The Tempinis diaries

November 2, 2007

Twinning degrees vs. Singaporean Universities

Filed under: studying in Singapore — Tags: — toru @ 1:54 pm

This is a continuation of my blog posts on studying in Singapore that can be found at the following links and

I have noticed in recent years how fewer and fewer Malaysians come to Singapore to further their education.  In fact, I am told that the largest group of foreign students in tertiary institutions in Singapore are now from China and not from Malaysia.  This was initially quite surprising to me.  The reason why fewer and fewer Malaysians come to Singapore these days is a combination of several factors.  The first is costs.  As the Singapore dollar has strengthened over the years as compared to the Ringgit, it has become more expensive to study in Singapore.  However, in terms of value for money, I still do think that Singapore is an excellent choice.  I have talked in my previous blog posts about how one can get tuition fee loans and work in Singapore as a student.

I speculate that the other major reason for the dwindling Malaysian students in Singapore is the abundance of twinning programmes in Malaysia.  My hunch is this: Malaysian students prefer to pursue such twinning programmes i.e. two years in a Malaysian private college and their final year abroad in a UK or Australian university.  Overall, this might work out to be a cheaper option as compared to Singapore.  In my opinion, I believe that this option while cheaper, works out to be a false economy.  Let me explain why.

Many of the universities that offer  twinning programmes in Malaysia are not exactly world-class institutions.  Tony and Kian Ming have done an excellent study here  and I will not rehearse the points that they have made.  While any exercise in the ranking of universities ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, one should note that rankings of NUS and NTU are usually way above these institutions.  If I am not mistaken, NUS is consistently ranked in the top 20 and NTU the top 50 universities in the world.  The question a student should ask himself or herself before embarking on an undergraduate degree is this:  how would my future employers view my degree?  While NUS/NTU/SMU is no Harvard or Oxbridge, I believe that more doors would open for a fresh NUS/NTU/SMU graduate than someone coming from a third tier English or Australian university.

 A couple of other factors also tilt the scales in favour of Singaporean universities.  If you study in a NUS and NTU (SMU has no campus because it is a city university), you get to enjoy a full campus life.  The facilities are far more superior than anything provided by Malaysian private colleges or third tier English/Australian universities (which are usually situated in very out of the way places and very poorly funded).   To me the clinching factor is this: once you get your degree, it is very difficult to get a work permit in England and Australia (things might be different in Scotland) unless you are very bright or very lucky.  Therefore, the possibility of working in those countries to get work experience is pretty slim.  In Singapore, the goverment wants you to work in the country.  You can get your work permit in a single day.  In fact, they will send Permanent Residency application papers to you before you graduate.  Therefore, you can stay on in this little island and chalk up valuable work experience.

Nothing I have said above is meant to disparage students who graduated from twinning programmes.  In fact, I started on one before I was accepted by a Singaporean university.  I always believe that if you are good you will always be good no matter which university you attend.  For example, my cousin who did a twinning degree with RMIT rose to the position of a regional manager of a MNC in Malaysia. 


  1. You are wrong. Is Singapore really that good? Maybe it used to, but nowadays there are too many Chinese academics or second tier academics working there. I would rather someone do a twinning which opens up opportunities in other countries then someone get a paper qualification in Singapore without the exposure to a different culture apart from the kiasuism that arises not just from the locals but also desperate foreigners from China or India.

    Comment by ~ — November 10, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

  2. thanks for your comments. I dont think you are being fair to the universities in Singapore. Most of the Chinese and Indian academics and students who are at the Singapore universities are first rate. While it is true that some of them may speak English with a heavy accent, this does not detract from the fact that they are really very clever.

    I guess we have to agree to disagree then. By the way which institution are you thinking of twinning with? Are you sure by doing a twinning degree it will open up opportunities in other countries?

    Comment by tempinis — November 10, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  3. sometimes, its not just bout the ranking of the university, but the cultural exposure an education overseas could provide. sure, msians could always go to peking university, which is even higher ranked than NUS, but then, the prospect of studying again in the rigidity and restrictions of the asian conformity arent exactly that inspiring and thought provoking, which some of the more liberal minded msian/asian students crave for.

    to us msians, spore is just another msian state, albeit with cleaner streets, faster internet connections, and better science/engineering teachers. what some students want are a totally different living culture, the openess and freedom afforded by the society, different learning and education methods, and perhaps, a good training ground for english. the possibility of becoming a resident in those societies are not just good for themselves, but also for the education of their children. we have to acknowledge that amidst the glitter and skyscrapers spore has, what lacking in spore is much more than what money can buy. perhaps, the opportunity to go to the west and sample these lifestyles, is reason enough not to go to the 15th state of msia.

    Comment by fob — November 27, 2007 @ 7:50 am

  4. actually those Chinese(people from China,or known as PRC) in Singapore are almost top in their district,state,or even country.don’t think that singapore just simply admit people.not many people can fight with them over their knowledge.many people is scared to go singapore is actually due to the toughness of the course.their course is actually not easy.everybody thinks that studying there will be like studying in hell but actually there is many fun NTU is going to build more infrastructures.Anyway,maybe someone with the twinning can get more exposure.but please dont forget,Singapore universities,like NTU and NUS,have links with really top Cornell,MIT..check it out before utter those words can say how good the twinning programmes are but not how bad the SG education is.They produced excellent quality student.

    Comment by cloud — January 7, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  5. the research Tony and Kian Ming have done was years back the twining program they have now are significantly better compare to before. Most of the Twining program in collaboration with overseas university went up in either the UK league table or the Australian league table. there are programs which are also high class for example University of Manchester, University of south Australia, university of Lancaster, University of Birmingham, University of Leeds, University of Sheffield etc. twinning program doesn’t necessarily mean 3+0 but 2+1 and 1+2 too like you said. Thus it is much cheaper compare to a student studying in Singapore. there are some University which their ranking are lower then expected but if you over look that there are Good ranking twinning in malaysia.

    I graduated in a twinning program under the University of Hertfordshire with BEng (hons) Mechanical engineering (First class) and MBA Victoria university by 22 years old without even going overseas and now currently working under Rolls Royce in UK. The university i went may not be at par with University in Singapore but hey its just a piece of paper in the end of the day your result that counts. im proud to say Malaysia have tons of good twinning programs if you keep your eyes open and do you research on better University twinning programs.

    Comment by Bear — March 28, 2010 @ 6:00 am

  6. Good to hear a different point of view and congratulations on the job. Perhaps, you can tell the readers which college you went to?

    Comment by toru — March 29, 2010 @ 1:40 am

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