International students on Tuition Grant Scheme

Published Date: 06 October 2020 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Darryl David, Ang Mo Kio GRC


To ask the Minister for Education (a) in the last five years, how many international students have been accepted into local universities under the Tuition Grant Scheme (TGS); (b) what are those numbers as a percentage of the total university student population; (c) whether this number of TGS international students will be reduced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and, if so, whether this reduction will mean more places for Singaporean students; and (d) what will be the consequences for international students who cannot meet their TGS bond commitments in this present COVID-19 employment market.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim, Sengkang GRC


To ask the Minister for Education (a) what contingency plans are in place for foreign recipients of scholarships to serve out their bonds given the tightened restrictions on access to employment and other foreign-worker passes; (b) whether the Ministry will consider alternative mechanisms for recent graduates to serve out their commitments such as a deferral of the bond period or service of their bond periods with Singapore-owned or Singapore-affiliated companies abroad.


1. The objective of our education system is to serve the needs of Singaporeans. Places in the Autonomous Universities (AUs) are planned first and foremost for Singaporeans, in line with the cohort participation target of 40%. This year, we set aside more places at the AUs, to cater to Singaporean students whose overseas study plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. The AUs first admit Singaporean students who are able to meet their admission standards. They then raise the bar a few notches and admit a small number of international students, over and above the local students. As such, no Singaporean is displaced from an AU because of an international student.

3. Over the past five years, the number of international students who received tuition grant in each cohort averaged around 1,600, less than 10% of each intake. For Academic Year 2020, we are still finalising the numbers, but we expect to see similar trends of less than 10%.

4. Having some international students adds to the diversity of the overall education experience and cultivates students’ global orientation and inter-cultural skills. It also better prepares them for the future workplace, where they may have to interact with different nationalities. We will continue to review and adjust the number of international students on tuition grant in the future, taking into consideration the quality of applicants and other factors.

5. We understand that recent graduates may face challenges finding employment in the current economic climate. Our priority remains to support locals in finding employment. However, we will also give fair treatment to tuition grant holders obliged to serve a three-year bond after graduation. These students can serve out their obligations in Singapore or overseas with Singapore-registered companies.

6. In particular, MOE works with the universities and other public agencies to facilitate their applications for work pass arrangements here, while keeping to the Fair Consideration Framework. Flexibility is given when assessing these students’ work pass applications. The students are also given time to stay in Singapore to look for a job. Those who have genuine difficulties finding employment, be it here or abroad, may reach out to the universities and MOE, and we will assess their situation and see how best to assist them on a case-by-case basis. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our approach appropriate to the economic situation and outlook.

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