Coronavirus pandemic

2,000 more degree places in Singapore offered this year

Some spots go to students whose overseas studies, work plans are affected by Covid-19

Each of the six local universities received between 19 and 550 applications during the second admissions exercise held in May. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The six autonomous universities here have stepped up to offer around 2,000 more places this year because of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the additional offers went to Singaporeans whose overseas study plans had to be put on hold because of the pandemic, and to polytechnic diploma holders who had previously intended to join the workforce but were now opting to study because of the weak job market.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday said the additional offers were made across a range of courses, while maintaining admission standards.

It is not known how many additional places this will translate to, as some applicants may have applied for and received acceptances from more than one university.

Because of the additional offers, MOE said it expects the cohort participation rate (CPR) to increase slightly this year - by up to 2 percentage points - from the originally planned 40 per cent.

MOE had earlier said it had planned to provide 17,000 places to reach the 40 per cent CPR it had promised Singaporeans this year.

The universities held a second admissions exercise in May to cater to Singaporeans whose study or work plans had been disrupted because of the pandemic.

The Straits Times reported last month that each of the six local universities received between 19 and 550 applications during the second admissions exercise.

Some of the applicants interviewed said the Covid-19 outbreak had left them unsure of their overseas plans.

While some said they were switching to local universities, others were planning to defer their studies by three to six months.

Several said they prefer an on-campus education and complained that it was unfair of overseas universities to charge the usual high international student fees for online classes.

MOE said yesterday that Singaporean students midway through their degree studies overseas, but who now wish to switch to studying locally, can write directly to the autonomous universities. Their applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. This includes a review of whether credit transfers can be granted.

The autonomous universities have received a small number of such applications and are prepared to take in as many of these transfer cases as they can accommodate, including for courses such as medicine, said MOE. This is subject to applicants meeting the admission criteria.

Students who prefer to wait for some months before resuming their studies overseas can also sign up for continuing education and training modular courses offered by the universities.

In an interview with ST last week, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said the Government will add more university places to cater to students whose overseas study plans had been disrupted.

"If their studies are disrupted and they meet the admission criteria, then yes, we will increase the number of places to help them continue their studies locally, even if it means going beyond the 40 per cent cohort participation rate," he said.

Parent Eugene Tan, 48, whose son is considering switching from an overseas university to a local university, said the Government should make more places available as these are "special circumstances".

His son came back midway through his first-year studies in the United States, after the Singapore Government advised students to return home because of the rise in Covid-19 infections.

"Now, with the situation being so bad in the US, I doubt he can go back until the first quarter of next year. So I advised him to switch to a local university," said the sales director, who added that his own earnings have been badly hit by the pandemic.

His son, who declined to be named, said he still prefers to study overseas as he feels there are better internship opportunities in the field of IT in the US - and more job openings down the line.

"I am very grateful that the local universities will consider admitting additional students this year. But I am still hoping that things will turn around by September and I can head back (to the US) to continue with my studies," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2020, with the headline 2,000 more degree places in Singapore offered this year. Subscribe