Private or Public – What’s the Right Singaporean University Choice For You?

The education sector in Singapore is one that’s extremely competitive. This is not surprising as Singapore as a society, in general, is competitive. If you’re talking to anyone who’s of an older generation, they’d always advocate and encourage for a public university. After all, public universities in Singapore are what’s well recognized and accredited. Despite this, a public Singapore university like the National University of Singapore (NUS) or Singapore Management University (SMU), may not always be the best or right choice. There are far more factors to consider when picking a university. Therefore, we have put together this guide to help you make your choice.

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What Are You Eligible For?

First and foremost, this is one of the biggest considerations for most. Are you eligible for Singapore’s public universities? In general, Singapore’s public universities are harder to get into as they have higher entry requirements. Entry into public universities is highly competitive and this makes it harder for many to get into. Furthermore, priority is given to Singaporean citizens. Therefore, if you are a permanent resident or an international student, it might be far harder for you to get into a public university. If you are interested in private schools in singapore, MDIS may be the choice for you.

Before applying for any university, you should research and look at the indicative grade profiles of students who have gotten into these universities. Are your grades similar? If your grades aren’t strong enough, you may face difficulty getting into that university. At this point, you would have to consider private universities or overseas universities. They usually have lower entry requirements.

Consider the Importance of Reputation

This is only a consideration for you if both public and private schools are available to you.

In general, public universities in Singapore hold a greater reputation. This is true both in Singapore and internationally. This can be clearly seen in the international ranking of these public universities. For example, the National University of Singapore is ranked eleventh in the 2020 QS World University Ranking. This is because these schools are representative of Singapore and hence, great effort is placed into promoting them. Furthermore, such schools are older and more well established, as such, they have better reputations.

This is important for you in the future as being from better, more established schools will greatly influence your future opportunities. In general, employers and graduate schools will look well upon public Singaporean universities. However, this is all subjective. You may be interested in a field where this is less important. Or, this may simply not matter to you. However, this is something that one should still consider when choosing their university.

What Kind of Student Are You?

One big difference between private and public universities is in the way that their curriculum is created. Private universities are usually more flexible and it is often that you would see adults studying part-time in them. They could also have vocational programs that only have classes that are directly related to the course. Contrastingly, public universities are more holistic focused, and hence, they require their students to attend general education classes as well. Students are also enrolled full time and hence, classes typically occur in the day.

Classes in a public university are also usually more traditional. Therefore, they follow the expected system of lectures, tutorials, and seminars. Private universities may be slightly more creative and relaxed in contrast. If you prefer to have a more flexible education, a private university may be better suited to you.

What’s Your Financial Capability?

In general, private universities are far more expensive to attend as compared to public universities. Public universities have a greater endowment and hence, there are usually more available bursaries, scholarships, and financial aid that students can apply for. Public university fees are also subsidized under Singapore’s Tuition Grant Scheme. This means that any student attending any of Singapore’s public universities are granted huge subsidies in tuition fees. This is also amazingly applicable for foreign students too. The only catch is that post-graduation, foreign students will have to work for three years in Singapore.

As such, public universities may seem like a better choice as they are far less expensive to attend. Most people take a loan for university and taking a loan for a private university will be far heavier a burden. There are also loans specifically available for public universities with extremely good conditions. Loans will continue to burden one past graduation as they will have to work to pay it off. Therefore, finance is a big consideration for many when it comes to choosing a university.

What Course Are You Interested In?

Lastly, the course you are interested in pursuing is also very important. Public universities in Singapore are great. However, they do offer much fewer courses. They are typically more focused on general interests and hence, eclectic majors like fashion may be out. If you are interested in a general and common course, public university is a great option as they would have such courses and their course department would usually be strong. However, if you are interested in something that’s more specialized, private universities may be a better choice. They usually have wider ranges of courses and may have better educators for such courses too.

If you are unsure of what course you are interested in, then the public university may be a better choice too. They usually allow specializations to occur later on in your degree. For example, NUS has a faculty known as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. You are enrolled in this faculty and for the first two years, you are free to try out different majors within the faculty before making a decision. This gives you more time to experiment and decide on something.


Choosing a university to attend is a big choice. It’s something that will inevitably determine how part of your life will go. Picking the right school is thus highly important. Be sure to consider these points thoroughly and even make a pros and cons list to help you decide. Alternatively, you might want to write down what you want out of your university experience and education. This can greatly help guide your choice!

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