Singapore's two newest universities, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), will lower their annual tuition fees.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the fees will go down next year from $8,000 to $7,500 for full-time general degree students.
The Ministry of Education will also significantly enhance government bursaries for university, polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and Lasalle College of the Arts students.
Students from less privileged backgrounds must not be deterred from pursuing a course just because of money, PM Lee said. "This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy," he said.
He said the MOE looked at whether the universities can operate more economically and concluded that SIT and SUSS, which emphasise applied learning through industry attachment and internships, can lower their operating costs.
This is especially as they achieve economies of scale as their intakes grow. SIT has grown from 500 students in 2010 to 7,000 currently.
PM Lee also announced that government bursaries for students taking up general degrees at the six universities will increase from up to 50 per cent of fees to up to 75 per cent.
After the bursary enhancement, a student taking up computer science or economics, for example, will pay $2,000 a year instead of $4,000. Full fees are about $8,000 a year.
Bursaries for polytechnic students will go from up to 80 per cent of fees to up to 95 per cent. This means that bursary students will pay only $150 a year. Currently they pay $600 a year. Full fees are around $3,000.
The enhanced bursaries will also apply to diploma and degree students at Nafa, Lasalle and ITE.
PM Lee said six in 10 polytechnic and university students are eligible for government bursaries, so many students from middle-income families will benefit too.
SIT president Tan Thiam Soon, who was in the audience at the National Day Rally, welcomed the increased bursaries.
Revealing that 50 per cent of SIT students receive bursaries, he said: "Education is the engine that powers social mobility... These financial assistance schemes will allow students from the lower-income groups, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university, to attain a degree, without worrying about the costs."
SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said the schemes will enable Singaporeans "to chart new pathways and build promising futures".