Factually.sg: Foreign students in public universities?

Photo: fivestarsandamoon.comPhoto: fivestarsandamoon.com

Was factually.sg correct in respect of foreign students in the public universities?

I refer to the article “186 articles published on Factually website since 2012: Yaacob Ibrahim” (Channel NewsAsia, Feb 28).

It states that “Another online rumour claimed that our public universities had reserved a minimum 20 per cent quota for foreign students when “no such policy exists”, he added.”

In this connection, according to the article “Time for Singapore universities to admit more international students” (Today, Jan 29, 2018) – “The government has capped the number of international students in our universities since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the move in his National Day Rally speech in 2011.

Mr Lee had noted that some Singaporeans might not have been happy that foreign students could have taken the place of locals in the universities here, but added that in reality, the enrolment of foreign students was not at the expense of Singaporeans as the government had steadily increased the number of places for Singaporeans in our universities.

“By 2015 our universities will take in 14,000 Singapore students, more than ever before. But while we do this, we will cap the foreign enrolment at the present levels and therefore gradually the mix will shift and the proportion of foreign students will come down,” Mr Lee said.

As a result of the government’s policy, the proportion of foreign students in the National University of Singapore (NUS) has fallen from 23.3 per cent in 2013 to 17.3 per cent in 2017. (See table below)

Also, according to the book “The Palgrave Handbook of Asia Pacific Higher Education” – “Enrolling foreign students was also not a new idea in Singapore higher education either.

In the mid-1980s, the government had announced a target of 20 per cent for foreign undergraduate enrollments in local publicly funded universities”.

Also, according to Mr Yee Jenn Jong, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament’s Question (May 14, 2013):

“To ask the Minister for Education what is the current percentage of enrolled students and admitted students in each of our local autonomous universities, Yale-NUS College, and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine respectively who are Singaporeans, permanent residents and foreigners.


1The vast majority of university places have gone to Singaporeans. In AY2012, Singaporean students comprised 79%, while International Students and Permanent Residents comprised 16% and 5% of the universities’ intake respectively.”

34% foreign students?

However, the percentage of international students is 34 and 33 per cent for NUS and NTU respectively, according to the Times Higher Education Rankings.

Presumably, these statistics were provided by the universities?

So, why are they so much higher than the 21 per cent in the Parliamentary reply?

Leong Sze Hian

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.