As a modern cosmopolitan country with prestigious universities and a high standard of living, Singapore is an exhilarating place to study
It is renowned for its success as one of the four Asian tiger economies along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, and has the third highest per capita income in the world according to the International Monetary Fund.
Singapore offers a fast-paced big-city lifestyle, tropical climate and a sumptuous mix of Asian cuisines drawing on the diverse traditions of its multicultural society. Superb transport links also make it a great base for exploring the rest of southeast Asia.
When you consider it has two universities in the top 100 of the QS world rankings and courses taught in English, there's little wonder this small island city-state - with a population of less than 5.5 million - is an attractive student destination.
Postgraduate study in Singapore is often referred to simply as graduate study. Masters degrees are split between coursework programmes (equivalent to taught courses in the UK) and research programmes.
Full-time study usually lasts one or two years, with intakes in August and, for some courses, January. Part-time study is also possible.
Entry criteria usually include a good undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, proficiency in English and evidence that you can support yourself financially. However, check with your institution as the requirements will vary.
Your Masters from a Singaporean university should be recognised by UK employers.
Annual tuition fees for international students are 10% above the rate paid by Singaporeans. They can range from around 15,000 to 50,000 Singaporean dollars (about £7,000 to £23,000), with science subjects costing considerably more than arts subjects. As you'd expect, fees vary by course and institution, so check with the university that you're applying to.
What you have to pay will typically be divided into separate sections. Tuition fees will be the main expense, but other costs may include application fees and charges for IT facilities, exams, social programmes and health cover.
Universities in Singapore
Almost of fifth of students in Singapore are international. The main higher education institutions are the six local autonomous universities:
- Nanyang Technological University;
- National University of Singapore;
- SIM University;
- Singapore Management University;
- Singapore Institute of Technology;
- Singapore University of Technology and Design.
The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are the largest and most high profile, placing 22nd and 39th respectively in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15.
In addition there are private universities, five polytechnics and several campuses of international universities based in Singapore, including the French business school INSEAD.
INSEAD offer a variety of Masters programmes across three fully-integrated campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. With unmatched diversity in each classroom you can be sure of a multicultural experience.
Funding to study in Singapore
Singapore makes regular appearances on lists of the most expensive cities in the world, and while living costs remain reasonable for students, it's still worth seeking additional sources of cash to help with your fees.
Scholarships may be available from individual universities, or if you're from a particular country - for example ASEAN scholarships are for students who are from a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. You could try to secure funding from an organisation in your home country, but be sure to start your research early.
International students on many degree programmes (who have not been awarded a scholarship) are eligible to pay significantly reduced tuition fees. However, if you take up this offer you'll have to agree with the Ministry of Education Singapore to work in the country for at least three years after your course ends.
Alternatively, repayable tuition fee loans are available to postgraduates who are not on a scholarship. These are worth up to 90% of the fees payable by Singaporean citizens for the same course.
You can work up to 16 hours a week part time while studying and full-time during holidays, but get approval from your university.
How to apply
Most applications for Masters programmes are made online through the university website. You may have to send supporting documents, such as exam transcripts and a copy of your passport, and pay an application fee.
Check with the university as some courses have different application processes. For example, there may be different deadlines depending on your home country, previous qualifications, or for the January and August intakes.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin. The vast majority of Singaporeans speak more than one of these. Your course will be taught in English as it's the official language of business and education.
Be aware that universities in Singapore set high standards for proficiency in English, so if you're a non-native speaker you'll need a good score in a test such as the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
Once you've secured a place on a course, you'll need to apply for a Student's Pass at an overall cost of 90 Singaporean dollars (£40). These cover the duration of your course and are issued by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
It may vary by the type of institution you plan to attend, but as a general rule you submit your application through the Students Pass Online Application & Registration System (SOLAR) at least one month, but not more than two months, before your course starts.
If you're successful you'll receive an in-principle approval letter, which will include your visa to enter the country. On arrival in Singapore you'll have to produce various documents, including your passport and a medical report, at a pre-booked appointment with the ICA.
You don't need a Student's Pass if you already hold a Dependent's Pass or an Immigration Exemption Order.
Singaporean exchanges and placements
Exchanges and placement opportunities are available to students on Masters or PhD programmes, while work experience and internships in Singapore are highly sought-after, so competition for places is intense. For example, the Singapore Management University has partnerships with more than 200 institutions globally.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Work Holiday Programme allows university students and recent graduates between 18 and 25 years of age to work for up to six months on a holiday visa.
Singapore's top universities are research-led and offer an ideal environment for PhD study. You'll need a Masters degree in a related subject and may have to pass entrance exams. There are also research institutes that offer opportunities in science and engineering in collaboration with local universities.
Applications are made through the relevant faculty. Generally, PhD study will last two to five years if studied full time, with a qualifying exam after year one before you start your thesis.
Fees range from about 20,000 to 30,000 Singaporean dollars a year (£9,000 to £13,000).
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Singapore.