How many foreign students paying full fees?

Posted by  on March 7, 2012

~by: Leong Sze Hian~

A reader sent us some information about the tuition fees of foreign students in the universities.

Foreign students’ fees: TBC?
When I opened the reader’s first document, I was struck by the increase in tuition fees for this year at a local university for Singaporean and permanent resident (PR) graduate students, that for foreign students it showed “TBC”, which means ‘to be confirmed’ (see LINK).

How is it that a university can decide to increase the fees of locals, and yet be undecided about that of foreign students?
However, the fees for foreign students on the Service Obligation Scheme (SOS) was shown. So, I had no alternative but to look at the previous year’s fees for a comparison.
Foreigners’ Service Obligation Scheme (SOS)
Although the foreign student’s fees for the Coursework course in Arts and Social Sciences is $20,750, which is much higher than the $7,230 for Singaporeans, the university’s tuition document states that:
“In some programmes, the University may deem it feasible, based on industry demand, to implement a Service Obligation Scheme for International Students. The determination of this feasibility is at the sole discretion of the University
In such programmes, the International Student may be offered the option of signing the Service Obligation Agreement in exchange for reduced tuition fees”.
For example, the fee for the subject course was reduced to $12,440 for SOS foreign students.
How many full-fee paying?
What is the break-down of the universities’ foreign graduate students’ population into those on SOS, scholarships and full fees?
Anecdotally, I have been told by students, that there are very few full-fee foreign students.
On the surface, there may appear to have a very high gross fee for full-fee foreign students. However, the reality may be otherwise, if there are very few full-fee foreign students.
Since the SOS is “based on industry demand”, why is it available for general courses like Art & Social Sciences, Business, Computing, etc? Are we saying that there are not enough Singaporean students to meet “industry demand”for such general jobs?
Undergraduate students’ fees
The reader also raised the issue that for undergraduate students, instead of just looking at the quantum of the fees payable by Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners, we should also look at the fees payable as a percentage of the gross fees.
On this basis, for example, according to the reader’s calculations for AY2011 (see LINK) , Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners are paying $7,170 (27% of their total tuition fee per annum), $9,040 (32%) and $12,340 (39% of their total tuition fee per annum), respectively. (
I believe the question that the reader is asking is why is it that foreigners only pay 12% more than Singaporeans on this basis? Depending on the course of study, the range is between 7 to 13%.
What is the break-down of the universities’ foreign graduate students’ population into those on Direct Pay (reduced fee with tuition grant), scholarships and full fees?
Also, why is the Tuition Grant which is also given to those foreign students who do not pay the full fees, and Total Tuition Fee also shown as “TBC”?


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.