ST Sep 2, 2007Well, there is another option. Tertiary education in Singapore has always been heavily subsidised by taxpayers' money. So instead of using that money to set up a new university or new campuses (which would involve high start-up and fixed costs), simply give some of that taxpayers' money to Singaporeans, in the form of financial aid. Help them finance their overseas tertiary education. Say, up to $12,000 per year.
Tony Tan on ways to expand varsity sector
By Sandra Davie
HERE'S one quick way to add university places: expand the intakes of the three universities next year.
The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University could each add 200 to 250 places while the Singapore Management University could enrol another 400 to 600 students.
That would bump up figures by about 800 to 1,000 places, and lessen the worry parents and students have of demand outstripping supply, said ex-Cabinet minister Dr Tony Tan, now advising a committee on the expansion of the tertiary sector.
But how to achieve Singapore's new target to raise the proportion of university places to 30 per cent of each cohort by 2015?
One approach, said Dr Tan, would be to re-consider the idea of having a fourth university, mooted by a 2002 government committee.
Another would be to consider a more recent suggestion to have multi-campuses affiliated to the present three universities.
He had in mind three campuses: on health science-related disciplines, liberal arts with a focus on financial services, and engineering and technology.
But whichever option picked, more polytechnic graduates should be helped to obtain a degree.
Naturally, we'd have to build in some control measures. For example, we could specify a list of 30 overseas universities of reasonable repute. To get your $12,000 per year, you'd have to get a place in one of these 30 universities (and not just any lousy school).
To avoid fraud and prevent misuse of funds, the government could disburse the funds when you submit documentary evidence of what you need the funds for. For example, let's say that the university gives you an invoice for next semester's fees. You then submit the invoice to the government. The government pays the money directly to the university.
We can build in some "need" criteria into the scheme. For example, depending on the annual income of your family, you may or may not qualify for the $12,000. Or you may qualify for a lesser or greater sum.
To make sure that Singapore, as a state, gets something out of this, the financial aid recipients would have to sign an agreement to say that after graduation, they will return to work in Singapore for at least three years. They can work for any employer they choose, as long as the employer is based in Singapore.
Good deal? Too good to be true? But this is essentially the same deal that we give to the foreign students taking up places in NUS, NTU and SMU. Why should we shortchange our own citizens?
Oh, but this is Singapore.