Why It Matters

Gauge worth of private degrees

The private education scene received a reality check last week. An inaugural employment survey, released last Wednesday, showed that graduates of private institutions lag far behind their peers from public universities in the job market.

Many find it tough not only to get full-time jobs compared with public university graduates, but they also receive lower starting salaries.

The survey by the Committee for Private Education offers the first comprehensive picture of how Singaporeans with degrees from private institutions fare in the job market.

It follows in the footsteps of similar surveys done for the autonomous universities, polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education.

Its findings showed that six out of 10 graduates found full-time, permanent work within six months of completing their studies. Their median starting pay was $2,550 a month, which was closer to a polytechnic graduate's salary. The corresponding figures for graduates of autonomous universities such as the National University of Singapore were eight out of 10, and $3,325 a month.

The findings are invaluable in giving reliable information on job prospects to help students decide whether to pursue their further studies in a private or public institution.

Also, it may coax them to question whether paper qualifications are the only route to career success.

While the desire for a degree is commendable, not many Singaporeans can afford to pursue education for education's sake, regardless of the cost.

The findings suggest it may be sensible, money-wise, for Singaporeans to weigh the cost of getting a degree against employment prospects.

These precautionary steps are important.

But, at the same time, observers noted that many graduates of private institutions have gone on to excel in their careers.

So, at the end of the day, the ball is in the private students' court. If they can prove their worth in the job market and change employers' perception, they can help pave the way for those who come after them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Gauge worth of private degrees'. Print Edition | Subscribe