Study in Singapore: Type of education, Universities, Courses, World Rankings, Degrees

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    Mansi Topa

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    Selecting the apt course and right university is the first step to achieving your long-term career goal. It becomes all the more important when you are an international student spending your parents’ hard-earned money on studying at a foreign university. Studying in Singapore requires you to choose from about 34 educational institutions and a dynamic range of courses.

    For selecting the correct course and university, you need to check various aspects. What is the structure of Singapore’s education system, top courses offered under each category, universities ranked by world agencies, international students’ acceptance rate and types of degrees offered, all should be considered before applying.

    Types of Post-Secondary Level of Education

    Singapore has 4 types of Post-Secondary level of Education available for the international students to take admission in, which are:

    1. Institute of Technical Education

    There are three ITEs in Singapore – College Central, College East and College West, with more than 90 Nitech and Higher Nitech courses available. A student with O or N-level certificate can apply to ITE to pursue technical/ vocational education to pursue any of the following:

    1. Nitech courses (fulltime)
    2. Higher Nitech courses (fulltime)
    3. Traineeship

    N-level* certificate is required to enrol in Nitech course whereas O-level* certificate is required to enrol in Higher Nitech course.  It is important to note that Secondary 4 N(A) students with the required eligibility criteria can apply to selected Higher Nitech courses. This is done through Direct – Entry Scheme to Polytechnic Programs. Under ITE, the students are made to work with the industry experts.

    Part-time Nitech, Higher Nitech and ITE Skills Certificate (ISC) courses too are available.

    ITE not just offers the above courses, it caters to a host of other courses as well which are mentioned below:

    1. Work-Learn Technical Diploma
    • Training based on the applicant’s needs
    • For – Fresh and unemployed ITE graduates
    1. General Education Programme
    • For – Adult Learners
    1. Skills Future Earn and Learn Programmes
    • Lifelong learning programmes
    • For – All Singaporeans


    * N-Level is the Normal level certificate and O level is the Ordinary level certificate required for taking admission in ITE/ Polytechnic/ Junior College, taken at the end of 10th standard. The score obtained in it determines the courses and institutions you can attend.  

    1.  Arts Institutions

    There are 2 arts institutions in Singapore by the names:

    1. LASALLE College of the Arts
    2. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)

    They offer a wide range of courses in the fields of dance, music, theatre, interior design and fashion design.

    1. Polytechnic

    These are full-time diploma programs providing its students practice-oriented pathways through its 5 institutions. The aspirants under this, are given on the job-training and projects with industry experts. Those with O-Level certification have the eligibility to apply, however, Secondary HN(A) students with top grades can also apply via the Polytechnic Foundation Programme which offers a practice-oriented curriculum in place of Secondary 5. To further your qualification level, you can to a university after obtaining your Diploma programme.

    1. Universities

    Singapore has 6 local publicly-funded universities and several other private universities.

    The list of these 6 publicly – funded institutions is as follows:

    1. National University of Singapore (NUS)
    2. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
    3. Singapore Management University (SMU)
    4. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
    5. Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
    6. Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

    Top Courses in Singapore

    Choosing from so many course options can be confusing at times. Also, it is important to know what are the best courses taught in the category in which you can study in Singapore. Following are the top 4 courses of 2017 a candidate can choose, from different post-secondary education programmes available in Singapore:

    Top Courses: ITE (full time)

    1. Engineering
    2. Business and Services
    3. Electronics and Infocomm Technology
    4. Applied and Health Sciences

    Top Courses: LASALLE and NAFA courses (Fill Time)

    1. Design and Applied Arts
    2. Fine and Performing Arts
    3. Media Production
    4. Fine and Applied Arts

    Top Courses: Polytechnics courses

    1. Engineering Sciences
    2. Business Administration
    3. Information Technology
    4. Health Sciences

    Top Courses: Universities

    1. Engineering Sciences
    2. Humanities and Social Sciences
    3. Natural, Physical and Mathematical Sciences
    4. Business Administration

    Singapore Universities World Rankings (2018)

    Singapore has its top three universities listed in the World Rankings list. Below is the data given for your convenience to know about the world rankings of NUS,NTU,SMU given by QS Rankings, Times Higher Education Ranking, Asia University Ranking and Shanghai World University Rankings for the year 2018.

    Universities QS Ranking THE Ranking Asia University Ranking Shanghai International Outlook
    NUS 15 22 1 85 95.8
    NTU 11 52 5 96 95.9
    SMU 441-450 - - - -

    Number of International Students (2017 -2018)

    University Number of Enrollments Total Number of International Students (based on 32% acceptance rate in 2017)
    National University of Singapore 38540 12, 333 (approx.)
    Nanyang Technological University 31,389 10,044 (approx.)

    Types of Degrees Offered

    To study in Singapore, you can choose from a variety of degree options available, depending upon your current level of education and future career goals. A bachelor’s degree takes around three to four years to complete whereas fetching a master’s degree will take around 12 to 24 months. The range of subjects offered includes arts & social sciences, business & accountancy, computing, dentistry, engineering, law, medicine, nursing, music, sciences, etc.  

    Type of Degree No. of Years
    Bachelors/Undergraduate 3-4 years
    Masters/Graduate 1-2 years
    Diploma 8-12 months
    PG Diploma 12 months
    Advance Diploma 16 months
    Double Degree/ Minor Degree/Joint Degree/Part-time programmes/Special programmes Varies from degree to degree