This is a continuation of my blog posts on studying in Singapore that can be found at the following links https://tempinis.wordpress.com/2007/10/25/what-to-do-after-spmstpm/#comments and https://tempinis.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/studying-in-singapore/
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 http://educationmalaysia.blogspot.com/2005/05/world-class-universities.html 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.