“international students now make up about 20% of NTU’s undergraduate population and about 33% of its graduate population…the National University of Singapore (NUS) said about 20% of its 23,900 undergraduates and about 50% of its 9,100 postgraduate students are from overseas…the number of permanent residencies (PRs) awarded last year rose to 57,300 – a 9.6% increase from 2005 and a 55.3% increase from 2004”- Business Times of 26 May 2007.
The people I spoke to who graduated from NUS & NTU stared at me in disbelief when I mentioned these numbers - only 4.3% of the foreigners who applied got into our universities. They were sure there are lot more foreign students than the 987 our esteemed minister said were successful with their applications.
Of course our Minister of State for Eduction Mr. Gan did not lie when he say only 4.3% of foreign students who applied to our universities got a place. One plausible explanation is the rest got into our unversities because they were offered scholarship and hence did not need to apply for a place in our universities.
As Singapore aspires to be an education hub, we cannot expect top foreign students to apply to our universities like locals - they have to be invite to our universities through offers of scholarship.
I met a lecturer from one of our universities the other day. He said many foreign students take advantage of a loophole in their scholarship requiring them to work 3 years in Singapore before leaving for other countries. They simply claim that they are unable to find jobs for 6 months and they are allowed to leave - thus getting a free education at the expense of Singaporeans!! Wah so smart...no wonder our beloved govt like them so much to give them free scholarship while Singaporeans like myself struggled through my university giving tuition on weekends and make ends meet by taking up bank loans for my fees. I took 5 years to clear my education debt after I got my 1st class honours from NUS. I guess my govt was afraid that I wasn't challenged enough.....to this day I'm still thankful for the challenges they gave me. I guess they are kind enough to reserve such challenges for Singaporeans while foreign students are given scholarships and denied the benefit of shouldering the financial burdens that Singaporeans received.