Education in Singapore
By Lim Yan Wen & Everlyn Lee

Singapore's education system has undergone many developments and changes, and today, as we strive to become an education hub, our schooling landscape has something to offer for everyone.

Singapore is well-known as a premier education hub in Asia, attracting young talents in the region to come here to study. The education system today is moving away from being elitist and result-oriented to one that recognises various talents and stretches individuals to their fullest potential.

After the GCE 'O' levels, students can choose to either complete a pre-university education (which leads to the GCE 'A' level examination at the end of the 2-year junior college or 3-year centralised institute course), enter a polytechnic (which leads to a diploma after a 3-year education) or private institutions such as the LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). The first two options will typically lead to one of the autonomous or private universities or institutions.

When it comes to project-based learning and industrial immersion, polytechnics in Singapore are possibly the best choice. Polytechnics here provide 3-year diploma courses in various disciplines and they accept students based on their GCE 'O' level, GCE 'A' level or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) results. Students are generally aged from 17 years old onwards.

Some courses that polytechnics offer include business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, and biotechnology. More specialised courses are also available, including marine engineering, aeronautical studies, optometry and nursing. Polytechnics provide a more industry-oriented education as compared to junior colleges, where students take the 'A' levels after two years of study.

Right now, there are five polytechnics in Singapore, namely Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.

Singapore Polytechnic
The first polytechnic in Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) was founded in 1954. Today, its enrolment of 15,000 full-time and part-time students are pursuing diplomas in fields such as biotechnology, business, design, engineering, information technology, optometry, maritime studies, and media & communication.

SP is located in Dover Road, in the educational belt and science hub in the western part of Singapore. Tuition fees for polytechnics are lesser as compared to universities. For more information, visit

Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) was founded in 1963 as Ngee Ann College. Located in Bukit Timah, it is one of the most established polytechnics in Singapore today, with more than 14,000 students. NP is perhaps most famous for its School of Film & Media Studies, which is one of the earliest schools in Singapore to teach film-making.

The Diploma in Mass Communication in NP is also well-known in Singapore as the best among all the other polytechnics offering similar courses, having groomed many outstanding media practitioners, such as Jamie Yeo, an ESPN Star Sports presenter.

NP introduced five more new diploma courses in 2007, namely Psychology & Community Services, Digital Visual Effects, Audio-visual Technology, Aerospace Electronics and Environmental & Water Technology. For more information, visit

Temasek Polytechnic
Established in 1990, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) is the third polytechnic to be set up in Singapore. Located in the east of Singapore, overlooking the scenic Bedok Reservoir, TP's campus emphasises on the preservation of the natural environmental heritage. TP is well-known for its vibrant campus life, abundantly-stocked library and keen participation in water-related activities due to its close vicinity to the Bedok reservoir.

TP has seven academic schools, and offers courses such as Diploma in Consumer Science & Technology, Diploma in Veterinary Technology, Diploma in Culinary & Catering Management, and Diploma in Apparel Design & Merchandising. For more information, visit

Nanyang Polytechnic
Established in 1992, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) is most famous for its Information Technology and Digital Media courses. It is also the first polytechnic to offer Diploma in Business Informatics. Besides these courses, NYP has courses in Health Sciences, Business Management, and Chemical and Life Sciences. Since 2008, it has also been offering a new course in Digital & Precision Engineering.

NYP's campus is located next to Yio Chu Kang MRT station, and is about the size of 60 football fields.  For more information, visit

Republic Polytechnic
Republic Polytechnic (RP) was set up in 2002, and accepted its first batch of students the following year, with the enrolment standing at 800. Five years later, operating at its sleek Woodlands campus, RP aims to have an enrolment of 13,000 eventually.

RP is most notable for its pedagogical method that focuses on a Problem-Based Learning approach, which is driven by a problem-trigger which can be an issue that needs to be resolved, a challenge that has to be met, or a phenomenon that deserves an explanation or deeper consideration.

Some of the courses offered at RP include Diploma in Sports & Exercise Sciences, Diploma in Customer Relationship and Service Management, and Diploma in Civil Aviation. They also offer Post-diploma courses in International Programme in Biomedical Sciences. For more information, visit

Local Universities
The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) are autonomous universities which strive to provide quality varsity education via a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment, collaborations with top-notch universities overseas, professional internships, and overseas exchange programmes.

National University of Singapore (NUS)
From a modest medical school founded in 1905, NUS has evolved into a highly-esteemed global university with an enrolment of over 24,000 undergraduate and 7,000 graduate students from 100 countries. It has enjoyed good standing as one of the top 50 universities in the world and as one of the top five in Asia.

The 150-hectare Kent Ridge campus houses 12 faculties which offer a rich diversity of courses ranging from medicine to architecture to music. The Faculty of Law is located at the Bukit Timah campus, while the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, located at the Outram campus, aims to groom a new breed of physician-scientists for the biomedical sciences sector. In addition, it has five overseas colleges at major entrepreneurial hubs in Silicon Valley, Bio Valley, Shanghai, Stockholm and Bangalore to provide its students with education and experience in leading entrepreneurial and academic hubs around the world.

Its recent initiatives include the Concurrent Degree Programme, which allows students to graduate with both a Bachelor and a Master's Degree in a much shorter time, and the Joint Degree Programme, which combines the strengths of both NUS and its partner university's curricula to integrate international experience fully into a student's course of study.

If you would like to know more about NUS, please visit

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
A research-intensive global university founded on science and technology, NTU has a distinguished lineage that goes back to 1955. NTU is ranked among the top 25 technology universities in the world today, and has more than 20,000 undergraduate and about 8,700 graduate students after its expansion to become a full-fledged university known for its lush greenery.

Most notably, NTU's College of Engineering is one of the world's largest engineering colleges with a research output that ranks among the top four in the world; the Nanyang Business School offers one of the world's top 50 MBA programmes and is also one of only three schools in Asia to be awarded both the EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) and AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditations. The College of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences is home to Singapore's first professional art school offering degree courses in art, design and interactive digital media and the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, which is a top journalism and media school in Asia.

NTU also houses the National Institute of Education, Singapore's only teacher-training institute and the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, an autonomous graduate institution which runs the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

For more information, visit

Singapore Management University (SMU)
Officially incorporated in 2000, SMU is Singapore's third university which offers a business-oriented education. Its educational and administrative practices are a departure from those of its more established counterparts (which follow the British varsities) as they are modelled after American institutions, in particular the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. For example, SMU adopts a seminar-style teaching approach instead of the usual lecture-tutorial system.

Today, SMU is home to over 5,600 students and comprises six schools: Lee Kong Chian School of Business, School of Accountancy, School of Information Systems, School of Economics, School of Social Sciences and School of Law.

Its occupation of a city campus right in the heart of Singapore's civic and business district is undoubtedly one of its main draws. It charges, however, higher tuition fees for both Permanent Residents and Foreign Students after subsidy from the government, as compared to NUS (excluding Medicine and Dentistry) and NTU.

For more information, visit

Private Universities and Institutions
Private universities and institutions provide education to working professionals and adult learners by adopting a flexible practical learning approach to enable students to balance their career, family and studies.

Singapore Institute of Management University
Singapore Institute of Management University (UniSIM), one of the two educational arms of the SIM Group, was established in 2005 and is the only privately-funded comprehensive university in Singapore dedicated to working adults. Its current enrolment stands at 7,400 students.

Today, UniSIM offers more than 40 academic programmes based on the latest industry and professional trends and needs through four schools: School of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Science and Technology, School of Business, and School of Human Development and Social Sciences.

Located in Clementi, its tuition fees are on par with those of other local universities, and the best thing is you can choose how many years you wish to take to graduate.

For more information, visit

Apart from local universities, there are also many well-known private institutions that offer diploma and degree programmes to students all over the world. These private institutions mostly partner with established foreign universities and offer globally-recognised qualifications.

Management Development Institute of Singapore
Founded in 1956, the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) is one of the first institutions to receive the Singapore Quality Class award for private education services and has representative offices in various regional countries to attract foreign students. It sponsors students who have qualified for its programmes, facilitates medical check-ups, and provides assistance with the application and renewal of student passes and social visit visas and passports.

MDIS offers courses in partnership with well-established universities overseas and covers a wide range of disciplines like information technology, business and management, mass communications, life sciences and tourism and hospitality management. It also allows students to choose from a wide range of qualifications accredited by more than 50 universities around the world, like a certificate, diploma, graduate diploma, degree, postgraduate degree or a doctoral degree.

For more information, visit

Established in 1983, Informatics has won many awards like the Singapore Quality Class for private education organisations and is also a finalist for one of the Singapore Education Awards (Best Host for International Students).

Its 600,000 square-feet campus can accommodate up to 15,000 students and is one of the largest campuses among the private education institutions in Singapore. Informatics has a global network spanning Asia, Middle East, Africa, and other regions, offering programmes from foundation level (for international students) to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Despite its roots as a provider of IT and computing education, Informatics has since gone on to offer international diploma and advanced diploma programmes in disciplines such as gaming and animation technology, networks and cybersecurity, business administration, mass communication, accounting, hospitality and tourism management and psychology.

For more information, visit

FTMS, established in 1986, is part of the FTMS Global network, which trains over 12,000 students based in Asia, Africa and Europe. The range of education and training courses includes accounting and finance (such as Certified Accounting Technician (CAT), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)), business administration, information systems, computing, marketing, computer engineering and computer games technology.

FTMS Online is another one of its innovations which allows students anywhere in the world to attend internet-based courses in a 24-hour virtual college. Currently, 135,000 students from over 190 countries are registered on this e-learning academy, which provides home study kits for ACCA, CAT, ACCA English and Information Technology courses.

For more information, log on to

FTC Kaplan
FTC Kaplan is a leading provider of professional qualifications and business training in the UK and Asia. Kaplan Inc is the world's largest training company and is itself a subsidiary of The Washington Post Group.

FTC Kaplan Singapore was founded in 1997, and provides professional accounting training for more than 5,000 students annually, including several hundred foreign students mainly from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Kaplan produces exam-focused study materials which are being used widely in other training institutions from both the private and public sectors.

It has been awarded Premier Registered status by ACCA, and also received the Singapore Quality Class (SQC) for private education organisations in June 2003. Its Singapore campus is based along Orchard Road, and is easily accessible by bus or train.

For more information, visit

If the above-mentioned institutions have not left you spoilt for choice, below is a list of specialised private institutions registered with the Ministry of Education, all of which have chosen to set up campuses in Singapore:






University of Nevada Las Vegas Singapore

Hospitality Management

DigiPen Institute of Technology

Interactive Entertainment

Tisch School of the Arts Asia (NYU)

Fine Arts

Graduate Programmes
If you're thinking of doing your postgraduate degree in Singapore, the options are aplenty. Apart from the private institutions, the three universities offer quality Masters Degrees and PhD programmes in various disciplines, and you can expect to finish your postgraduate studies from within one year to three years, depending on your courses and research process.

National University of Singapore (NUS)
NUS offers Master's degree programmes and doctoral degree programmes. Master's programmes are primarily designed to prepare students for the practice of a profession (Master's by coursework) or to master a subject area as a precursor to doctoral training (Master's by research).

All Doctoral programmes at NUS are primarily research-based. Doctoral degrees are typically the first choice for students who seek depth of knowledge, enjoy creative problem-solving, and who aspire to hold high-level positions in their respective fields. To accommodate students with full-time employment, some doctoral programmes allow students to enrol on a part-time basis, with modules conducted in the evenings and, in some instances, on Saturdays. Prospective graduate students should consider carefully about which type of graduate programme most suits their interests and career aspirations.

At present, there are more than 40 coursework programmes (full-time and part-time) available, while research degrees are available in most, if not all the departments of the various faculties/schools, such as Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Business, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, as well as some of the affiliated research institutes/centres of the University.

Tuition fees for graduate programmes in NUS fall under two categories, Clinical and Non-clinical. For Singaporeans and Permanent Residents doing Research Programmes, they pay $7,000 a year for clinical courses, and $4,350 for non-clinical courses. For international students, the costs are $7,700 and $4,790 respectively. The tuition fees for Coursework Programmes are categorised similarly, and range from $5,000 to $14,650 per annum for Singaporeans and PRs. For international students, the bracket is from $6,000 to $16,120.

For the full list of programmes, please visit

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
NTU offers a comprehensive range of graduate programmes which are classified according to coursework-based and research-based. One of the most popular graduate courses at NTU is the Nanyang MBA, which is ranked among the top 50 MBAs in the Financial Times' (FT) World Top 100 MBA 2008. Other popular programmes include those offered in alliance with top universities such as the Master of Science and PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering offered jointly with Stanford University, the Master of Science in Financial Engineering, a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, and the Dual Degree Programme for the Master of Science in Micro Electro Mechanical Systems Engineering offered in conjunction with ESIEE, one of the top Grande Écoles in France.

Depending on whether it is full-time or part-time studies, classes would range from once a week to four times a week, usually in the evenings. Tuition fees vary, and depend on whether the degree is coursework-based or research-based, and are usually not inclusive of other fees such as matriculation and amenities fees.

For international students, some of the test scores required are TOEFL (for applicants whose mother tongue is not English), and a very good GRE score if you are applying for Engineering, Communication & Information Studies, Economics, Psychology, Sociology and science disciplines. If you are applying for Business and Accountancy courses, a GMAT score is also required.

For the full list of programmes, please visit the NTU website at

Singapore Management University (SMU)
With its focus on business-oriented education, the graduate programmes offered at SMU are definitely useful for advancing your career in the finance and business sectors. SMU currently has 11 Masters programmes in Accountancy, Business, Economics and Information Systems, and two PhD programmes, in Economics and Information Systems. While the university's graduate programmes are still relatively new, SMU's postgraduate studies make up for that by providing innovative teaching and research.

Programmes are classified under coursework-based or research-based, and some of the more notable programmes include the Master of Professional Accounting (MPA), which was launched in 2006. The MPA programme provides an opportunity for graduates who do not have a degree major in accounting to achieve a professional accounting qualification.

For the full list of programmes, log on to