Help erase discrimination against private uni grads

Students studying at a private school in Singapore.
Students studying at a private school in Singapore.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

It is an open secret that graduates from private universities have a lower rate of securing full-time jobs in Singapore and that they draw a lower starting pay compared with graduates from public universities.

It doesn't help that in the civil service and statutory boards, priority is given to graduates from the top universities in the world or from local public universities.

What is worse is that there is perceived bias even in the employment of interns from private universities. For example, getting companies to make Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions to interns from private education institutions (PEI), while bosses do not have to do the same for interns from public universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education. This rule discourages firms from hiring PEI interns, indirectly placing barriers in the path of these students and preventing them from gaining valuable relevant experience.

The Ministry of Manpower must review this CPF contribution policy.

We should arrest this bias among employers so that graduates from private universities compete on a level playing field with those from public universities.

The Council for Private Education should work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to design policies that can strengthen the value of the degrees from private universities.

One suggestion would be for private university students to attend a year or two at public universities. If they pass their courses, they should be recognised as being on a par with graduates from public universities.

With MOE's endorsement, employers may accept these students on the same level as public university graduates, offering them the same pay and career prospects.

The civil service should lead by example to stop the discrimination against private university graduates.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2019, with the headline 'Help erase discrimination against private uni grads'. Print Edition | Subscribe