Private education institutions (PEIs) that offer degree and postgraduate programmes in Singapore have come under the spotlight recently, after a survey showed that their graduates took longer to find employment and commanded lower salaries than those from public universities.
However, industry players argue that quality differs greatly in the private education sector, where well-regarded institutions with long track records compete with smaller outfits.
"All postgraduate degrees offered at Kaplan are awarded by recognised public universities from the UK, Ireland and Australia. The degrees awarded are the same as those awarded on the home campuses of these universities and are subject to all the same levels of quality assurance," says Rhys Johnson, senior vice-president and provost, Kaplan.
Kaplan offers degrees from globally ranked universities, such as Birmingham City University, Royal Holloway University of London and University College of Dublin, among others.
The survey — conducted by industry regulator the Committee for Private Education (CPE) — polled 4,200 students who graduated with degrees from nine private institutions in 2014. The CPE became a part of SkillsFuture Singapore — a statutory board under the Ministry of Education — on Oct 3.
The results, which were released last month, showed that some 58 per cent of fresh graduates with no prior working experience landed full-time jobs within six months of finishing their studies. Another 21 per cent managed to find only part-time or contract work.
The study also found that the median starting salary of those with full-time jobs was S$2,700 a month. In comparison, graduates from the three public universities here — the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) — had an 83 per cent full-time job rate and S$3,200 median gross monthly salary over the same period.
In response to the survey, SIM Global Education (SIM GE) said "the employability of our graduates is a priority". The private education arm of the Singapore Institute of Management, which has an enrolment of 20,000 students with 16,400 locals, has been putting in place measures to enhance the employability of its graduates, such as offering career counselling and internship opportunities.
Indeed, a SIM GE survey for its class of 2014 found that 73 per cent of its graduates had landed full-time jobs within six months. What's more, over half of the respondents had two or more job offers.
Another PEI, MDIS, also conducted a 2014 survey that showed around 80 per cent its students finding full-time or part-time jobs within six months after they graduate. MDIS offers accredited diploma and degree courses in business and management, health and life sciences as well as information technology, among other programmes. These are offered in collaboration with universities in Australia, France, the UK and the US.
However, students may soon be in a better position to assess an institution's quality after new requirements for private schools offering degree programmes were announced by the CPE last week.
The measures are aimed at better protecting students as well as with providing them with more information to help them select a school. Among other requirements, PEIs offering degrees will be required to take part in an annual graduate employment survey run by the CPE, and must be able to demonstrate minimum financial standards.
"As the sector matures, we need to ensure that institutions continue to have sound foundations on which to operate and deliver the quality of training that students expect. The new measures are aimed at doing so, and will provide additional safeguards for students who choose to enroll with PEIs," notes Brandon Lee, director-general (private education) of SkillsFuture Singapore, in a statement. "We also hope that the enhanced information transparency will be useful in helping students make more informed decisions."
This article appeared in the print edition of The Business Times on October 26, 2016.