Singapore is considered one of the safest and most diverse countries in the world, where international students can enjoy the traits of the West and East. Hosting one of the top-quality universities and colleges in the world, Singapore attracts hundreds of students every year to pursue their academics.

Singapore is in a strategic location to discover most Asian countries, which is crucial for not only tourist purposes but also networking for post-graduation. Moreover, some of the world’s most spoken languages are the official languages in Singapore, and the locals usually speak at least two major languages. Therefore, studying in Singapore will have great advantages for international students to foster their proficiency in more than one language.

For decades, Singapore has promised international students innovative and pioneering education, multicultural heritage, diverse social life, and economic empowerment. Read more to discover the merits of higher education in Singapore.

 

How to Plan for Your Studies in Singapore

Read below to get more information when making your study plan for Singapore universities.

Education System in Singapore

Singapore hosts over 70,000 international students despite its small population of about 6 million people. The country has one of the few universities with the highest academic standards with a wide variety of English-taught degree programs.

Singapore’s education system for higher education is fairly rich in degrees and programs. International students in Singapore are offered several post-secondary education options. Below are the types and numbers of Singapore colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions recognized by the Singapore Ministry of Education:

  • Autonomous Universities (AUs): 6 in total, categorized as research-intensive universities and applied-degree pathways
  • Polytechnics: 5 in total
  • Institute of Technical Education (ITE): 3 in total
  • Private Education Institutions (PEIs): 9 in total
  • External Degree Programs (EDPs): programs offered by the partner universities abroad, 6 19 programs in total

International students in Singapore can also choose several diploma-seeking courses such as part-time/full-time diploma, post-diploma, Work-Study Diploma (WSDip), or Work-Study Post-Diploma (WSPostDip). More information is available in the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Education Statistics Digest Report for 2022. Additionally, please visit the desired university/program to check the list of the courses and diploma programs offered for international students.

Choosing University in Singapore

Choosing the right university in Singapore is a critical step to be taken by international students. Singapore universities and colleges offer an abundance of English-taught programs for various degrees; this is why students must make sure they choose a school with the best opportunities for their program.

There are many top-class universities in Singapore that are recognized globally, including the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, and Singapore University of Technology and Design. Each university in Singapore has the vision to enhance national empowerment with the help of quality education in the country; this is why most programs are highly competitive and challenging, yet obtaining a diploma from one of the Singapore universities will undeniably give great advantages to international students after graduation.

If you’re looking for schools and universities in Singapore that offer specific subject programs, make sure to check out our list of top choices below:

Choosing a Study Program in Singapore

Academic programs in Singapore are highly rich in variety and extensive in content. International students can choose the most suitable program for their interests and academic goals provided by a diversity of degree options.

When choosing the right academic program, international students in Singapore should learn if they meet the program-specific requirements and the medium of instruction first. Then, they need to research the different degree options and their expectations to make sure they correspond to the student’s academic goals.

Some of the most popular study subjects in Singapore universities are Business and Management, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences, and more.

Business, specifically, is one of the most popular fields in Singapore’s higher education due to the major developments in investments and entrepreneurship in the country.

Below are the most popular degree options chosen by international students in Singapore:

  • Advanced diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete, suitable for students who wish to have the basic knowledge for management and executive positions.
  • Specialist diploma programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete, suitable for students who wish to pursue specific career paths and are holders of a Polytechnic diploma with relevant experience in the field.
  • Bachelor’s degrees usually take 3 years to complete, including theoretical knowledge and are required for entry-level jobs.
  • Bachelor’s Honors degrees are obtained after completing one more year of study in addition to the bachelor’s program.
  • Master’s degrees can take 1 to 2 years to complete, include specialized knowledge, and usually require a thesis or dissertation.
  • Doctoral degrees/Ph.D. programs can take 2 to 5 years to complete, categorized as the Doctoral Degree (Research) and the Doctoral Degree (Professional)

For the most accurate information, international students should thoroughly research the program-specific or course-specific requirements shared by the particular Singapore university or college.

How to Finance Your Education in Singapore

Below is a guide for international students in Singapore to finance their education and living expenses wisely.

Tuition fees in Singapore

Singapore is one of the most costly countries in the world. However, it may be less expensive to study for higher education in Singapore compared to some countries such as the USA or the UK. Still, international students should expect an average tuition fee to be one of the expensive options since, over the years, Singapore has evolved into one of the countries on the rise of education.

It can be difficult to set an average range for the tuition fees in Singapore universities since there is no clear database available online. The fees highly depend on the type of program or university. Yet below, you can find an approximate range of the tuition fees for studying in Singapore as an international student.

Tuition Fees:

  • Undergraduate (Public): $18,000 to $30,000 per year
  • Undergraduate (Private): $20,000 to $50,000 per year
  • Postgraduate (Public): $18,000 to $40,000 per year
  • Postgraduate (Private): $20,000 to $60,000 per year

To help you choose a study destination that’s within your budget, we’ve compiled a list of the Most Affordable Universities in Singapore. Don’t forget to check this out! 

Cost of Living in Singapore

The cost of living in Singapore is expensive; that is one thing every international student should know. The city of Singapore was chosen to be the most expensive city in the world seven times, yet in return, student life in Singapore is safe, comfortable, and luxurious, providing plenty of academic, cultural, and social facilities for international students.

When arranging their budgets, international students in Singapore should consider some essential expenses before their arrival to enjoy their time in the country at its best. The average annual cost of living in Singapore for students ranges between $9,000 and 15,000. Yet a clearer cost can be estimated according to the expenses and conditions of the student.

Below are the average expenses of an international student in Singapore:

  • Accommodation: $250 to $400 per month (on-campus), $1,200 to $3,500 per month (rental apartment)
  • Food: $200 to $300 per month
  • Transportation: $80 for the monthly pass
  • Books and other school-related expenses: $35 per month
  • Miscellaneous expenses: $200 per month

International students are obliged to subscribe to the Singapore health insurance scheme, with the fee usually included in their tuition fees. An example case is provided by the National University of Singapore, where all degree-seeking students must pay for the medical insurance service along with their tuition fee payment.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Higher education in Singapore is definitely costly, yet there are many financial aid and scholarship options available for international students to benefit from while planning to study in Singapore. International students in Singapore can get both fully-funded and full-tuition scholarships. Below are some of the most common scholarships in Singapore for international students:

Grant: Partly or fully granted a subsidy

Although local students are automatically granted it, international students should apply for a subsidy from the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) in order to have a major decrease in their overall tuition fees.

Grant: Tuition fees, accommodation, and living expenses (up to $5,800)

Available for international undergraduate students coming from one of the ASEAN member countries except Singapore. Please refer to the university’s related page to apply for the scholarship.

Grant: Tuition fees, accommodation, and living expenses (up to $5,800)

Available for international undergraduate students enrolled in any program at NUS College. Students must only apply with an invitation.

Grant: Tuition fees and a monthly stipend of approximately $1,500

Available for students admitted to a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Science, or Engineering in several institutions in Singapore.

Looking for more scholarships? Check out our list of Best Scholarships in Singapore for international students. 

How to Apply to Singapore Universities

Below is a guide for international students to apply to Singapore universities:

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements differ based on the type of program or degree; therefore, it is wise to cover all the requirements of the desired Singapore college and program in detail to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Below are some of the general requirements for admission to Singapore universities:

Eligibility

Singapore’s education system mandates both domestic and international students to complete secondary education for undergraduate programs and bachelor’s diplomas to apply for postgraduate programs.

Language proficiency

Singapore has four official languages: Mandarin, English, Malay, and Tamil. However, most courses at the university level are taught in English, which is an important advantage for international students to have more options to study in Singapore. Hence, international students must show evidence of their English proficiency with the certifications recognized by the applied university. Widely recognized and accepted English language proficiency exams are IELTS Academic, TOEFL iBT, and PTE.

Academic qualifications

Specific academic qualifications can be required by certain schools and programs, such as entrance examinations, portfolios, or essays. For program-specific requirements, please visit the related web page of the desired university or program.

Required Documents

International students must prepare supporting documentation along with their application in order to enter a Singapore university or college. Although such documents can differ depending on the program or degree of study, below are some of the essential required documents international students must provide:

  1. Academic transcript (a record of academic achievements)
  2. Diploma/Certificate of the highest completed degree
  3. Letters of Recommendation
  4. Statement of Purpose
  5. Work history (if applicable, usually required for postgraduate admissions)
  6. Copy of passport and photo
  7. Proof of language proficiency

For more information about the required documentation, please visit the desired university or program.

Application Deadlines

Unlike other universities, applications for Singapore universities usually open in October and last until the end of March for any degrees of study. Student intake starts around July and August. Below is a timeline for applying to Singapore universities:

  • Application start: October
  • Student interviews (if applicable): January – July
  • Application deadline: Late March
  • Admissions: July
  • Lessons start: July or August

For international students, the best way to start your application is to prepare all the required documents and apply as soon as possible since many Singapore universities may start their admission earlier for students who successfully pass the requirements.

General Admission Steps

When applying to Singapore colleges and universities, it is crucial to organize your plan carefully in order not to miss out on any steps. Below are the essential admission steps to prepare your application to Singapore universities.

Step 1: Choose your program and university

Step 2: Carefully review the admission requirements

Step 3: Carefully review the student visa requirements for studying in Singapore

Step 4: Prepare all the documents before the application

Step 5: Submit your application before the application deadline of the university/program

Want to know how to apply for a specific degree program in Singapore? Check out our guide on Bachelor’s degree and master’s degree admission requirements and steps

How to Obtain a Student Visa in Singapore

Singapore government mandates international students to be eligible for the Student Pass (STP) to continue their education in one of the institutions for higher education in Singapore. International students must first contact a Singapore university to check their eligibility and learn about the application procedures. After contacting the university, students are to follow the following steps:

Step 1: Receive the Registration Acknowledgement Letter provided by the admitted university

Step 2: Pay the visa application fee of $22 and complete an online application to Student Pass here.

Step 3: Receive an interview date at Singapore Embassy (if applicable)

Step 4: Prepare necessary documents (e.g., original and copy of the passport, birth certificate, academic transcript and diploma of the highest completed level of education, financial statements, and more.)

Step 5: Notify your university of the results (can take one to two months)

Need more details? Check out our walk-through on applying for Singaporean Student Visa

How to Prepare for Your Arrival in Singapore

It can be very exciting but also stressful to move to another country to complete a degree of study, yet alone Singapore is one of the most unique countries in the world full of surprises for foreigners. This is why it is extremely important to prepare an arrival checklist to make your arrival move smoothly.

Below are the preparations international students must make before their arrival in Singapore.

Arranging Accommodation

Housing for international students in Singapore is one of the crucial factors to sort out before their arrival to be able to avoid any inconveniences while being in the country. The majority of Singapore universities and colleges provide accommodation or guide students to find rental apartments. Still, it’s wise to make sure everything is settled, and there won’t be any unpleasant surprises when entering the country.

Pack your Essentials

Depending on where they are coming from, international students might find it difficult to find everything they could purchase in their home country. Although Singapore has a rich international market, it is suggested that international students bring their personal items with them when packing their belongings.

Bring Cash Money

When you arrive, it may take time to get familiar with life in Singapore and what kinds of expenses you will have to pay. Therefore, it is always a good idea to carry pocket money with you during your first week in the country. Additionally, keep in mind that the local currency in Singapore is Singapore Dollar (S$) and one Singapore Dollar is equivalent to $0.75.

How to Study and Live in Singapore

Below are the common challenges of studying in Singapore and tips to overcome those challenges:

Challenge 1: Getting used to the cultural differences

There are several cultures dominant in Singapore with their own customs, food, festivals, religion, and architecture. Although Singaporean culture and diversity are heavily influenced by Western cultures, there is also a strong presence of Asian cultures, especially Chinese and Malay. Such diverse cultural characteristics of Singapore can make it challenging for international students to overcome their culture shock.

The best way to deal with this challenge for international students is to learn more about the customs of Singapore before their arrival and contact the students who have had previous experience studying in Singapore to learn the key tips, if possible.

To exemplify, there are several dominant religions in Singapore: Chinese Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. The variety of such religions is reflected in the daily lives of the locals, as well, and international students should be aware that they must be respectful of their boundaries and traditions.

Challenge 2: Understanding the language

With plenteous ethnicities and nationalities, Singapore is one of the most diverse countries using four official languages. This multilingual environment is definitely advantageous for international students, yet from a different aspect, it may cause certain disadvantages, as well.

Understanding Singlish, in other words, Singaporean English, can be difficult for foreigners at first because it is under the influence of many other languages spoken by the locals. The best way to deal with this challenge is to keep constant communication with the locals to get familiar with this unique language.

Challenge 3: Balance your budget

As stated before, living in Singapore is not budget-friendly, fairly high compared to the cost of living in neighboring Asian countries. Therefore, it may be difficult to keep track of your spending and decide whether one product is cheap or expensive. To balance your budget carefully and do market research to plan how much you will need to spend for certain expenses.

To illustrate, you can consider the average cost of the common items or services in Singapore below:

  • An inexpensive meal for one person: $10-20
  • Coffee: $5
  • A one-way ticket for public transportation: $1.45
  • Monthly pass: $95
  • Cinema ticket: $11-12

Is it possible to study in Singapore with zero financial worries? Yes! Check out our tried-and-tested guide here on how to study in Singapore for free.

Challenge 4: Keep in touch with your family

It is always a challenge to leave your home country and move to an entirely new environment, no matter where you go. Homesickness is an issue, yet it is up to the student to deal with it. Keeping in touch with family members and close friends will help international students overcome their fears of loneliness and frustration.

Challenge 5: Familiarize yourself with your new location

Singapore is full of sightseeing destinations and cultural wonders; hence, it would be in vain if you stayed in your dormitory room or apartment throughout your education. Discovering the wonders, cultural heritage, unique cuisine, and fascinating architecture will not only teach valuable insights but also make you feel more motivated to your studies.

Some of the iconic sightseeing destinations are Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios Singapore, Chinatown, and more.

Can You Work in Singapore After Graduation

International students completing a university degree in Singapore can work in various fields. To be able to eligible for work in Singapore, international students must get a Work Pass from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower before they join the workforce. Management and finance are among the most demanding employment opportunities for international students in Singapore, yet there are several more options for qualified students.

International graduates in Singapore can work under two categories:

1. Professionals: to be able to work as professionals, international students in Singapore must own one of the three types of visas: Employment Pass, EntrePass, or Personalized Employment Pass. Employment Pass is the most common visa type and is applicable for all nationalities.

2. Skilled/semi-skilled workers: eligible for international graduates in Singapore who can work in specific sectors such as construction, technician services, or manufacturing. There are two types of skilled and semi-skilled workers: S Pass and Work Permit.

Want to start your medical career in Singapore? Check out the guides here:

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Singapore is one of the most demanding countries for higher education, and international students are awaited quality education, diversity in its demographics and culture, and a luxurious lifestyle. All it takes is to start your application right away and get ready to pack your belongings.

 

We hope this Ultimate Guide to Studying in Singapore was informative and helpful. If you’re ready to start your education financially worry-free, do visit the Asia Scholarships Page to find out more about universities and scholarships in Asia!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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