Number of Singapore students in US hits 10-year high

4,727 S'poreans enrolled in US educational institutes last year - the highest in 10 years

Some of the Singaporeans interviewed at the EducationUSA Fair last weekend said a US education is well regarded by employers.
Some of the Singaporeans interviewed at the EducationUSA Fair last weekend said a US education is well regarded by employers. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singaporeans are flocking to the United States to study, drawn by its highly ranked universities.

According to US Embassy figures, 4,727 Singaporeans were enrolled in educational institutions there last year. This is a 3 per cent increase over the previous year and the highest figure in 10 years.

The figures also showed that most Singaporeans there are enrolled in the most prestigious universities, such as Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley.

About half of the total number are undergraduates, while nearly 33 per cent are postgraduate students.

The rest are on exchange schemes or professional courses.

New York University (NYU), which has 199 Singaporeans now, is the most popular American university among Singaporeans.


  • Australia

    With the Australian dollar's recent decline, the numbers going there are expected to rise. Around 7,300 Singaporeans enrolled in 39 Australian universities at all levels in 2014. Popular courses include medicine, dentistry and health science-related ones, such as speech therapy.


    The number of Singaporean students in Britain went up from 4,000 in 2009 to 7,000 in 2014. Of the total, 1,390 of them were reading law and another 465 were studying medicine and dentistry.

For postgraduate studies, Harvard University tops the list with 120 Singaporean enrolments. It is consistently ranked No. 1 in the world, and also has 17 Singaporeans currently pursuing first degrees.

The Institute of International Education, which tracks the number of foreign students in the US, said that last year the country hosted 974,000 of them - more than any other country in the world.

The number grew by 10 per cent over the previous year and was the biggest jump since 1978.

US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar said: "We are seeing record numbers of students around the world who see the value of an American education and are making the decision to study in the United States."

Mr Destin Hodges, the Education USA Coordinator at the US Embassy, said: "Singaporeans want a degree that will give them the edge in the job market and the US has many highly ranked universities."

He noted that admission is very competitive at universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley.

"Obviously top-tier universities recognise the first-class education system Singapore has and are keen to receive Singapore students."

He said Singaporeans heading for the US have tended to go for science and technology-related fields or business and finance. But in recent years, they are also going for fine arts and design-related courses.

For example, some enrolled in NYU are taking film and performing arts and those going to the Savannah College of Art and Design - which has its main campus in Georgia - study animation, visual effects, motion media design, graphic design and illustration .

Although the US dollar has risen against the Singapore dollar, he does not expect student numbers to come down.

Attending a US university costs an average of US$45,000 (S$63,400) a year in tuition and living costs, depending on where it is and whether it is a state school or a private one.

At top-tier institutions, costs range between US$55,000 and US$65,000 a year. Many win government or private-sector scholarships to go to such places.

However, a rising number are going to these top universities on "mom and pop scholarships", in which parents pay.

Some of the Singaporeans interviewed at the EducationUSA Fair last weekend said a US education is well regarded by employers.

Mr Paul Tan, 21, who is hoping to study finance in NYU, said: "It will cost my parents quite a bit of money but, after talking to some graduates from the field, I feel that a good degree plus a couple of years of experience working in the finance industry in New York will put me in good stead."

Ms Anna Lim, 19, who has an International Baccalaureate diploma and has delved into the graduate employment surveys of Ivy League universities, said going to top US universities definitely gives students an edge when they are job- hunting.

She added: "But it is also the social and professional networks that you plug into while studying at universities. They are invaluable when you start building your career."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline Number of Singapore students in US hits 10-year high. Subscribe