We Singaporeans are a privileged bunch. For tertiary education, most of us focus on getting into our school of choice – be it NUS, NTU, SMU or any other university – and hardly stop to think about the financial implications of taking a Bachelor’s degree.
Those lucky enough to have been on “parental scholarships” in university can afford to remain blissfully ignorant about the cost of higher education in any Singapore university. Myself included. All I knew was that the cost of local university fees is a lot cheaper than studying abroad – and that was it.
However, if you plan to take charge of your Singapore university education, an important part of the discussion is cost. What are the options? What can you or your parents afford? How will you fund your studies?
Here’s a quick glance at estimated course fees for Singaporeans.
- Summary: Singapore university school fees
- NUS school fees 2021 intake
- NTU school fees 2021 intake
- SMU school fees 2021 intake
- SUTD school fees 2021 intake
- SUSS school fees 2021 intake
- SIT school fees 2021 intake
- Lasalle school fees 2021 intake
- NAFA school fees 2021 intake
- Private university school fees
- Other university costs to consider
- CPF Education Scheme
- Scholarships & bursaries
- Work study scheme
- Education loans in Singapore
Summary of Singapore university school fees 2021
Here are the subsidised Singapore university fees at a glance (based on 2020 intake fees). For digestibility’s sake, these are approximations based on 3-year general courses, and exclude the more expensive courses like medicine.
|University||Est. course fee for 2021 intake|
|NUS||$24,600 to $28,800|
|NTU||$24,600 to $28,200|
|SUSS||$31,440 to $33,440|
|SIT||$22,500 to $36,960|
Given a choice, most of us would prefer to enrol in one of these local universities. Apart from the fact that their degrees are more recognised (at least in the Singapore workforce), the course fees are also subsidised by the Ministry of Education Tuition Grant.
The MOE Tuition Grant is automatically awarded to all Singaporean citizens, but note that you can’t use it again if you’ve already enjoyed it for a prior degree course. For Singaporeans, the grant cuts about 50% to 80% off the standard course fee.
Non-Singaporeans (PRs and foreigners) can also apply for the MOE Tuition Grant. But once it’s granted, you’ll have to work for a Singapore entity for 3 years after graduation. The subsidy for PRs is smaller, and the subsidy for foreigners is the smallest.
NUS school fees 2021 intake
National University of Singapore probably needs no introduction. It’s Singapore’s flagship uni and widely regarded as the best one to get into for most degrees.
As a local uni, NUS tuition fees for undergrad courses are some of the cheapest. They mostly range from $8,200 to $9,600 per year, so expect to pay roughly $24,600 to $28,800 for a 3-year course.
For law, NUS’ 4-year course costs $12,650 a year, so $50,600 for the full course.
For dentistry and medicine, NUS course fees are now $29,300 per year. The degree would cost from $117,200 (dentistry, 4 years) to $146,500 (medicine, 5 years).
These prices are for Singapore citizens only. Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NUS.
NUS students pay fixed fees based on their cohort throughout their course, so for instance, if you enrolled in 2021, you pay the same annual tuition fee of $8,200 every year for the duration of your course.
NTU school fees 2021 intake
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is the second major local university in Singapore.
Certain colleges within NTU have stellar reputation. For instance, the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) is the place to be if you’re interested in studying communications and mass media. NTU Business School is also famous.
NTU tuition fees for undergrad courses are similar to that of NUS. They mostly cost $8,200 to $9,400 per year, which works out to about $24,600 to $28,200 for a 3-year course.
NTU has a Renaissance Engineering Programme, which is steeper at $17,600 per year, i.e. $79,200 for 4.5-year course.
As for medicine, the 5-year NTU medicine course costs $34,700 per year, making it a grand total of $173,500.
Again, these rates are for citizens. Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NTU. As with NUS, NTU students pay fixed fees throughout their course of studies based on their cohort, and will not be subject to fee increases.
SMU school fees 2021 intake
Singapore Management University (SMU) is known for grooming outspoken graduates that end up in management roles. Classes are arranged in small-sized seminars rather than large lecture halls, and you’ll be encouraged to speak up to participate in class.
One of SMU’s key selling points is that its campus is located right in the city centre. But some may feel that there’s no “campus” feel to the university, since there isn’t any semblance of hostel life or university town.
SMU is a local uni, but its fees cost a bit more than NUS and NTU. SMU tuition fees for undergrad courses mostly cost $11,450 per year, which works out to $34,350 for a 3-year course.
For law, the 4-year SMU Law course costs $12,650 per year, so that’s $50,600 for 4 years.
Again, Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at SMU, and students pay fixed fees throughout their course of studies based on their cohort.
SUTD school fees 2021 intake
The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) is one of the newer unis in Singapore, and is reputed to be strong in design-thinking and technology. Its graduates are known to do well in the job market.
The SUTD campus is near Expo MRT station, or Upper Changi MRT station in the East.
Again, prices stated here are for citizens; Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at SUTD.
Historically, SUTD tuition fees have increased anywhere between $250 and $500, however the fluctuation seems to be stabilising. Fees per academic year for the 2019/2020 cohort stands at $13,200, while 2020/2021 cohort pays $13,300 ($100 more) per academic year.
SUSS school fees 2021 intake
Formerly known as UniSIM, the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) offers degrees in (you guessed it) social sciences — as well as accountancy, education, HR management, business analytics and so on.
SUSS’ campus is based along Clementi Road with the nearest MRT being King Albert Park (DTL).
Unlike the other universities listed above, SUSS tuition fees are module-based rather than annual fee-based.
Full-time courses are expected to cost around $31,440 for a 4-year course. The most expensive SUSS course is accountancy, at about $33,440 for the full course.
These rates are for Singaporeans. Singapore PRs pay approximately double the course fees at SUSS.
SIT school fees 2021 intake
Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) is one of Singapore’s newer universities, offering degrees in aircraft systems, infrastructure, aerospace and other fields of engineering. They also have degrees such as naval architecture and mechatronics.
SIT’s campus is located near NUS, along Dover Road. The nearest MRT is One North.
Generally, SIT tuition fees are on the affordable side. Most courses cost from $22,500 to $30,000 in total for the entire course.
Their ICT, pharmaceutical engineering and healthcare courses are more expensive at $30,000 to $36,960 for the full course.
SIT also offers courses in collaboration with overseas partner universities, but they are more expensive; prices vary.
Similar to SUSS, Singapore PRs pay approximately double the course fees at SIT.
Lasalle school fees 2021 intake
If you’re more inclined towards the arts, you may have considered joining Lasalle. You can find diplomas in areas such as dance, design communication, fine arts and interior design as well as degrees acting, animation art, fashion and film.
Take note that degrees at Lasalle will cost more than degrees at NUS or NTU, but cheaper than technology degrees at SUTD or SIT. The Lasalle campus is based downtown, the nearest MRT being Rochor (DTL).
Lasalle tuition fees for all BA degree courses cost $9,730 per year, so that’s $29,190 for a 3-year course. Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at Lasalle.
NAFA school fees 2021 intake
At Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in Bugis, you can study disciplines like spatial design, fashion, 3D design practice, arts management, design and media, fine art practice, theatre arts, fashion marketing and music.
Interestingly, NAFA does not offer a direct degree. Instead, you need to take a 3-year diploma and then top up 1 year for a degree.
NAFA diploma course fees range from $4,700 to $5,650 per year, so for a 3-year course, you would pay about $15,000. This excludes teaching diplomas for art and music, which cost slightly more ($5,850 to $7,750 a year).
After completing your diploma, study an additional year to get a degree. NAFA’s top up degrees are awarded by overseas partner unis, and cost around $21,000 to $22,700.
So, you can expect to pay about $36,000 in total for a diploma + degree at NAFA.
Private university school fees in Singapore
Even though private universities historically aren’t as coveted as public universities, their numbers seem to keep growing every year with no signs of slowing down. Popular ones are Kaplan, MDIS, PSB Academy, SIM GE and James Cook University.
School fees at private universities vary wildly. You can enrol in a full-time Bachelor’s degree course for $20,000 in one school, yet be charged closer to $60,000 at the next.
That’s because they usually work with external degree providers, which all have different rates and “market value”. Course fees usually depend on the course provider.
If you’re looking at a popular course such as psychology, the amount of choice out there can be pretty staggering.
However, don’t just go for the cheapest one, because there can be a lot of variation between how courses are run. Some partner universities don’t do much quality control and don’t care if their materials are taught by Tom, Dick or Harry. So you might end up being taught by an instructor who isn’t even an expert on the subject.
The quality of the school itself also matters. For example, James Cook University is the most expensive of the private unis here, but it’s the only one with an EduTrust Star, the highest Council for Private Education (CPE) ranking in Singapore. That said, the other popular schools also have EduTrust accreditation, just not the highest possible rank.
Yes, the cost of your studies matters, but you also want to make sure that the degree is recognised enough to get you a job with decent pay in the future — otherwise you’ll just be shortchanging yourself.
Other university costs to consider
Tuition fees may form the bulk of your expenses, but other costs of studying are significant enough that you should budget for them too. These include:
- Course application fees
- Miscellaneous fees — lab, admin, health insurance fees (yes, you will be billed for these!)
- Study materials — textbooks, laptop and anything else you might need to get for school
- Exchange programmes
- Some private uni courses require you to spend a term or semester abroad at the partner university
Then, of course, there are the living expenses that you might incur:
- Accommodation — e.g. staying in hall or renting a shared flat near school
- Lifestyle — meals, socialising, day-to-day costs if you stay in hall
- Travel — during vacations, grad trip
Funding your education: CPF Education Scheme
$25,000 or $30,000 isn’t a sum that most people can cough up easily. Many parents in Singapore do their best to set aside a university education fund for their kids, but sometimes life happens and it is no longer an option.
Here are some ways to fund your studies that you can look into:
We’ll start with the CPF Education Scheme, which is a widely-known scheme for tapping into your parents’ CPF funds.
If your parents have funds locked up in their CPF accounts, you might be able to use their Ordinary Account savings to fund your studies. However, it’s only for the local universities, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it.
Funding your education: Scholarships & bursaries
If you are unable to unlock the CPF Education Scheme for whatever reason, the next step is to head to your university’s financial aid unit, e.g. the Office of Financial Aid at NUS.
Scholarships, grants and bursaries are forms of financial aid that don’t require repayment, unlike the CPF Education Scheme or education loans. However, they may have educational or income requirements, and some come with a work placement bond.
If you’re unfazed by the idea of serving a work bond and relatives fawning over you at every gathering (“Wah, Girl Girl scholar leh!”) — and if your grades are top notch — then consider a government scholarship.
Apart from the well-known ones like the PSC Scholarship and MOE Teaching Scholarship, check the agencies relevant to your area of study to see if they offer anything. For example, if you’re interested in tech you can investigate IMDA’s scholarships, while social work majors can try MSF’s scholarships.
There are also tons of non-government options out there, too, especially from non-profit organisations like Ngee Ann Kongsi and Mendaki.
The non-exhaustive lists on the NUS website and the PSB Academy website should give you an idea of what’s out there, but you don’t have to approach them directly. The best way to find a private scholarship is through your school’s financial aid office.
If you are from a lower-income family, you may be eligible for a government bursary, which subsidises up to 50% of school fees (but will be increased to 75% in the future). Either ask your school’s financial aid office about them, or make an appointment with NCSS to find out if your family qualifies for government assistance.
Obtaining financial aid can be a lengthy administrative process, so start enquiring at least 4 to 6 months before the semester commences.
Funding your education: Get a job
Whether you qualify for a grant or not, if your schedule allows, there’s always that old fallback — getting a part-time job while you’re in uni to help pay some of your school fees.
Do enquire if your university offers a work-study scheme like NUS does. You might not even have to leave campus to find a part-time job!
Otherwise, you can take advantage of weird university schedules, like 3-hour school days and 4-day school weeks, to find a part-time gig.
Being a private tutor is one of the best-paying jobs you can get as an undergrad, but if you’re not keen on forcing someone’s brat to do his homework, there are other options to consider, from these high-paying freelance jobs to the more common low-barrier part-time gigs. You can even check out these unusual ways to make a bit of cash (dog walker, anyone?).
As long as it doesn’t detract from your studies, working part-time as a student can give you a head start over your peers in terms of real life working experience, which is valuable in and of itself.
Funding your education: Take up an education loan
Finally, if you are unable or unwilling to get any other form of financial aid, your school’s financial aid office would usually recommend an education loan.
For those planning to study in a local university, the cheapest loan to fund your education is the MOE Tuition Fee Loan, which loans up to 90% of your tuition fees. Note that you have to pay at least 10% of the course fee out of pocket, so that’s a few thousand bucks at least.
If you’re not eligible for the MOE loan, like if you’re planning to enrol in a private uni, you might have to go to a bank to get an education loan.
Whichever you choose, think carefully before you take on a loan, because repaying your education loan will have a big impact on the first few years of your working life.
It’s worthwhile to shop around for the lowest interest rate for such a big commitment, and you can easily compare interest rates with MoneySmart’s education loan wizard.
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