Parliamentary Replies

September 03, 2019

Autonomous universities’ Endowment Fund

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Ang Wei Neng, Jurong GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education for each of the six local autonomous universities (AUs) (a) what is the size of their endowment fund in each of the past five years; (b) what is the current amount of funds and reserves accumulated; (c) what are the top five uses of these funds; and (d) how much of these funds have been used in each of the past five years.

Response

1. The size of the endowment funds of our Autonomous Universities are available from their financial reports. But based on these reports, the sizes at the end of Financial Year 2017 are: NUS – $5.9B, NTU – $1.9B, SMU – $1.0B, SUTD – $1.1B, SIT and SUSS both $0.4B each.

2. The Member also asked for the reserves accumulated. Reserves are operating surpluses, if any, accumulated over the years. They are typically tied up in assets, which can be buildings, facilities, long term investments etc. The numbers are also available in the financial reports of the AUs so I will not read them out here.

3. So what is pertinent is the use of endowment funds. The AUs set up endowment funds, with Government support, because they should have a separate stream of income such that they can embark on their own programmes and activities without always depending on Government. And every year, investments from the endowment fund will generate a return, and only a portion of the investment returns is spent, with the rest re-invested.

4. The biggest use of endowment income is to pay for operating expenditure in delivering subsidised education. And this is because MOE contributes significantly to the endowment funds of the universities, by matching donations that they raise.

5. The other major uses are providing bursaries and scholarships, supporting additional programmes to enrich students’ learning, such as overseas internships and residential learning programmes, funding research projects and sponsoring professorships.

6. It is common practice internationally for universities to build up their endowment funds through donations to support students and activities outside of education, such as research and enterprise. Donations are always voluntary, and decided by donors based on their trust in the organisations and their causes. Donors to AUs will typically specify how the monies are to be used, which AUs do not have the liberty to change.