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Choosing between local, private and overseas universities



With graduation comes the stress of deciding your future. Which university is right for you?

Graduation looms over the heads of both polytechnic and junior college students. With important life decisions fast approaching, it is not uncommon to feel like a deer in the headlights.

Here are some things to consider before making a decision about which type of university to apply to.

1. Reputation

Our local, public universities are well-known and ranked highly internationally. While this bodes well for Singapore's reputation, it does make securing a place in these universities extremely difficult.

Now, since universities like NUS and NTU both feature very highly in world university rankings, a degree from either institution is pretty useful when applying for jobs or graduate schools.

Degrees from these universities also tend to make it easier to land a job in the public sector, and tend to command higher starting salaries. Graduates with private degrees however have slightly more difficulty in job searches.

Local, public universities like NUS are reputable and highly ranked internationally.

Another option would be to enrol in an overseas university. This may seem like an obvious choice to many since there is typically less competition to enter them (other than the top schools).

However, you must consider the reputation that these overseas universities have as that may affect your employability. In Singapore, some fields such as law and psychology only accept qualifications from a select list of overseas universities – having a degree from an unaccredited university can leave you unemployable in Singapore.

2. Courses

Another factor that you should definitely take into consideration is the availability of the course you wish to pursue. Some courses are available only in public universities (e.g. medicine in NUS or criminology in the Singapore Institute of Technology), while some are not available in Singapore at all (e.g. veterinary science). 

Even amongst public universities, some courses may be exclusive to just one school (e.g. dentistry in NUS).

Depending on what interests you or what field you envision yourself working in, you may have no option but to aim for specific universities locally or overseas.

3. Curriculum structure

Public universities require students to take general education modules. Some of these modules may seem pretty irrelevant but are required on the basis that they leave students with "the skills needed for lifelong learning beyond the university".

Alternatively, private universities typically allow you to focus on specific fields with less general education modules. This can allow you to concentrate on your chosen field and go more in-depth.

Private universities are a great option if you would like to get some work experience while studying for a degree.

Private and overseas universities also tend to be more flexible in terms of course structure, offering more part-time and distance learning courses. These options provide more flexibility and you might even be able to work full-time while earning a degree.

4. Cost

Finally, after figuring out which type of university is for you and (hopefully) the courses that interest you, you will need to identify those that you are able to afford.

Private and overseas universities are obviously going to be more expensive than public universities since the tuition grants and subsidies available to students are much less.

And contrary to popular belief, an overseas university education could cost less than a degree from local private universities depending on your background and how much you are willing to scrimp on accommodation, food etc.

It is also significantly easier to get scholarships overseas for both JC and polytechnic students, given the lower academic requirements.

Accommodation and living expenses can cost as much as half of your tuition fees, or even more, depending on where you plan on studying.

Polytechnic graduates looking to get a degree in the same field of study as their diplomas will often be able to get credit exemptions. This can mean shortening your university education by one to two years.

The cost of a university education also differs depending on the course you enrol in. A degree from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in NUS will cost you $26,400 per year whereas a degree from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences there will cost just $8,050 per year.

We all know how stressful major life decisions can be, but hopefully the information provided here is useful in helping you choose the right type of university for you.


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