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Masters Study in Singapore - A Guide for 2018

A Masters in Singapore isn't just an opportunity to spend a year or two living in an exciting, exotic location – it’s also a chance to study and train within a vibrant, forward-thinking intellectual culture. If you study a Masters in Singapore, you'll be able to learn from high-tech innovations or study a fascinating and unique cultural heritage.

This page will cover the essential information you need to know about postgraduate study in Singapore, from tuition fees and funding to visas and the application process. You can also begin your search for a Masters in Singapore right now.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Singapore – what’s on offer for 2018?

Much more than a holiday destination, Singapore is a hub for academic excellence in South-East Asia. It boasts top ranked universities, high standards of teaching and learning, world-renowned academics and state-of-the-art research facilities.

Here are a few more reasons why you should consider a Masters in Singapore this year:

  • Prestigious universities – Two of Singapore’s six publicly-funded universities are among the world’s top 100 higher education institutions.
  • Funding opportunities – There are several scholarships and tuition fee subsidy options open to international students in Singapore.
  • English is a language of instruction – Postgraduate courses in Singapore are taught in English which, as the mother tongue of many Singaporeans, is widely used.
  • Quality of life – Singapore is often named one of the world’s safest countries, and its cleanliness and low crime rates make it a haven for foreign postgraduates.

Masters Study in Singapore - Key Details
Universities 7
Oldest University National University of Singapore (1905)
International Students 50,000
Course Length 1-2 years
Average Fees S$29,350-37,550 (USD $22,400-28,650)
Academic Year August to July

Singaporean universities

For a country of its size, the Singaporean higher education landscape is incredibly varied, including local universities and foreign institutions. Stringent quality assurance frameworks are in place to make sure that graduate courses are of the highest quality and recognised internationally.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) is the body in charge of higher education in Singapore, although since 2011, private institutions must be registered with the Council for Private Education (CPE). However, there is currently no list of accredited overseas universities and no central authority in Singapore which grants recognition for degrees obtained from overseas universities. It is therefore recommended that you check whether the institution is a bona fide educational establishment through the relevant authorities of the institution’s country of origin.

Similarly, it is advisable to ensure that degrees from overseas institutions in professional areas such as Engineering are recognised by the appropriate professional body.

Local universities

Singapore has seven local universities (six public and one private), offering Masters study opportunities:

  • National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  • Singapore Management University (SMU)
  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
  • Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) – private comprehensive institution

Foreign institutions

In addition to local universities, many of the world's leading universities offer graduate programmes in Singapore, either on their own or by collaboration with local universities (which will be the awarding institutions).

University rankings

Despite the small size of the Singaporean higher education system, its universities perform extremely well on the world stage.

In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technogical University place at 22th and 52nd, respectively. The QS World University Rankings, meanwhile, puts NTU at 11th and NUS at 15th.

Course types

In Singapore, postgraduate study is referred simply as “graduate study”, taught Masters and professional doctorates are known as “graduate studies by coursework”, while Masters by research and PhDs are referred to as “graduate studies by research”.

The system for naming Masters degrees, however, is similar to the UK and the US, featuring the familiar MA, MSc and LLM.

Masters programmes can vary considerably from institution to institution in Singapore. The duration is generally between one and two years, and the curriculum can be decided by the institution.

For example, the National University of Singapore has a flexible approach to the length of a Masters, preferring not to define a set study study period but instead stipulating that a minimum number of credits must be gained every semester. At Nanyang Technological University, meanwhile, full-time Masters in Engineering normally last one year. During this time, students are required to complete 30 academic units to graduate. Lectures are usually in the evening while the practical aspects (where relevant) are undertaken during the day throughout the week or even on a Saturday!

MBA programmes can take between 12-18 months full-time. Part-time and full-time options are available for most Masters programmes.

Course content

Taught Masters feature a mixture of lectures, seminars, group work and tutorials, with a final year project / dissertation. You may be required to undertake this project at the end of your Masters or as a continuous task throughout your studies while taking courses. Less commonly, universities may also offer Masters whereby no dissertation/project is required (called “the coursework track”), with credits obtained solely by attending and passing courses.

For research Masters, the dissertation (based on supervised research) is a more substantial piece than for taught Masters and will be around 30,000 words. You will also have to attend and pass around four courses during your degree.

In local universities, the dissertation for the project must be submitted within a prescribed period (usually three years full-time) after the start of the programme (which may be called “commencement of the candidature” or “maximum length of candidature”) and not necessarily at the formal end of the teaching period.

At the end of your programme, you will be given a grade point average (GPA) or a cumulative GPA if your programme lasts more than 1 year. The GPA scale is a 5-point scale with a maximum of 5.0 and 2.50 often being the pass mark.

Masters fees and funding in Singapore

Singapore is keen to encourage international students and a range of funding and support options are therefore available to assist postgraduates. Tuition fees for Masters programmes in Singapore are also relatively affordable, but the exact amount you pay will depend upon the university you apply to and the subject area you are working within.

There are also some unique opportunities for fee subsidies in Singapore, offered through a system known as the 'service obligation' – you can read about this below. In most cases the fee you pay will be made up of several components, rather than being quoted as one lump sum.

Fees may also be quoted per semester or trimester but interestingly some institutions have three semesters per year (i.e. a semester is four months!) or only three trimesters per year so take that into account when calculating fees.

Tuition fee subsidy and Service Obligation

Foreign students at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technogical University who self-finance can choose to pay a subsidised tuition fee rate. This is not open to students who receive any kind of scholarship. Not all programmes are eligible for the subsidy and these are selected based on the needs of the labour market. Individual universities also have the authority to decide which programmes can benefit from an MoE subsidy, so check the university’s website carefully.

The subsidy amount for overseas students ranges from S$5,000-S$40,000 (USD $4,000-32,000), depending on the subject area. To qualify, you need to sign an agreement, called a Service Obligation (SO) with the MoE to work in Singapore-based companies for three years after graduation. For more information, please refer to the National University of Singapore’s page on the Service Obligation Scheme.

Although attractive financially, the length of the SO is fixed at three years, regardless of how long your Masters programme is, so make sure you understand the terms and that you have plans to work in Singapore.

Masters scholarships and financial assistance

Financial assistance for graduate students is also available in the form of scholarships from universities and from external agencies. Graduate scholarships all have eligibility criteria, are highly competitive and generally awarded based on academic excellence. Scholarships will often cover tuition fees and associated fees. Examples include:

  • ASEAN Scholarship (for nationals of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
  • APEC Scholarship (full-time MBA; selected nationalities)
  • Tuition fee allowance from universities
  • University scholarships

Other forms of financial aid include study loans and part-time jobs. International students with a Student Pass who are studying for a full-time degree may work up to 16 hours a week during the academic year and full-time during holidays, without having to apply for any additional permission.

Graduate students (excluding those who receive scholarships, fee subsidies and external funding) may also apply for a loan under the Tuition Fee Loan (TFL) scheme. The maximum loan amount is 90% of the tuition fees payable by Singapore citizens and available for selected Masters degrees. TFL providers are local banks and the loans are applied for through your institution.

Applying for a Masters in Singapore

Applications are normally done via the graduate office (or equivalent), although individual programmes may have their own online form. Decisions on admissions are most often made by the relevant faculty after careful evaluation of all applications. Evaluation is carried out based on a combination of factors such as previous degrees and academic record, references, test scores and relevant work experience.

The majority of graduate programmes will admit students twice a year, in August and January, each intake having a specific deadline for application.

Masters entry requirements

Candidates must demonstrate readiness for graduate study and may be required to submit entry examination scores (e.g. GRE or GMAT). Admission to taught and research Masters requires a good undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline.

Achieving the minimum entry requirements isn’t a guarantee of admission, since the number of qualified applicants often exceeds the number of places available. Departments may also admit students with a good Bachelors degree who have appropriate research experience, subject to approval by the relevant administrative body.

Language requirements

Students whose native language is not English will need to demonstrate proficiency in English in the form of TOEFL or IELTS as part of the admission criteria. The Malaysian University English Test is also sometimes accepted.

Visas and immigration for Masters students in Singapore

All international students with an admission offer are required to hold a valid Student’s Pass issued by the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). As in many countries, a tourist visa is not sufficient to study in Singapore.

The process can be done mostly online through the Student's Pass On-Line Application and Registration (SOLAR) system, which both universities and students use to submit the relevant documentation. Successful applicants will be issued with an in-principle approval (IPA) letter by ICA which your university will send directly to you. For applicants who require a visa to enter Singapore, a visa will be incorporated in the IPA letter.

Working as a Masters student in Singapore

Part-time work is allowed under certain conditions and is subject to approval by the university that you are studying in. Before you look for part time employment, it may be best to enquire at the relevant university office. Local employers are allowed to offer part-time employment to overseas students from local universities. As a student, you will have to present a letter of authorisation from your institution allowing you to pursue part time employment.

Next steps

In Singapore, a Masters degree is often a pre-requisite for PhD study but it also opens up a number of career options. Singapore is one of the most attractive countries for foreigners seeking highly-skilled work. As a hub for business and high-tech industries in South-East Asia, Singapore offers a wide-range of opportunities, notably in key sectors such as banking and finance, biomedical sciences, chemicals, communications and media, electronics, healthcare and information technologies.

Not all local universities have careers services but if they do, it is worth making good use of them as they will have good contacts with employers and will hosts events, such as careers fairs where you can meet companies (both local and multinationals) recruiting high-calibre graduates.

Search for a Masters in Singapore

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Last updated - 04/04/2018

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