Tuition Grants

Published Date: 14 March 2016 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Png Eng Huat, Hougang

Question

To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) whether he can provide an update on (i) the enhanced tracking efforts for international students who are receiving tuition grants in our polytechnics and publicly-funded universities; (ii) the number of international students who have not served their grant obligation upon graduation to date and the amount of tuition grants given to them; and (iii) the number of these students who have not served their grant obligation for more than three years after graduation.

Response

MOE takes a strong view of the tuition grant bond service commitment for international students. Over the past few years, we have put in place a number of measures to ensure bond fulfillment by tuition grant holders.

At the start of their freshman year, all international students on tuition grants are briefed on the terms and conditions of the Tuition Grant Scheme, as well as the consequences of defaulting on their service obligations. They are also reminded of their obligations in their final year, just prior to graduation.

MOE is also working with other government agencies to track the bond service records of the graduates closely. 
 
Our tracking efforts show that for a typical batch of Tuition Grant recipients, the large majority – more than 8 in 10 graduates – have served or are serving their bonds, or have secured approval from MOE for deferment while they pursue further studies. 
 
However, there will inevitably be a minority for which our data cannot ascertain if they are fulfilling their service obligations. This minority group accounts for about $30 million of grants per year.  This is around 2% of total grants to local students, or 1% of the budget spent on polytechnics and universities every year. It would not be accurate to say this entire minority is in default.  Let me explain.
 
Let’s take 2012, since the member asked for number of defaulters three years after graduation.  As of Jan 2016, 84% are working or have applied for deferment. Of the remaining 16%, we track them, and found that some are working in Singapore but we do not have their employment records.  Some others are furthering their studies but did not go through the deferment procedures.  These should not be viewed in the same light as individuals who knowingly and willingly decide not to fulfil their service obligations. 

MOE has sharpened the deterrent measures against defaulters to send a strong signal to deter would-be defaulters. For example, where liquidated damages cannot be recovered, defaulters face serious adverse consequences if they subsequently apply to work or reside in Singapore.

This may be why the number of defaulters is falling, and MOE will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these measures and improve them.

 

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