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? And 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 2020 intake
- NTU school fees 2020 intake
- SMU school fees 2020 intake
- SUTD school fees 2020 intake
- SUSS school fees 2020 intake
- SIT school fees 2020 intake
- Lasalle school fees 2020 intake
- NAFA school fees 2020 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 2020
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 2020 intake|
|NUS||$24,600 to $28,800|
|NTU||$24,600 to $28,200|
|SUSS (ex-UniSIM)||$31,440 to $33,440 (for a 4-year course)|
|SIT||$24,570 to $27,720|
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 2020 intake
National University of Singapore is a research university, offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sciences, arts and social sciences, medicine, law, business, and computing, among other disciplines.
The oldest higher education institution in Singapore, it’s ranked 11th on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. Because it’s a research university, students generally go through lectures and small group tutorials. Assessment is still largely done through written examinations.
NUS’ main campus is based in Kent Ridge, but it has a Duke-NUS Medical School near SGH in Outram, and its law faculty is housed in its Bukit Timah campus.
- NUS tuition fees for undergrad courses mostly range from $8,200 to $9,600 per year. That’s roughly $24,600 to $28,800 for a 3-year course
- NUS’ 4-year law and music courses cost $12,650 to $13,950 a year respectively, i.e. $50,600 or $55,800 for the full course
- NUS’ dentistry and medicine course fees are now $28,900 per year. The degree would cost from $115,600 (dentistry, 4 years) to $144,500 (medicine, 5 years)
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NUS
Historically, NUS fees per annum increase $50 to $100 per annum, except for dentistry and medicine, which went up rather sharply from $27,400/year in 2018 to $28,900/year now.
NUSstudents pay fixed fees based on their cohort throughout their course, so for instance, if you enrolled in 2019, you pay $8,200 for a general degree every year for the duration of your course.
NTU school fees 2020 intake
Nanyang Technological University is the second autonomous university in Singapore. You can study engineering, humanities, arts and social sciences, business, or medicine among other disciplines. It’s the largest campus, with the main campus located near the Jurong West extension area. It has two other campuses in Novena and one-north.
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’s Business School has also overtaken NUS Business School in Global MBA rankings, although NUS Business School is now at the 20th position and NTU Business School is now at the 25th position.
- NTU tuition fees for undergrad courses 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’s Renaissance Engineering Programme is steeper at $17,600 per year, i.e. $79,200 for 4.5-year course
- The 5-year NTU medicine course costs $34,700 per year, making it a grand total of $173,500
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NTU
Historically, NTU fees per annum increase $50 to $100 year on year. NTU students will pay fixed fees throughout their course of studies based on their cohort, and will not be subjected to fee increases.
SMU school fees 2020 intake
SMU, a different U? Singapore Management University (SMU) is known for grooming outspoken graduates that end up in management roles. The key difference between SMU graduates and NUS or NTU graduates is that classes are arranged in small-sized seminars rather than large lecture halls. You will be encouraged to speak up to participate in class, and trained for good presentation skills.
One of SMU’s key selling points is that its campus is located right in the city centre. You can access the campus from any number of downtown MRT stations: City Hall, Dhoby Ghaut, and Bras Basah. 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 tuition fees for undergrad courses mostly cost $11,450 per year, which works out to $34,350 for a 3-year course
- The 4-year SMU Law course is a little pricier at $12,650 per year, so that’s $50,600 for 4 years
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at SMU
Historically, SMU fees increase $50 to $100 more per annum. Students will pay fixed fees throughout their course of studies based on their cohort, and will not be subjected to fee increases.
SUTD school fees 2020 intake
SUTD first opened in Singapore with a collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but that has since ended in 2017. Nevertheless, the school is reputed to be strong in design-thinking and technology, and its graduates go on to do well in the job market.
The school encourages innovation and prototyping to solve real-world problems. So if you have always dreamed to be an innovator or inventor, you may enjoy the opportunities at SUTD. Its campus is near Expo MRT station, or Upper Changi MRT station in the East.
- SUTD tuition fees for all courses cost $13,200 per year, which works out to $39,600 for a 3-year course
- This excludes SUTD Special Programmes which cost more
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at SUTD
Historically, SUTD tuition fees increase anywhere between $250 and $500, however the fluctuation seems to be stabilising. Fees per academic year for the2018/2019 cohort stands at $13,050, while 2019/2020 cohort pays $13,200 ($150 more) per academic year.
SUSS (UniSIM) school fees 2020 intake
2 years ago, SIM University (UniSIM) rebranded itself to Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). It offers degrees in accountancy, early childhood education, human resource management, business analytics, supply chain management, social work, finance and marketing.
Hmm, seems like “social science” is only 25%. We aren’t going to sit around criticising how universities are named, but we do wonder if it affects credibility when you study business or accountancy in SUSS.
SUSS’ campus is based along Clementi Road with the nearest MRT being King Albert Park (DTL).
- SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences) used to be known as UniSIM
- SUSS tuition fees are module-based instead of annual fee, full-time courses are expected to cost around $31,440 for a 4-year course (in total, based on course requirements)
- SUSS accountancy course is more expensive at about $33,440
- Singapore PRs pay approx. double at SUSS
During the National Day Rally in Aug 2019, it was announced that SUSS will lower its school fees from the current ones, but we don’t know what the new fees or timeline is like.
SIT school fees 2020 intake
Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) is one of Singapore’s newest autonomous universities, offering degrees in aircraft systems engineering, infrastructure engineering, aerospace engineering, and other fields of engineering. They also have degrees such as naval architecture and mechatronics.
SIT’s campus is literally opposite NUS’, along Dover Road. The nearest MRT is One North.
- SIT (Singapore Institute of Technology) offers its own courses (more affordable) as well as partner unis (more expensive)
- SIT tuition fees for most courses cost from $24,570 to $27,720 in total
- SIT’s ICT, pharmaceutical engineering and healthcare courses cost $32,760 to $36,960
- SIT has courses offered with overseas partner universities but they are more expensive; prices vary
- Singapore PRs pay approx. double at SIT
As with SUSS, SIT will lower its school fees, but details are not out yet.
Lasalle school fees 2020 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 2020 intake
At Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), you can take a degree in the disciplines of spatial design, fashion, 3D design practice, arts management, design and media, fine art practice, theatre arts, fashion marketing and music.
NAFA’s campus is located in Bugis. The nearest MRT station is either Bencoolen or Bugis.
- NAFA (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts) has no direct degree. Instead, take a 3-year diploma + 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, which cost slightly more ($5,850/year for art, $7,750/year for music)
- NAFA’s top up degrees are awarded by overseas partner unis, and it costs 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.
But 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.
But there are 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.
How do you plan to fund your Singapore university studies? Tell us about it in the comments section!