A limit to how many undergraduates can be subsidised

I disagree with Mr Lionel Loi Zhi Rui that anyone who aspires to a university education should have access to one (Limiting opportunities in higher education not the way to go; May 11).

That is akin to giving a child whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences to either himself or society.

Let us not forget that students at our public universities are heavily subsidised by the state, using taxpayers' hard-earned money.

In the 2017/2018 academic year, unsubsidised students at Nanyang Technological University will have to fork out about $32,000 to $37,000 in annual tuition fees.

Most Singaporean students will have to pay only about $8,000, with at least $24,000 subsidised by the state. At the end of a four-year course, the student would have cost the state nearly $100,000.

I believe the Government has done its homework on how many graduates the economy can absorb.

It would not be fair for taxpayers to fund more students if employment trends indicate otherwise. This would lead to ever-diminishing returns on the state's investment.

We should learn from countries such as China and South Korea, where legions of graduates cannot find a graduate-level job in their own country and have been beset by financial woes and self-doubt, leading to even greater discontent in the long run.

That said, it must be noted that the Government is not discouraging Singaporeans from upgrading themselves.

Those who can afford it may apply to one of our many private educational institutes.

The Government also champions lifelong learning, recognising that there are many other routes to improving one's knowledge and skills beyond that of a university education.

There are many highly paid skills-based occupations that generally do not need a traditional university education, such as chefs, hairstylists, plumbers and electricians.

It is time we disabuse ourselves of the idea that a university qualification is the be-all and end-all of life, and avail ourselves of the many opportunities to pursue more suitable - and perhaps even better - alternatives.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline 'A limit to how many undergraduates can be subsidised'. Print Edition | Subscribe