How many universities are there in Singapore? If your answer is four, you make an implicit assumption that we are only talking about the public universities. If we expand the scope of universities to include those built without or with little government involvement in Singapore, the number you should give is much larger and growing. The notable private universities are Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), Kaplan Singapore etc. They add to the diversity of the local tertiary institutions. While the major shares of education are still taken up by the four public universities here, sometimes it may suit you better to choose a private education. Undecided between private and public? Digital Senior is here to give you some guidance.
Reputation is an invisible asset
You can start your comparisons by considering the reputation of the institution that you may enroll in. The public universities in Singapore enjoy good local and international reputation as reflected by their international rankings. Having a good reputation is important as that influences how popular you are among employers or graduate school admissions officers. The private universities generally do not match the fame of the public ones who have been spending decades in building up their “brand names”, especially with the government support. If you think your desired employers take branding into greater account, going for a public university may be a good choice. However, the story does not end here. Many private institutions are pumping resources in establishing their names among industries. For example, Kaplan has been rated by the #1 private institution in Singapore for the second year by the Jobcentral. Hence being relatively lesser known is not an absolute reason for you to choose a public school over a private school. But Digital Senior would still like to have a cautionary remark. If you are an international student who intends to go back to your home country after you graduate from a Singapore university, attending an internationally known university may aid your job search in your home country. If you plan to pursue overseas graduate studies after you graduate from a local university, it will increase your chance of success if the admission officers know for a long time the name of your university.
How high is the bar?
Since reputation is never a sole criterion of consideration, what else do you need to bear in mind? A good point to consider is the ease of entry. Public universities have higher barriers to entry compared to private universities. After you receive your result, check the Indicative Grade Profiles of the public universities and see if you stand a reasonable chance of being admitted. We have seen some students not getting into all four public universities because the competition for places is simply getting stronger. If you are applying from a foreign country, public universities also take a stricter view of your English proficiency and they usually require higher English testing scores for IELTS or TOFEL. If you realize that it is difficult to get into a public university or a particular degree program that you are passionate about, you have two choices: going overseas or going for local private universities. If you think the expenses of studying aboard are prohibitive to your family, do consider the local private universities that offer similar programs. Many of them partner with public universities to provide well-accredited courses and the academic rigor is on par with that in public universities.
Do you like structure or flexibility?
The next factor Digital Senior proposes is the curriculum design. In private universities, you can attend vocational training degree program where you are able to study in a more focused manner, not having to take general education modules required by all public universities. Depending on your needs, private universities offer part time programs where you can work and study at the same time. Due to the offering of part time programs, you will see a substantial percentage of adults in private schools. You may not have so many opportunities to interact with your peers, but that can be compensated if you manage to network with working adults and turn that relationship into your assets. In comparison, public universities offer more holistic education and do not have part time programs for undergraduate studies. If you believe that you need more exploration to settle on a career of your choice or if you like the breath of education where you can learn Shakespeare and astronomy at the same time, go for the public universities. The community there may also be more closely-knit, as students study and even live together throughout their 3 to 4 years on campus.
Lastly, Digital Senior would like to discuss cost. Regardless of your nationalities, you can enjoy the government subsidy called the “tuition grant” if you go for the public universities. Public universities also have much greater endowment and students can also apply for scholarship and financial aid that improves their financial situation. Private universities are more expensive and seldom enjoy the government subsidy. However, certain private academies have developed affiliations with some industry sponsors that provide financial assistance. Various interest-free student loans can also help share the financial burden of students.
The differences between a private university and a public university are greater than the sum of the differences among themselves. Hence it is a critical decision to make. Private or public? Hope you make the right choice.