Furry Brown Dog

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Singapore Education scholarships for foreign students (only)

with 37 comments

Someone gave me a link to a Singapore Government website named Singapore Education (note the gov.sg). The website’s About page says the following

What we do

As the marketing and promotion arm for Singapore Education, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) assumes the responsibility of attracting international students to Singapore. The STB works very closely with Singapore education institutions and education agents to reach out to potential international students through a range of promotional platforms, including roadshows, education fairs, education talks and PR and advertising. STB’s efforts are focused on:

  1. building international brand recognition for Singapore as a provider of quality education;
  2. providing platforms for our institutions to reach out to their target audiences;
  3. building credible marketing and information channels so that potential students have access to reliable information; and
  4. ensuring that international students have an enriching learning (and living) experience in Singapore so that they in turn can be valued ambassadors for Singapore.

So it seems the Singapore Tourism Board for some reason is tasked with enticing foreign students to study in Singapore, partly by offering them scholarships.

What’s particular disturbing was this particular page where a list of scholarships are offered to foreign students. The Nationality of Applicants states which ones are. But some of them are ambiguous, so I went to Google them to find out explicitly  which scholarships are open to whom. Of the 28 scholarships displayed, it appeared that only 15 of them are open to Singapore citizens as well.

Note that all 28 scholarships are open to non-Singaporeans.

Perhaps the greatest irony above is that the scholarship named after the father of Singapore’s economy, Dr Goh Keng Swee is open only to non-Singaporeans. Singaporeans, it seems, are not welcome to take up a scholarship in his name.

In addition to the above, there’s an additional scholarship program offered by something known as the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). It is open only to citizens of ASEAN excluding Singapore:

Citizens of ASEAN member countries (except Singapore) are eligible to apply for the Singapore Scholarship.

Candidates must have an outstanding academic record, a good command of English and meet the entry requirements for NTU, NUS and SMU.

The best part about the SCP scholarship? There’s no bond or loan attached. Foreign graduates may return to their home countries upon graduation:

Q: What does the Singapore Scholarship cover?

A: The Singapore Scholarship covers full tuition fees, living allowance of S$4,300 per annum and accommodation fee based on the room rates at each university during the school semester. One economy class air ticket from scholar’s home country to Singapore at the commencement of their undergraduate course and one economy class air ticket from Singapore to their home country upon successful completion of their undergraduate course. No further financial assistance will be provided for other travel expenses as well as any additional expenses/fees incurred during the Overseas’ Exchange Programme, Overseas’ Attachments or Summer Courses taken up by the scholars with their respective universities.

Q: What is the difference between this Award and other Scholarships Scheme?

A: Under the Singapore Scholarship, the Singapore Government will not impose any bond on the scholars. However, all scholars are expected to return home at the end of their studies in Singapore to contribute to the development of their country. This is different from other undergraduate scholarship schemes, where the graduating students would be obliged to work in Singapore for certain period of time to repay the tuition grant from the Singapore Government. In the case of the Singapore Scholarship, the Singapore Cooperation Programme is sponsoring by paying the full tuition fees for these ASEAN scholars who therefore do not need to apply for the tuition grant with the universities.

Why are Singaporeans shut out and excluded from such scholarships? Why is the Singapore Government actively promoting Singapore as an education hub to the extent of excluding Singaporean citizens from just under half of all those scholarships listed above? Why do they allow such discrimination against Singaporeans?


Written by defennder

July 7, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Posted in Singapore affairs

37 Responses

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  1. I am astonished by the high number of free scholarships available to Foreign Students.
    Would you have the breakdown by number of seats by any chance?


    July 8, 2011 at 1:11 AM

  2. I think it would be helpful if you distinguished between scholarships funded by taxpayer’s money and those funded by private companies and foundations (even if they are glcs or associated with government figures). It’s not all that clear that all the scholarships on offer are on the taxpayer’s dime.

    Personally, I don’t have a big problem with private companies imposing all kinds of conditions on their scholarships. Offensive? Perhaps. Morally and legally wrong, harder to argue.

    As for the SCP scholarship, at first blush, it seems offensive that Singaporeans are excluded. However, if the purpose of the scholarship is to foster inter-ASEAN understanding, cooperation and development, it does make some sense that the conditions state that “all scholars are EXPECTED [emphasis mine] to return home at the end of their studies in Singapore to contribute to the development of their country.”

    Presumably, the SCP scholarship is not for the purposes of talent attraction but rather as a form of “economic aid”.

    As the richest country in ASEAN (at least on a per capita basis), it would seem churlish to pick on the SCP given that it represents a form of foreign aid (and one that presumably carries a lower price tag), as well as a tool of foreign diplomacy.

    I do think the financial aid we offer foreigners is unreasonably high, and it is particularly offensive when aid for local students is relatively stingy. However, I do not think the examples you have chosen here are the best examples to illustrate that disparity.


    July 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

  3. Hi all, I realise that one of the scholarships listed above, the Khoo Teck Phuat scholarships is available to Singapore citizens as well. Will be updating it to reflect that.

    No, sorry I do not have any figures as to how many scholarships are awarded for each.


    Hi, you’re right that the post doesn’t show that most or all of the scholarships above are sponsored by the Singapore government. Perhaps the closing paragraph should be re-written to clarify that.

    Rather as you have pointed out, a good number of them are sponsored by GLCs. Whether that is wrong or not, depends on what you believe in. Some people find it disturbing that government-connected companies are offering scholarships to only foreigners, yet others are fine with that. And of course coupled with an explicit government endorsement that doing so helps to fulfill the aspiration of “reach[ing] out to potential international student[s]”, it’s quite clear that these companies are doing so with the tacit support and approval of the government. Objectionable? Again it depends on what you believe in.

    As for the SCP scholarship, I do believe there are other alternatives of offering aid. Giving money to poorer foreign countries to build their own universities or to upgrade existing ones is definitely an option. I don’t see a need to trade away places in Singapore public universities just to strengthen ties when that could be done instead.

    I have to point out that this list isn’t exhaustive. Almost all of it is based on that single web page on Singapore Education. There are other scholarships out there which are reserved for Singaporeans only, or for foreign students only. I am definitely not an expert on this matter. Several other bloggers have written on the difference in scholarship terms offered to Singaporeans and that for foreign students.

    EDIT: Similarly, one can object that there’s nothing wrong with job advertisements which discriminate against Singaporeans (ie. foreign workers only) or when the same companies advertise abroad for manpower when the same jobs could be filled by Singaporean workers. Mostly it’s private companies doing this anyway. Whether this is wrong depends on what you think is right.


    July 8, 2011 at 11:27 AM

  4. […] Strangers in a Strange Land – The Satay Club: SHOCKED BY SINGAPOREANS’ XENOPHOBIA: BRIAN REPLIES – TRE: S’porean to Pinoy: We are not competing on equal grounds – Furry Brown Dog: Singapore Education scholarships for foreign students (only) […]

  5. “As for the SCP scholarship, I do believe there are other alternatives of offering aid. Giving money to poorer foreign countries to build their own universities or to upgrade existing ones is definitely an option. I don’t see a need to trade away places in Singapore public universities just to strengthen ties when that could be done instead.”

    I think the rationale behind offering scholarships is that foreign students who return to their countries with an overseas education quite often end up in positions of leadership and influence, and their experiences with their host country (i.e. Singapore) will often lead to positive feelings towards the country of their alma mater.

    That is why I pointed out that this is not just a matter of foreign aid, but also of diplomacy and soft power.

    I agree that our government bends over backwards for foreigners at the expense of locals; one is reminded of that Aesop’s fable with the goatherd and wild goats. The real thorn that rankles is not so much that foreigners are treated generously, but that they are treated so much better compared to Singaporeans.


    July 8, 2011 at 3:48 PM

  6. Your post is misleading. Note that the page is a list of scholarships open to foreigners, and is not an indicator of the number or percentage of scholarships open to singaporeans. In fact several of those organisations in the list have a corresponding scholarship(s) for singaporeans.

    Perhaps you should look at the brightsparks website, which lists over 300 scholarships, if i recall correctly.


    July 8, 2011 at 4:58 PM

  7. frank

    Hi, I think the post does state that it’s based almost entirely on a single web page. I have also said above that this list is not exhaustive. Now you bring up the point that there are many other scholarships which are open to Singaporeans elsewhere. I do not dispute that, but the question here is: Why exclude Singaporeans from these scholarships?

    It’s like a company which advertises for job positions. The company puts up, say 80% of jobs open to Singaporeans, whereas the other 20% are strictly foreigners only. That the vast majority of jobs offered are open to Singaporeans is not in doubt. The question is why is the company reserving 20% of these jobs for foreign workers only?


    You make a good point there. But ultimately for every country political leaders, not civil servants call the shots. So while the foreign civil servant educated in NUS or NTU may harbour positive feelings towards Singapore (again I’m not sure whether all of them are grateful, because it seems to me some people appear to take it for granted for other scholarships and have thought of breaking their bond), he’s not in a position to influence policy unless he’s elected.


    July 8, 2011 at 5:48 PM

  8. Not surprising that a lot of the scholarships are for foreigners… there is a batch of about 20 students from NTU on a visit to HK, to have some exchange with the universities here.

    After speaking with them, I note that more than half of them are not Singaporeans, alot of them from Malaysia and Indonesia and China.


    July 8, 2011 at 10:52 PM

  9. SIA-NOL and SIA scholarships are funded by the Singapore government but awarded by their respective parent organizations. I think this has been discussed several times on the internet and on Mr Wang Says So. This set up provides plausible deniability by the Singapore government that the government is poaching young educated people from less developed counties.

    The ASEAN scholarship carries no bonds because it is designed to aid poorer ASEAN countries. It is difficult to imagine the other scholarships as aid to other countries because they carry a bond obligation which prevents the awardee from going back to his/her country.


    July 9, 2011 at 1:02 AM

  10. There’s less irony in the Goh Keng Swee scholarship once you remember that he was the one who introduced streaming, thus prematurely limiting the academic potential of hordes of Singaporean students.


    July 9, 2011 at 4:47 AM

  11. It’s not unusual to have some funding reserved for foreigners exclusively. The EU has a special pool of money that is reserved exclusively for non-EU citizens to go to the EU to carry out advanced research – Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowships.

    David Loong

    July 9, 2011 at 8:37 PM

  12. I have a friend who used to work in one of the GLCs in the list and she was in charge of the GLC’s scholarship holders. She told me that in actual fact, it was MOE that was responsible for the scholarships and merely parked it under the GLC so that it would look less contentious.

    FYI, the ASEAN Scholarship and Hong Kong Scholarship have been around a long time. When I was in secondary school in the 1980s, I had classmates holding these scholarships. The ASEAN scholars all came from Malaysia. I remember when I was in sec 1, I asked one of them who is the sponsor of these scholarships and she said the Singapore govt. I was really surprised and couldn’t fathom why our govt would be sponsoring foreigners. Back in those days, it was at a much smaller scale – about 40 a year at most, entering at sec 1 and sec 3 – in only 2 schools, RI and RGS (with precious places in these 2 schools reserved for these students). These students were quite good, among the top 25% in school but there were many others better than them but who did not get scholarships bec there weren’t such schemes for Singapore students at that time. If I remember correctly, there is a bond of only about 3 years (work in Singapore) which seems quite a good deal for a scholarship sponsoring you from sec school to uni (albeit they have to be interviewed at various stages to retain the scholarship).

    2nd class citizen

    July 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM

  13. Hi from what I know (I know a few foreign scholars), the number of scholarships offered to Singaporeans only are still far greater than the number of scholarships specifically offered to foreigners. Besides that, in some of the scholarships open to both Singaporeans and foreign students, Singaporeans are preferred when the qualifications are similar.

    Financial aid for foreign student is essential to strengthen Singapore’s position as a regional education hub, as bright students overseas can increase the level of competition and create diversity in our environment. Most top universities in the world have always emphasized on their diversity as it promotes better learning and network for their students. Also, Singaporeans need to pay lesser for their education as compared to foreigners as it has already been heavily subsidized by the government.The allowance given by the scholarships are also bare minimum – it has not been adjusted with inflation for quite a long time – so most foreigners will still have to fork out their own money to live in Singapore. Think about it, most of them come from poorer countries with weaker purchasing power, it will be even harder for them to manage the inflation most Singaporeans are complaining about.

    In fact, if we look at the big picture, many (much more intelligent) foreign students could not get scholarships even with the amount of financial aid currently provided. To apply “foreign students only” means that they do not need local students to compete with them (the best of the foreign students usually beat the middle group locals anyway; the best of Singaporeans would not have to worry, their scholarship offers have been lined up for them) Basically they are just creating different grounds for competition. Nothing personal, I think if Singaporeans feel offended by it, it is a little sad. While the country is trying to show Singapore’s ‘generousity’, Singaporeans are so stingy in giving out what they can afford; it defeats the whole effort of the scholarship offers.

    My friends have also been rather committed to stay in Singapore after their education because their countries are much more unstable than Singapore. oh and a more important point is that the MAJORITY of the scholarships given have bonds for at least 3 years (some up to 6 years), those without bonds are like hitting jackpot (according to the foreign scholars I know). I really wonder how my friends would feel when they read the article.


    July 18, 2011 at 10:45 PM

  14. soo jenn

    I think one of Fox’s posts on his blog did have LKY admitting that most of these foreign students do not stay, but that the government is happy even if some 20-30% of foreign students eventually settle down. I wonder why the Singapore government is so generous to people who are not even committed and may have intended for Singapore to be nothing but a stepping stone.


    That’s interesting. I didn’t know that the funding came from the government. I wonder how many of those scholarships in the list above also derive their funding from the government despite being awarded by a GLC.


    Yes, and apparently Goh Keng Swee was also likely one of the top brains who also engineered the graduate mothers scheme. Many people finger LKY as its likely origin, but when Dr TCB objected to it strongly, he referred to it as GKS’s policy. GKS seems to be something of a believer of genetic determinism.

    David Loong

    That’s a good observation. But I do believe that compared to other countries Singapore likely has a larger proportion of scholarships taken up by foreign students as compared to locals. Also on the issue of funding for tertiary students I’m not clear as to how many other countries actually subsidise all the foreign students studying in their countries main public universities. Singapore is probably one of those few countries to do so.


    July 19, 2011 at 12:32 AM

  15. @Defennder,

    I am pretty sure that the SIA and the SIA-NOL scholarships are funded by MOE. That was what my classmate who was on an SIA-NOL scholarship told me. You can find support for this assertion for this claim by googling for the whereabouts of these SIA-NOL scholars (http://www.google.com/search?q=sia-nol+scholarship+site%3Alinkedin.com). Most of them do not work for SIA or NOL after they graduate. Why would a private (ostensibly) Singapore company give away scholarships without requiring the recipients to serve out a bond with it?

    It is also quite likely that the SembCorp scholarship is not funded by SembCorp. Just google on LinkedIn for the postgraduation whereabouts of the recipients (http://www.google.com/search?q=sembcorp+scholarship+site%3Alinkedin.com). It does not appear that SembCorp requires its awardees to serve out a bond with it.


    July 20, 2011 at 11:14 PM

  16. Notice this SIA-Youth scholarship that is only open to Indian nationals. (See http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/scholarships/sia/files/sia-youth-application-form.pdf) The application form goes to the School Placement and Scholarships Branch in MOE.

    Note that when SIA tried to recuit its own scholars from SG citizens and PRs (see
    http://www.cats.com.sg/scholarschoice/pdf/ST04-041-0-XSA.pdf), the scholarship application is sent straight to SIA.

    This is quite telling…


    July 20, 2011 at 11:32 PM

  17. There is also an A*STAR India Youth Scholarship, also open only to India nationals, and advertised on MOE’s website:


    July 23, 2011 at 2:48 PM

  18. Fox

    That’s quite enlightening. Thanks for the info. I hope more light will be shed on this. Hopefully,parliament would get around to asking questions like this when it re-convenes.


    Yup thanks, I think the scholarship is already on the list.


    August 2, 2011 at 12:43 PM

  19. HI!i am a 23 year old citizen of Botswana who is interested in studying bachelor of science(health, safety and environment) and currenlty looking for a scholarship to study at Curtin university.Im kindly requesting your help.

    Monica Oreetswe

    December 5, 2011 at 12:32 AM

  20. Aren’t we included in ASEAN ?? (we referring to Singapore) http://www.aseansec.org/18619.htm


    December 21, 2011 at 5:27 PM

  21. i just want to ask how much is the tuition fee for a philippine citizen in taking culinary arts? pls email me


    February 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM



    June 27, 2012 at 11:15 PM

  23. […] on scholarships: https://furrybrowndog.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/singapore-education-scholarships-for-foreign-students-… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  24. You can add to this GIIS Scholarship : http://globalindianschool.org/Default.aspx?tabid=6764 which is only for Indian students to come to Singapore !


    September 6, 2012 at 2:52 PM

  25. […] foreign scholars, likewise for the numerous scholarships they are offering to only non-citizens [Source]. The PAP government doesn’t care if your public transport is overcrowded with foreigners, or […]

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  32. Singaporeans just do not work hard enough, that’s why they do not get scholarships.

    Boon Xiang

    December 25, 2013 at 1:22 PM

  33. My name is Priyanka, I’m resident of India and I would like to complete my post graduation in Singapore and would be at the disposal to serve you. Now I would like to know to proceed further for the scholarship scheme


    January 8, 2014 at 2:20 PM

  34. Hey I’m Rayhan. I’m Bangladeshi. I would like to complete my undergraduate in Singapore. so I need (singtel group undergraduate scholarship) for my study.


    January 13, 2014 at 5:36 PM

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    January 13, 2014 at 5:40 PM

  36. nice info 🙂 for reminder

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    January 13, 2014 at 11:46 PM

  37. Hi
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