Greater Diversity, More Opportunities in Singapore's University Sector
The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Committee on University Education Pathways Beyond 2015 (CUEP) to expand university places, by developing a new applied degree pathway that will provide more opportunities and choices in a diverse university landscape.
As announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech, more publicly-funded university places will be created for Singaporeans. By 2020, there will be 3,000 more places compared to today. This would raise the cohort participation rate (CPR) to 40% by 2020. Together with an expected increase to about 10% of the cohort receiving degree education through publicly-funded part-time places by 2020, up to half of each cohort could receive a government-subsidised degree education.
The increase would be implemented through:
The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), which will become Singapore’s fifth autonomous university; and
Full-time degree places in SIM University (UniSIM).
This development will expand the university sector, diversify the education opportunities available to Singaporeans, and better prepare Singapore’s workforce for the future.
Developing a Highly Skilled and Sophisticated Workforce
The demand for graduates is likely to increase as Singapore needs a highly-skilled and sophisticated workforce to drive its future economy. The 2010 Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) concluded that Singapore had to move towards productivity-driven growth to progress beyond its present stage of development.1 This could be achieved through a qualitative transformation of the economy and the creation of higher value jobs.
The expansion is carefully calibrated. The Government agrees with the Committee’s assessment about the risks of expanding the university sector too much and too fast, at the expense of relevance to students’ aptitudes and economic needs.
By 2020, the Government will increase the number of publicly-funded, full-time university places for Singaporeans by 3,000 compared to today. This will raise CPR to 40% by 2020, compared to the current CPR of 27%. As a result, there will be 16,000 degree places each year by 2020, up from 13,000 places today.
This will translate to a steady increase in places in the university sector from AY2013 until AY2020, including the places we had planned for in the National University of Singapore2, Nanyang Technological University3, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, SIT and the publicly-funded degree programmes offered by the two arts institutions, LASALLE and NAFA, as part of the plans to meet the 30% CPR target by 2015.
To diversify the educational offerings, a new applied degree pathway will cater to a broader range of students with different learning preferences and interests, and create a close nexus with industry and economic needs to enhance employability of graduates.
The Government also supports the Committee’s recommendation to grow more opportunities for Singaporeans to undertake publicly-funded part-time (i.e. continuing education and training) degree places. Currently, an estimated 7% of a cohort pursues a publicly-funded part-time degree. As demand for skills upgrading increases, this CPR could increase to about 10% by 2020.
The overall publicly-funded CPR could therefore go up to 50% by 2020.
SIT as Singapore’s Fifth Autonomous University
SIT will become Singapore’s fifth autonomous university, to pioneer the distinct, applied degree pathway. SIT is well-positioned for this. It currently offers a number of programmes with a strong applied element in partnership with overseas universities, such as in engineering, allied health, early childhood education, culinary arts and digital animation. SIT has also forged close links with industry. In 2011, there were 34 industry partners sponsoring scholarships for 12% of its students in various disciplines.
In order to strengthen the industry orientation of its academic offerings, SIT will offer a Cooperative Education programme, which integrates meaningful work experience into the academic course requirements.
The new SIT will be a “best-in-class” institution that is equal in status to the existing AUs, yet different in character. It will augment the options available in our higher education landscape, and produce a different type of graduate to meet the diverse needs of our economy.
Publicly-funded Full-time Degree Places in UniSIM
The Government will also tap on the private education sector by introducing publicly-funded full-time degree programmes in UniSIM as the second institution to spearhead our expansion via an applied degree pathway.
This arrangement rides on the strength of UniSIM’s track record in providing part-time degree programmes that have close linkages with industry, and which value and integrate the work experiences of its students and the industry-current faculty, to provide a good balance of theoretical and real-world education. This is aligned with the key features of an applied degree education.
UniSIM’s full-time programmes will admit fresh school leavers and working adults, and will take into account work experience and talents in its admission policy, beyond academic grades.
The funding of full-time places in UniSIM is an extension of the strong partnership between MOE and UniSIM. As the only private university in Singapore since 2005, UniSIM has a good track record and its students studying in part-time degree programmes have benefited from government subsidies since 2008.
Enhancing Continuing Education and Training (CET)
CET is a critical avenue for Singaporeans to continually upgrade their skill sets in the face of a constantly changing economy. In particular, CET provides a degree upgrading pathway to those who entered the workforce immediately after obtaining their diploma or “A”-Level qualifications.
The Government will provide more support for CET degree pathways by:-
Increasing financial support for adult learners by extending government financial assistance schemes to students in part-time UniSIM Bachelor degree programmes. These include MOE bursaries, Tuition Fee Loans, and Study Loans.
Encouraging industry to provide more scholarships for those who upgrade after gaining some work experience.
Improving access to part-time degree programmes through greater recognition of relevant work experience and alternative qualifications in the admissions criteria.
Ensuring Continued Affordability of University Education
The Government is committed to ensuring that no deserving student is deterred from a publicly-funded degree education due to financial constraints. Over the years, as the Government worked towards increasing opportunities for Singaporeans to obtain a degree education, it has also put in place various measures to ensure that education, at all levels, remain affordable for Singapore Citizens.
Government subsidises about 75% of the cost of a degree education. This is further supplemented by a full range of financial assistance schemes, such as government bursaries and loans. Bursaries are available to those whose household per capita income falls within the 66th percentile, while all students are eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan, which is interest-free during the period of study. Students with household per capita income of $2,400 and below will be eligible for the means-tested Student Loan. This suite of financing schemes will be extended to students enrolled at the new SIT and UniSIM full-time programmes.
Combined, the financial assistance from the Government, educational institutions and community groups go significantly towards helping students to finance their education.
For Singapore to respond effectively to the challenges of the future, the university sector must be one that is high-quality, student-centric, and able to accommodate the diversity of choices and pathways sought after by our young people and that meet the needs of our increasingly sophisticated economy. The Committee’s recommendations will enable Singapore’s university landscape to become more vibrant and better position Singapore for the future.
Background to the Committee on University Education Pathways Beyond 2015
The Committee on University Education Pathways Beyond 2015, chaired by Senior Minister of State (Education and Information, Communications and the Arts) Mr Lawrence Wong, was convened in September 2011 to study and recommend ways to expand the university sector, in order to provide more opportunities and pathways for Singaporeans to obtain a university education. The preliminary recommendations of the Committee were debated in Parliament at the Committee of Supply Debate in March 2012. Following this, the International Academic Advisory Panel endorsed the Committee’s recommendations at its 9th meeting held in July 2012.