning potentials at the cutting edge of technology.
There is a common misconception that government agencies only consider job applicants with degrees from public universities. In reality, there are plenty of public sector jobs taken up by graduates from private colleges. Although there are public sector companies that prefer public universities graduates, it does not mean that there are no opportunities for those graduating from private colleges. This limitation is even more diminished for mid-career candidates, where relevant work experience is placed at a higher premium compared to academic qualifications.
This stigma against private degree holders is perpetuated by the erroneous focus on the value of the certification alone. In fact, a 2018 report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that the proportion of job openings for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) –– where academic certification was not a primary benchmark –– rose to 52 per cent from 42 per cent in the previous year.
The TODAY article also reported that employers placed greater emphasis on skills and relevant working experience for these PMET positions, which included software, web and multimedia developers, systems analysts, and commercial and marketing sales executives.
Moreover, according to Mr Siddharth Jain, chief creative director of educational gaming company Playware Studios: “When we look at a candidate, we’re looking at his cover letter, the number of projects he has done, the kind of resume he has … Just the fact that you’re from NUS (National University of Singapore) or NTU doesn’t give me any comfort because we’ve had experiences where students have a lot of bookish knowledge but not enough hands-on experience.”
This sentiment is shared by many employers and is continuing to grow despite the social stigma against private degree holders. It also signifies that job seekers play an integral role in pursuing other meaningful forms of career development aside from certification alone.
The reality for many students in Polytechnic, ITE, or Junior College, is the lack of direction in terms of career path –– most students are not given that option because majors are balloted based on O Level and N Level results. A versatile major in Business and Communications is a great option for many. However, specialisations have the perk of allowing students to gain depth into a specific industry or programme. Even within a Business Degree, many choose to specialise in areas of Marketing, Finance or Human Resources. These specialised tracks are tailored to individuals who want to gain added expertise and skills required in their industry of choice.
That being said, choosing a specialisation early on, is not only more time-efficient but it is also substantially cheaper, given that specialised programmes are more targeted and typically faster to attain.
According to an article from The Straits Times, ValuePenguin’s Senior Vice-President DuckJu Kang: “Specialised degrees are increasingly becoming more valuable, and they definitely make more money than general ones as they help to differentiate you in the job market.” He goes on to say that, “specialised skill-sets require more training, and, if they align with industry demand, tend to have higher returns on investment.”
Fast-track programmes have gained significant traction over the years for the very reason that it equips you with industry skills and knowledge in the shortest time possible. It isn’t uncommon to see one-year bridging or foundational programs to prepare students for the intellectual rigour of higher education. And upon successful completion, they are recognised as the basis of admission to the college or university.
This available option has encouraged many to bypass the polytechnic/ITE route on a focused path to attaining a degree, saving them both time and money. According to Today Online, Mr Keith Ang, who was denied placement in SMU, went on to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree at another private institute where he graduated in 18 months and entered into a career with the Nielsen company. He goes on to say that the time saved gave him at least a two-year headstart compared to his peers.
The difference in the length of study can be attributed to the vastly different module systems between private and public education. For one, students in public universities are required to complete common core modules such as Sociology, Philosophy and Asian studies for interdisciplinary exposure. On the other hand, students in private institutions dive straight into their field of specialisation and learn in a more focused manner.
Financially – it is absolutely worth it.
Vocationally – it depends on your career.
Psychologically, socially – it depends on your personal circumstances.
I’ll explain each.
If you were to go to a public university, fees are roughly $10,000 per year and it would take 4 years. That’s $40,000. Not to mention that you may not get into a course of your choice because of quota and entry criteria. We take a 7-year timeline to compare:
Year 1 to 4= $40,000 debt.
Year 5-7 = Income of 136,800 (Assuming average salary of $3800)
Total = $96,800
However, if you were to go to a private university, it would cost about $30,800 and it would be completed in just 2 years. Upon graduation you may earn 20% less than a public university graduate but would also be easily able to attain 10% increments each year.
Year 1 – 2 =$30,800 debt.
Year 3 – 7 = Income of $222,714 (explained above)
Total = $191,914
Beyond the first phase of entering the workforce, a university degree is still essential for many mid-career development opportunities. In fact, the minimum requirement for most high paying (link to 1st article) jobs in Singapore is a degree. This requirement is especially true for many managerial and leadership positions because of 2 main reasons:
Whatever the reason may be, a part-time degree is usually the best option –– and private colleges are the perfect destination for it. The nature of a part-time education allows you to seek career opportunities while studying, incurring a significantly lower opportunity cost as compared to pursuing full-time studies.
If you have already accumulated a wealth of industry experience, a mid-career degree is most likely to give your resume the extra boost, as compared to a fresh grad whose only credentials are likely to be his/her education. Hence, the apparent selection would be to go through the fastest route that can get you the certification you require. This point is especially true for corporates seeking out degrees for job promotions due to the minimum qualifications required for managerial or leadership positions.
Private Colleges offer not only a greater variety of part-time degrees but also provide an accelerated pathway to attaining the required certification.
For the purposes of this comparison, we are only considering tuition fees. There is a huge range of accommodation options for every personal preference and as a result, the cost of that could vary greatly from a few hundred per month to a few thousand dollars per month – in Singapore dollar terms. Most private universities in Singapore will help you with this process so just reach out to the appropriate department.
Tuition fees can be broadly viewed as follows:
4 year degree in public university = $10,000 per year (locals) and $40,000 per year (foreigners)
3 year degree in private university = Between $10,000 – $25,000 per year (locals and foreigners pay similar fees since there are no government subsidies)
In the case of Auston Institute of Management, our engineering programmes are priced at $36,800 for a full 3-year programme. This can be completed on an accelerated timeline by foregoing long summer and winter breaks and completing the entire course within just 2 years. This will get you into the working world earlier, collecting experience before others, and starting to earn credentials where it really matters. Private universities are ideal for this type of career where career-entry velocity is essential.
Auston offers one of the most rewarding and fast-track engineering programs in Singapore. As one of the only engineering-specialised institutes of higher education in Singapore, they offer high-quality and academically rigorous programs ranging from diploma to degree levels. They have established a remarkable community of students and alumni passionate about the industry and continue to nurture many aspiring engineers, with graduates working for globally recognised MNCs.
Find out how you can benefit from their world-class programmes in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Construction Project Management and many more, to fast-track your career in Engineering!
We recommend that you start looking for degree programmes and hopefully, you choose us.
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