Study in Singapore: Everything You Need to Know

11 min read

Education & Career Trends: May 20, 2023
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Singapore has many prestigious institutes, including the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), ranking among the world’s top 20 universities.

  • Excerpts are taken from an article published on

Singapore as a higher studies destination has not only prompted overseas students to plan their academic tenure in the country but has also yielded excellent employment outcomes for them, helping them secure a job in multifarious fields. The “Lion City” is an economic powerhouse with a polished and renowned educational system, maintaining excellent student satisfaction rates and security standards. For students who enjoy travelling and seeing exquisite locations, the nation is a treasure. Additionally to owning a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also features a number of eye-catching art galleries, parks, museums, and parks.

With excellent standards of education and research accomplishments, as well as the continuation of several of its universities’ and institutes’ top-ranked positions, Singapore is soon to solidify its position as the top destination for foreign students in Asia. Despite having four official languages—Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English—the fact that English is the language of instruction makes it easier for international students to complete their studies. Over 85,000 international students from more than 100 different countries choose to attend school on the island nation of Singapore each year.

The country owns many prestigious institutes which also include the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), ranking among the world’s top 20 universities in the QS World University Rankings 2023. These two are also the top two higher educational institutions in Singapore, with the former being at the first position in entire Asia. The country also ranks fourth in the QS Best Student Cities, 2023.

Education System in Singapore

Singapore uses a four-tiered system of education, including elementary and secondary schools, junior colleges of polytechnics for pre-tertiary education, and universities for post-secondary education. The primary level is where the first six years of school are completed. The duration of schooling remains four years at the secondary level. A student may quit school and enrol in a two-year programme run by the Adult Education Board if they have reached the age of 14 and are unable to complete the earlier (primary school) system. Those who want to continue their education at university must first finish an additional 2-year A-level course in secondary school that is part of the integrated programme.

Here is a brief overview of the courses available in Singapore:

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, and Specialised Diplomas: These equip you with a general understanding of a certain topic, and an Advanced or Specialised Diploma allows you to specialise in that area. They are completed in two to three years.
Undergraduate Degree: A full-time Bachelor’s degree can be obtained by attending an undergraduate programme in any subject. The completion time frame is three to four years. There are honours programmes available at several colleges.
Master’s Degree: A Masters in Singapore can be finished in a year or two depending on your area of specialisation.
Doctorate: Although the required period is two to five years, most students graduate from Singapore with a doctorate in about five years.

Top Universities in Singapore

UniversityQS World University Ranking 2023
National University of Singapore (NUS)#11
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)#19
Singapore Management University#561-570
Singapore University of Technology & Design
James Cook University
Management Development Institute
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
INSEAD Asia Campus
Peking University
Curtin Singapore

Singapore University Requirements for International Students

The information that follows is a list of the general qualifying requirements for admission to undergraduate programmes at leading Singapore universities:

The candidate should have received a combined grade point average of 90–95% in both class 10 and class 12. If the candidate is yet to complete secondary school at the time of applying for undergraduate admission, he or she should present a predicted Class 12th grade. Advanced placement test results must be submitted by candidates to universities including SIM, NUS, and Yale-NUS. The SAT scores ought to be remarkable. Additionally, SAT scores must be submitted by candidates to the state board. The candidates do not need to submit their TOEFL or IELTS results if they attended an English-medium school and scored higher than 75% in English.

  • Completed 10th 
  • Relevant work experience
  • An interview may be required
Bachelor’s Degree
  • 10th and 12th scores 
  • IELTS with a minimum score of 6.5-7 or a TOEFL score of 90 to 100
  • SOP
Master’s Degree
  • Bachelor’s degree with a minimum CGPA of 2.8
  • LORs, CVs and SOPs 
Doctorate Degree
  • Strong research background 
  • Work experience 
  • Master’s in a relevant subject 
  • High GRE score
  • LORs and CV

Top Courses to Study in Singapore

Although there are many courses that international students enjoy attending in Singapore universities, a few of them are in higher demand than others. The courses that many international students choose to enrol in are listed below.

Engineering & ScienceMathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Road Vehicle Engineering, Telecommunications, Energy Engineering, Bioengineering, Environmental Engineering
LawLLM International Business Law, International Labor Law, Human Rights in Asia, World Trade Law, Introduction to Indian Business Law, Master in Public Policy, Master in Public Administration, Civil Law
Economics & FinanceApplied Economics, International Economics, Financial Economics, International Political Economy
Business & ManagementEnterprises, HRM, International Business Studies, Financial Services, Office Skills, Public Administration, Shorthand, Accounting, Management Planning & Control Systems
Computer Science & ITInformation and Communications Technology, Software Development, MSC in Computational Media, Mobile Application Development Using Java, Enterprise Computing Systems Management
MedicineNursing, Dental Services, Psychology, Paramedical Services, Health Studies, Community Work, Public Health, Nutrition, Ophthalmology, Physiotherapy

Singapore Student Visa

International students wishing to study in Singapore will need to obtain a student visa. When you get your letter of approval, you will also be issued a visa by your institution. Within two weeks of your acceptance, you will need to apply to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for a Student Pass. This also needs to be no earlier than two months and no later than one month before the start to your course. This process will be done through the Student’s Pass Online Application and Registration System (SOLAR). You will be given registration details by your institution, which you will use to fill in and submit the required forms. You will then need to complete the process once you have arrived in the country. To do this, you will need to make an appointment with the ICA and take with you the disembarkation/embarkation card that you were granted on entry to Singapore.

Why Study in Singapore?

Choosing to study abroad in Singapore can lead to a promising future for more than one reason. Here are the top reasons why study abroad in Singapore:

  • The strict laws in Singapore ensure a safe environment for international students. This enables students to explore the state without having to worry about their safety.
  • Singapore is more convenient than many other countries as a study-abroad destination.
  • Universities in Singapore are known for their academic excellence providing a diverse range of programmes. Business courses are a popular choice among students for their higher studies in Singapore.
  • Singapore’s high standard of living, be it the efficient bus services, the well-connected metro service or the sumptuous street food, is equally available to all. 
  • Singapore offers a great cultural mix for everyone planning to study abroad in Singapore. Students from all around the world travel to Singapore to learn. Therefore, studying in Singapore can be a fruitful networking opportunity. 

Cost of Living in Singapore

Singapore uses the Singapore Dollar (SGD) as its currency.

Your fees will vary depending on where and at what level you decide to study. You should budget between SGD 14,000 and SGD 50,000 per year on average. There are several scholarships available for overseas students. Some of these are offered by the Singapore Ministry of Education, as well as others offered by individual institutions. Public institutions will usually charge lower tuition fees than private institutions.

The living expenses of international students must also be taken into account. You should plan to spend about SGD 10,000 a year on average. During the academic year, you can work up to 16 hours per week, and throughout the holidays, you can work full-time. You must first obtain authorisation from your institution if you want to work.

Scholarships in Singapore

Financial aids such as scholarships and grants ease the financial burden for students. Although education in most Singaporean institutes is cheaper comparatively, the costs are still considerable. This section will give a glimpse of those which are most common and most popular with overseas students.

SINGA – Singapore International Graduate Award
  • For International students interested in pursuing a PhD and research in Biomedical sciences, physical sciences or Engineering. 
  • The students can choose to do their research work mainly at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) or the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).  
  • Amount/ Benefit: Monthly stipend of SG$ 2,000-SGD 2,500. One-time airfare grant and a settling-in allowance (once).

ADB – Japan Scholarship Program
  • For students from the ADB borrowing nations pursuing masters in economics, management, science and technology, and other development-related fields.
  • Amount/ Benefit: Benefit: Tuition fees, monthly living allowance, study material, medical insurance, travel expenses. Additionally, a special allowance is given for research and thesis preparation.

Commonwealth Scholarship for Integrated Science
  • For students from the CommonWealth nations pursuing PhD degrees. 
  • Amount/ Benefit: Covers travel expenses, tuition fees and other allowances. Also offers a monthly stipend.

Lee Kong Chian Graduate Scholarships
  • For students of any country who aspire to pursue a PhD at the National University of Singapore. 
  • Amount/ Benefit: Monthly stipend of SG $ 3,300, tuition fees, examination fees and other approved NUS fees, a one-off travel allowance and a one-off laptop allowance.

ASEAN Foundation Scholarships
  • For applicants applying for a Master’s degree and having a Bachelors’s in Pharmacy, Medical Sciences or Sciences.
  • Amount/ Benefit: Tuition fees and any other academic fees to study at the  Chulabhorn Graduate Institute (CGI), airfare, VISA fees, relocation allowance, monthly allowance, study material allowance and health insurance.

Singapore Millennium Foundation Scholarships
  • For International students who are interested in studying Engineering or conducting research at Masters’s and Doctoral levels.
  • Amount/ Benefit: Includes monthly stipend and travel allowance.   
INSEAD-Syngenta MBA Scholarships for Developing Country Leaders
  • Students with excellent academic achievement, leadership potential, and aptitude for business and financial management can apply for the scholarship once they have been shortlisted for the MBA program at INSEAD
  • Amount/ Benefit: 2 scholarships per class amounting to €22,500 per year
Science & Technology Undergraduate Scholarship from NUS
  • Students from Asian countries (except Singapore) applying for a full-time undergraduate degree programme at NUS can apply for the scholarship.
  • Undergraduate degree courses in the field of Computers, Engineering or Science (excluding Pharmacy)
  • University looks at a consistently strong academic score, leadership potential, participation in co-curricular activities
  • Amount/ Benefit: Tuition fees (after MOE Tuition Grant Subsidy) and compulsory fees-S$6,000 annual living allowance + S$200 one-time settling-in allowance upon enrolment. Air tickets to and from Singapore at the beginning and end of the course respectively

A city of skyscrapers, Singapore is fast emerging as Asia’s leading international study destination and is attracting students from all parts of the world, thanks to its reputation for being a centre of academic excellence, universities and institutions that are highly placed in all major global rankings and this country being the IT & Business hub of Asia. Singapore ranks high on other crucial parameters such as student satisfaction and safety and affordability. Singapore’s status of being an economic powerhouse with excellent job opportunities across a diverse range of sectors complements its education system of international repute and makes this city country one of the most sought after study destinations globally.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

UK vs Canada: Which is the Best Destination to Study Abroad?

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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