Masters oourses self-funding – many words, very little numbers?


“Most research-based master’s degrees subsidised by MOE” (ST, Dec 19)

” Most postgraduate programmes that are based on research continue to be subsidised by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which said this is to build up a “broad base of research manpower” for Singapore.

The majority of postgraduate by coursework programmes at the autonomous universities (AUs) are conducted on a self-financed basis, it added.

However, the ministry may provide funding support for certain postgraduate-level qualifications, such as in the areas of public administration and public health. It may also support master’s qualifications that are required for professions like architecture.

These were the main points made by a spokesman for MOE last Friday in response to queries from The Straits Times, following its report on the move by the National University of Singapore (NUS) towards a self-funding model for the majority of its master’s by coursework programmes by 2024.

Coursework programmes are designed for university graduates who want to advance their knowledge in chosen specialisations through courses and electives, while research programmes involve working on an independent research project and submitting a thesis.”


So, what is the estimated percentage of post-graduate students in AY2024, who will be fully self-funding courses, without any subsidies from MOE?

Also, what exactly is the subsidy as a percentage of the full fees?

“The ministry spokesman said: “MOE provides substantial education funding for Singaporeans up to their first degree-level work-ready qualification at the AUs, to support their aspirations and our economy.

“Beyond that, the AUs have the autonomy to decide which programmes they would like to seek MOE funding for, based on considerations such as the viability of offering the programmes on a non-subsidised basis, and may set fees in response to market interest and other considerations.””


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“The spokesman added that on average, in the academic years (AYs) of 2019 to 2021, Singaporeans made up about 40 per cent of the AUs’ master’s intakes.”


Instead of just giving the “intakes” statistics – what about the current enrolment statistics?

78.7% non-S’porean post-graduate students?

What is the total cost to taxpayers in funding the tuition grants, scholarships, course fees subsidies, etc, of having arguably, so many non-S’porean students, in all the public educational institutions in S’pore?

“Tuition fees for programmes funded by MOE are differentiated to reflect the privileges of citizenship, he said. As of 2019, the ministry had reduced subsidies for permanent resident (PR) students. International students do not receive subsidies, and they pay full fees for most postgraduate by coursework programmes.

Coupled with more coursework-based programmes being self-financed, the annual savings from the reduction in subsidies for foreign students and PRs are channelled towards providing Singaporean and PR adult learners with more bite-size upskilling opportunities that are compatible for work, said MOE, adding that it is working with the institutes of higher learning to ramp up industry-relevant modular courses.

These courses are funded by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), at up to 70 per cent of course fees for Singaporeans and PRs, said the spokesman.”


What is the quantum, exactly of the subsidy for S’poreans & PRs?

What percentage of courses and students, get “70 per cent of course fees for Singaporeans and PRs”?

“For those who wish to take up postgraduate by coursework programmes, the AUs offer graduate scholarships, fee rebates and financial aid to help eligible local students manage the out-of-pocket costs.”


What percentage of students get “graduate scholarships, fee rebates and financial aid”, and how much exactly?

“A spokesman for NUS said that from AY2023/2024, fresh intakes of Singaporeans and PRs enrolling in a self-funded master’s degree by coursework programme at the university will have a 10 per cent tuition fee rebate. NUS alumni of any nationality will get a 15 per cent rebate.”


Will these continue after AY2023/2024?

“Several master’s degrees by coursework continue to receive subsidies from MOE: the Master of Architecture, Master of Dental Surgery, certain Master of Laws specialisations, Master of Music, Master in Public Administration, Master of Public Health and Master in Public Policy.

Tuition fees for self-funded master’s by coursework programmes at NUS range from $36,000 to $50,000, inclusive of goods and services tax, and students of all nationalities pay the same tuition fees for self-funded programmes.

More than 10,000 students were enrolled in NUS’ master’s programmes – including both coursework and research – in AY2021/2022.

Professor Lee Pooi See, Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) associate provost for graduate education and dean of its Graduate College, said most of the university’s master’s by coursework programmes are now self-funded, following a revision that began in 2019 to make postgraduate programmes progressively self-financing.”


NUS says “most” are self-funded, and MOE says “some” are subsidised.

So, what is the percentage exactly, and how much is the subsidy?


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.