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.
- Subsidised Singapore university course fees
- Non-subsidised Singapore university course fees
- Choosing a private university course
- Other costs to consider
- How to fund your studies
With some 30 universities in Singapore to cover, an exhaustive discussion of ALL the options available is going to be, um, exhausting. So we’ll keep the discussion general and aimed at the average reader.
Some assumptions and restrictions:
- You’re a Singapore citizen (although we’ll touch lightly on fees for PRs)
- You have not undergone uni education before – still eligible for government subsidy
- You’re looking at Bachelor’s degrees
- You’re interested in general arts, science and business degrees – not medicine and law which are more expensive
- The degree will take 3 years to complete – we won’t count honours year
- You’re interested in studying full time
Now, let’s take a closer look at the most popular universities’ course fees. We’ll divide this into two sections: subsidised and non-subsidised universities in Singapore.
Subsidised Singapore university course fees
Given a choice, most of us would prefer to enrol in a local university. 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.
Here are the subsidised Singapore university fees at a glance. For digestibility’s sake, all numbers have been averaged and rounded off to the nearest $500, and are approximations based on 3-year courses:
|School||Estimated course fee||Exclusions|
|NUS||$27,000||Law, music (4 years) – $52,000
Dentistry (4 years) – $109,500
Medicine (5 years) – $137,000
Other direct honours courses (4 years) – $36,000
|NTU||$27,000||Renaissance engineering (4.5 years) – $79,000
Medicine (5 years) – $168,500
Other direct honours courses (4 years) – $36,000
|SMU||$34,200||Law (4 years) – $50,500|
|SUTD||$39,150||SUTD Special Programmes – fees vary|
|SUSS (ex-UniSIM)||$31,240||Accountancy – $33,000
Part time courses – $15,000 to $19,000
|SIT||$26,000||ICT, pharmaceutical engineering, healthcare – $36,500|
|NAFA||$36,000||Art & music education courses are slightly more expensive|
NUS school fees AY2018/2019
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.
Its main campus is based in Kent Ridge, but it has a Duke-NUS Medical School at Outram area and its law faculty is housed in its Bukit Timah campus.
Because it’s a research university, students generally go through lectures and small group tutorials. Assessement is still largely done through written examinations.
- NUS tuition fees for undergrad courses mostly range from $8,150 to $9,550 per year: roughly $27,000 for a 3-year course
- Add one more year’s fees for direct honours courses: $36,000 for a 4-year course
- NUS law, music courses cost $12,600 to $12,950 per year: $52,000 for a 4-year course
- NUS dentistry, medicine courses cost $27,400 per year: $109,600 (4-year dentistry course) to $137,000 (5-year medicine course)
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NUS
Historically, NUS fees per annum increase $50 to $100 per annum, so you may be looking at paying up to $8,250 a year for a degree in a general field like Arts and Social Sciences, or $9,700 for a business degree.
NUS students pay fixed fees based on their cohort throughout their course, so for instance, if you’re enrolled in 2018/2019, you pay $8,150 for a general degree every year for 3 to 4 years.
NTU school fees AY2018/2019
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 $8,150 to $9,350 per year = $27,000 for a 3-year course
- Add one more year’s fees for direct honours courses = roughly $36,000 for a 4-year course
- NTU’s Renaissance Engineering Programme is steeper at $17,600 per year = $79,200 for 4.5-year course
- NTU medicine course costs $33,700 per year = $168,500
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at NTU
Historically, NTU fees per annum increase $50 to $100 year on year, so you may be looking at paying up to $8,300 to $9,500 a year for a degree (engineering and medicine excluded).
NTU students will pay fixed fees throughout their course of studies based on their cohort, and will not be subjected to fee increases. If you’re taking on a business degree and enrolled in AY2018/2019, you pay $9,500 every year for 3 years.
SMU school fees AY2018/2019
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 $11,400 per year = $34,200 for a 3-year course
- SMU Law course is a little pricier at $12,600 per year = $50,400 for 4 years
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at SMU
Historically, SMU fees increase $50 to $100 more per annum, so you may be looking at paying $11,500 per year if you are enrolling in 2019/2020. 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 AY2018/2019
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 $13,050 per year = $39,150 for a 3-year course
- 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 it seems to be stabilising. Fees per academic year for the 2017/2018 cohort is $12,900, while 2018/2019 pays $13,050 an academic year.
It remains to be seen what 2019/2020 cohort will pay and we will update with the latest news.
SUSS (UniSIM) school fees AY2018/2019
Less than 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 $31,240 (in total, based on course requirements)
- SUSS accountancy course is more expensive at about $33,440
- SUSS part time courses are cheaper – mostly from $15,210 to $19,101 total
- SUSS part-time accountancy, arts, music, sports courses cost a few thousand more
- Singapore PRs pay approx. double at SUSS
SIT school fees AY2018/2019
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 $24,120 to $27,360 in total
- SIT’s ICT, pharmaceutical engineering and healthcare courses cost $36,480
- SIT has courses offered with overseas partner universities but they are more expensive; prices vary
- Singapore PRs pay approx. double at SIT
Lasalle school fees 2019 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 $9,729 per year: $30,000 for a 3-year course
- Singapore PRs pay about 40% more at Lasalle
NAFA school fees 2019 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, theater 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 $4,600 to $5,550 per year: Estimated $15,000 for a 3-year course
- Excludes teaching diplomas which cost slightly more
- NAFA’s top up year for a degree (awarded by overseas partner unis) costs around $21,800 to $22,500.
- So, you can expect to pay about $36,000 in total for a diploma + degree at NAFA
Non-subsidised Singapore university course fees
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.
If you’re considering a private uni in Singapore, don’t be frightened off by the fact that they’re not subsidised by the government. Non-subsidised unis don’t necessarily cost more than subsidised unis.
There are so many private universities here that there’s no point in even TRYING to list all their course fees. So what I’ll do is compare the 5 most popular and recognised ones.
Note that most private unis have external degree providers, meaning their overseas partner unis are the ones awarding the degrees. Therefore fees vary wildly depending on the course provider. Also, they don’t all take 3 years to complete. Many are offered as express (around 2 years) or part-time courses.
We’ll provide a general range of fees. Again, fees have been averaged and rounded off to the nearest $500:
|School||Estimated course fees||Exclusions|
|Kaplan||$18,000 to $30,000||Part-time degrees – from $18,500 per course|
|MDIS||$20,000 to $39,000||—|
|PSB Academy||$41,000 to $45,000||Express 2-year courses (for those with relevant A-levels or diplomas) – from $21,000 per course|
|SIM Global||$28,400 to $40,000||Specialised courses e.g. logistics – $44,500 per course
Double arts majors – $59,000 upwards per course
|JCU||$54,000 to $59,000||—|
Kaplan school fees 2018
- Option to take a degree directly OR diploma + top up course to upgrade it to a degree
- Kaplan tuition fees for full-time degrees start from $20,000
- Kaplan part-time degrees are slightly cheaper at around $18,500
- For diploma + top up route:
- Basic Kaplan diploma costs around $5,000
- Kaplan top up degree ranges from $13,000 to $25,000
- In total: expect to pay $18,000 to $30,000
MDIS school fees 2018
- MDIS has a massive range of programmes – check provider & course structure before applying
- Just like Kaplan, there’s a range of direct degree courses + top up options
- MDIS tuition fees for basic full-time degrees start from $20,000
- MDIS’ more expensive degrees (e.g. finance, fashion) hover around $35,000 and engineering degrees go up to $39,000
- For those with relevant diploma, MDIS top up degree starts from $15,000
PSB Academy school fees 2018
- PSB Academy tuition fees for standard 3-year course fees range from around $41,000 (business, communications, IT) to $45,000 (science)
- PSB Academy also has “express” courses (2 years) offered only to those with relevant diplomas or A-level subjects (e.g. you need an A-level pass in Economics/Business/Mathematics to qualify for an “express” Business degree) – $21,000 to $27,500
SIM GE school fees 2018
- SIM GE (SIM Global Education) is a private school. Not to be confused with UniSIM which is now SUSS!
- SIM GE tuition fees for undergrad courses vary depending on partner universities, e.g. $28,400 for University of London econs course vs $35,000 upwards at SUNY Buffalo
- Overall, most SIM GE courses range from $28,400 to $40,000
- Except for specialised SIM GE courses e.g. logistics ($44,500) and double arts majors (from $59,000 onwards)
JCU school fees 2018
- Unlike other private unis, JCU (James Cook University) Singapore does not work with partner unis and sees itself more as a branch of Australia’s James Cook University
- JCU tuition fees for undergrad courses range from $54,000 to $59,000
Choosing a private university course
Popular courses (e.g. psychology) are offered by many providers, so how can you make the best decision apart from considering the cost?
First, know that there can be a lot of variations 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.
Also, different universities are recognised for different disciplines. Kind of like how Katong laksa is better-regarded than the laksa from an Ang Mo Kio kopitiam – even if they’re essentially the same thing.
Finally, the quality of the school itself also matters. For example, James Cook University is the most expensive of the lot 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 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
OK, so how do I fund my studies?
$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.
Whether public or private, most universities will have resources dedicated to helping students financially with a range of scholarships and loans. For example, NUS has an Office of Financial Aid while PSB Academy has its Accessable Initiative.
However, you can’t just waltz in there expecting to get a loan right away. Obtaining financial aid can be a lengthy administrative process, so start enquiring at least 4 to 6 months before the semester commences.
Here are some ways to fund your studies that you can look into:
Use your parents’ CPF savings
CPF Education Scheme: 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.
Get a scholarship or bursary
Government scholarships: If you’re unfazed by the idea of serving a work bond and relatives fawning over you every Chinese New Year (“Wah, Ah 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.
Private scholarships & bursaries: If your grades aren’t good enough for a government scholarship, take heart – there are tons of options out there, some so obscure that there’s hardly any competition for them. You can obtain a bursary or scholarship from your university itself or 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. The best way to find a private scholarship is through your school’s financial aid office.
Bursaries for needy students: If you are from a lower-income family, there are plenty of bursaries you can look into. Alternatively, make an appointment with NCSS to find out if your family qualifies for government assistance.
Get a job
Part-time jobs: Of course, there’s the old fallback – getting a part-time job in uni. If you find the right gig, it’s a brilliant way to take advantage of weird university schedules, like 3-hour school days and 4-day school weeks.
Work-study scheme: You might not even have to leave campus to find a part-time job, if your university offers a work-study scheme like NUS.
Take up an education loan
MOE Tuition Fee 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 – a few thousand bucks at least – out of pocket.
Education loans from banks: If you’re not eligible for the MOE loan, like if you’re planning to enroll in a private uni, you might have to go to a bank to get an education loan. It’s worthwhile to shop around for the lowest interest rate – this is a major commitment that will have an impact on the first few years of your working life! 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!
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