Global Undergraduate Applications • Undergraduate

Singapore Undergraduate Studies: Everything You Need to Know

POSTED ON 08/10/2023 BY The Red Pen

How to Apply to Singapore for an Undergraduate Degree | The Red Pen

Singapore provides an exceptional environment for undergraduate students seeking unparalleled opportunities to acquire knowledge and cultivate critical thinking skills. It is home to around 55,000 international students, of which 43 percent are pursuing undergraduate courses. Some of its most sought-after degrees include cybersecurity, media and animation, hospitality and tourism, business analytics and digital economy, logistics and supply chain management, and advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Why Study in Singapore?

1) High education standards: 

Singapore universities offer an exceptional standard of education with well-funded institutions, top-notch facilities, and highly qualified teaching staff. Students in Singapore are known for their motivation and diligence, contributing to a high-quality learning environment. As a result, graduates from universities in Singapore enjoy strong employment prospects and higher starting salaries. 

For instance, according to NUS News, the employment rate of dentistry, engineering science, and nursing graduates from the National University of Singapore is 100 percent. Additionally, 99.3 percent of its accountancy majors and 99 percent of real estate majors secure jobs within six months of completing their final exams.

2) Diverse culture: 

In Singapore, the vibrant multicultural society extends to its universities. Approximately 20 percent of enrolled students come from different nationalities. This rich tapestry of international students exposes undergraduates to many cultures and perspectives, fostering a global mindset and preparing them for the diverse and interconnected world of work.

3) Affordability: 

Studying in Singapore presents a compelling advantage of lower education costs than popular destinations like the US, UK, and Australia. Singapore’s annual tuition fees typically range from approximately S$30,000 to S$38,000, with medical courses commanding higher fees at around S$168,000. Moreover,  Singapore’s monthly expenses are relatively budget-friendly, ranging from S$1,200 to S$1,500, covering essential aspects like accommodation, food and transportation. International students in Singapore can work part-time for up to 16 hours per week, enabling them to earn an income and contribute to their living expenses. This flexibility provides a practical means of managing financial responsibilities while pursuing their educational aspirations in Singapore.

4) Superior standards of living

According to CNBC, Singapore is the third-best country in the world to live in and work. The nation has a high standard of living, excellent transportation and healthcare facilities, and a low crime rate. After completing your education, you can stay on and work in Singapore with an S-Pass or Employment Pass. Based on data published by the Ministry of Education in Singapore, specific fields such as art, design, and media; business; health sciences; law; and engineering are associated with high-paying jobs. The reported salary ranges for these fields typically fall between $3,500 and $6,400 per month.

5) Opportunities to study law and medicine

In Singapore, you can pursue medicine and law at the undergraduate level. Medical courses take five years to complete and are offered by the National University of Singapore and The Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (a partnership between Nanyang Technological University and Imperial College London). For law courses, students can pursue a four-year LLB (Hons) degree at the NUS Law or a three-year LLB degree at SMU Yong Pung How School of Law.

6) Tuition grants for international students

The MOE Tuition Grant, sponsored by the Singaporean government, aids Singaporean citizens, permanent residents, and international students pursuing full-time undergraduate programmes in the country. Those accepting the grant pay a subsidised tuition fee. Citizens are automatically given this subsidy upon enrollment, while permanent residents and international students must apply. The grant amount varies by nationality, with Singaporean citizens receiving the highest subsidy level. Permanent residents and international students receiving the grant must work for a Singaporean entity for three years after graduation.

The undergraduate education system in Singapore

Singapore’s undergraduate education system is renowned for its competitiveness and rigorous standards, emphasising academic excellence and providing students with an array of opportunities for personal and intellectual growth. The system is divided into two primary tracks: 

1) The academic track: 

The academic track is for students seeking a bachelor’s degree from a university. It encompasses a comprehensive curriculum that covers arts, humanities, sciences, engineering, business, and more. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Education, the government funds six autonomous universities (AUs). These include the following: 

  •  National University of Singapore (NUS): This university is a comprehensive and research-intensive institution offering diverse courses, including multidisciplinary and cross-faculty academic programmes. NUS is among the top 20 global colleges in the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It has extensive collaborations with over 300 leading universities in 50 countries, providing opportunities for students to study abroad, conduct research, and collaborate with renowned scholars globally. Partnerships include Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, MIT, Cornell University in the US and Imperial College London, King’s College London, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of College London in the UK. 
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU): According to U.S. News, NTU is one of the world’s leading universities for AI, electrical and electronics engineering, and nanoscience and nanotechnology. As a research-intensive institution, it offers access to over 350 global universities and research institutions in 40 countries. Notable partner universities in the UK include the Imperial College London, University of Leeds, Cardiff University, King’s College London, Loughborough University and Queen Mary University of London. NTU has also collaborated with Boston University, Columbia College, Elon University, San Diego State University, and the University of Texas in the US.
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD): Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognised SUTD as “the foremost emerging leader in engineering education”. SUTD offers academic programmes combining innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and cutting-edge AI, robotics, and sustainable energy research. It has partnered with the top 40 universities worldwide, including the University of British Columbia, Canada; Texas A&M University, the University of Maryland, the University of California, Berkeley in the US; IE University, Spain; and the University of Bristol in the UK. 
  • Singapore Management University (SMU): This research-oriented institution has a vast global network spanning over 45 countries, including prestigious institutions such as Northeastern University, Emory University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Pennsylvania in the US. In the UK, it has collaborated with the University of Leeds, University of Glasgow, King’s College London and University College London. Its European partners include IE Spain and HEC Paris. The university’s campus is strategically located in the heart of Singapore’s bustling central business district, providing students with easy access to business and networking opportunities. This urban setting also promotes the university’s close ties with industries and fosters an entrepreneurial spirit among its students.
  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT): It is the country’s first university of applied learning. It provides specialised degree programmes that equip graduates with skills to excel in their chosen professions. SIT has a diverse curriculum focusing on human-centred learning, offering undergraduate programmes in fields such as engineering, applied science, design, health sciences, and hospitality. Through partnerships with esteemed universities in the US, Europe, and Australasia, SIT provides a global perspective on practice-oriented education closely aligned with industry needs.
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS): SUSS offers specialised programmes, including social work, early childhood education, gerontology, and public administration, among others. SUSS collaborates with renowned academic institutions globally to provide full-time and part-time academic courses. The university is famous for its flexible learning options, work-integrated learning opportunities, focus on lifelong learning, social impact, and technology integration in education.

2) The polytechnic track: 

The polytechnic track focuses on practical and technical education. Students work towards attaining a diploma from a polytechnic institution. This track offers various programmes, such as design, media, and culinary arts, and combines theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, preparing students for specific industry roles. Some of Singapore polytechnics are: 

  • Nanyang Polytechnic
  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  • Republic Polytechnic
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Temasek Polytechnic

Both tracks within Singapore’s undergraduate education system offer students a wide range of courses, allowing them to explore several subjects and disciplines. Singapore’s undergraduate education system provides numerous extracurricular activities, clubs, and organisations that promote social engagement, leadership skills, teamwork, and personal growth. 

Application requirements for undergraduate programmes in Singapore

The undergraduate admissions process in Singapore is competitive and rigorous. Here are some of the general requirements: 

1) Transcripts and academic requirements: 

Transcripts play a crucial role in the admissions process. Singapore’s universities expect you to include grades 10 and 11 grades. They accept Cambridge, IB, ISC, CBSE and Indian State boards with an aggregate of approximately 90 percent. If you are awaiting grade 12 results, you can submit predicted grades attested by your high school. But must provide the actual results within three days of the release date. If you apply to the SUTD with predicted grades and are shortlisted, you must take the SUTD University Entrance Examination (UEE). 

2) SAT or ACT scores: 

The importance of standardised tests such as the SAT or ACT varies among universities in Singapore. While some universities, may require these tests, others may consider them optional. But if you’ve taken these exams, always submit your scores. Good scores can increase your chances of acceptance. Always check the specific requirements of each university and programme, as exceptions may exist. For example, the  Singapore University of Social Sciences requires all international applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

3) Language proficiency: 

Tests such as TOEFL or IELTS are not generally required if you have graduated from a school where English is the primary language of instruction or have a predicted grade of at least 80 percent in English. 

4) Extracurricular and co-curricular activities: 

Since academic merit plays a crucial role in deciding the outcome of your application, universities like NUS and NTU consider exceptional achievements in co-curricular activities and competitions. Such achievements include international science/math Olympiad medals and places in national sports teams. Advanced Placement examination scores are optional, but universities like NUS and the Singapore Institute of Management accept them. 

5) Letters of recommendation 

Some universities may request letters of recommendation (LORs) as part of their application process. The number of LORs needed may vary, but one or two letters from teachers or mentors who can attest to your academic abilities, character, or extracurricular involvement are usually sufficient. 

6) Essays/Personal Statement: 

Essays or personal statements are a common requirement for undergraduate admissions in Singapore. These essays allow applicants to showcase their writing skills, personal experiences, motivations, and aspirations. The essay prompts can vary between universities and programs. For example, NUS and NTU often provide specific prompts that require applicants to reflect on their experiences and discuss their future goals. 

Tips for applying to undergraduate programmes at Singaporean universities

  • Universities in Singapore typically have an intake in August and January. It is essential to start the application process early to meet the deadlines. 
  • Always check the admission requirements for specific courses.
  • Apply online on the university website. Typically, the application form for universities in Singapore includes sections for personal information, educational background, and choice of major/minor. There may be sections to list your achievements and provide details about your extracurricular activities, internships, or research experiences related to your field of study. Universities like SUSS require all applicants to submit a reflection essay and a resume.
  • Upload supporting documents. The list of supporting documents is university and course-specific but typically includes IDs, official transcripts, letters of recommendation and medical certificates.
  • The application fee for international applicants is approximately $20.
  • Track your application. Most universities offer conditional admission based on your predicted scores, while some universities wait for your final board results to decide.

Studying for an undergraduate degree in Singapore offers numerous advantages, including access to renowned universities, diverse programme options, a multicultural environment, and academic and personal growth opportunities. With its robust education system, global recognition, and affordable costs compared to other popular destinations, Singapore provides a compelling choice for international students seeking high-quality education and a rich learning experience.

If you would like to explore higher education options in Singapore or need help with applying, please get in touch with us. Our Asia specialists look forward to supporting you.