NTU rejects local top-scorer’s scholarship application, compelling her to do her PhD overseas

Hayma Malini FB

Local television producer and anchor Hayma Malini has revealed in a recent Facebook post that a Singapore university rejected her scholarship application, despite her top scores and her vast experience in the media industry, compelling her to seek opportunities outside Singapore.

In a post on Monday (19 Mar), the popular television personality recalled how she was urged to further her studies, after she had already spent years in the local media industry, by Dr R Theyvendran, Secretary-General of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), following an interview she had conducted with him.

The mother of three gave Dr Theyvendran’s suggestion serious thought and enrolled herself in a Bachelor of Arts programme at MDIS itself, after she received a scholarship. Malini juggled her family commitments, her professional career and her studies over the coming years and not only graduated from her programme in 2014, but received a Silver medal for her outstanding Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.92 out of 4.

Keen to upgrade herself, Malini applied for a scholarship with the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET) and pursued her masters degree with Nanyang Technological University (NTU). She, again, excelled in her studies and earned a 4.45 out of 5 GPA.

Motivated to pursue a doctoral degree, Malini applied for a scholarship to pursue her PhD with NTU. While NTU granted Malini a seat, the school declined to give her a scholarship – in spite of her academic performance or her extensive professional experience.

Malini wrote online that she felt disappointed that her country did not recognise her efforts and decided to take up a scholarship offer to pursue her doctorate at Auckland University of Technology at Auckland, New Zealand. She shared:

“I did an interview with Dr Devendran in a program called “sollathaan ninaikkiraen” where he broke down, recounting his younger days… Impressed with how the interview went, he queried where I had done my degree and what my field of study was. I had told him that I did not have a degree and he asked me to try for the MDIS scholarship and urged me to continue my studies. Thanks to Dr Denan, I applied, I got a scholarship and did my Bachelor of liberal arts degree and got a silver medal with a 3.92/4 GPA.
“I then applied for a scholarship with SIET to pursue my masters with NTU. Thanks to SIET, I did my masters with NTU and decided to continue with a PhD there.
“I got a place of offer. However, despite my grades of a 4.45/5 and my experience in my field of work, NTU did not grant me a scholarship. Disappointed that my country did not recognize my efforts I decided that Id rather do my PhD overseas as I also got an offer with AUT and Latrobe. I took up AUT and now I have a scholarship from AUT. Happy that I got the scholarship, but sad that NTU did not believe in my thesis. Missed out an opportunity to work with prof Liew Kai Khiun and prof pang. I would like to thank prof Kalinga Seneviratne for all the support and advice and also prof Arun.
“Currently, my supervisor is prof VJ from AUT and my secondary supervisor is prof Rufus. Am so happy that these gentlemen are guiding me. Thanks gentlemen for hand holding and guiding me through.”

Malini’s story comes even as Singaporeans continue to debate whether the nation should halt subsidising foreign students in local universities and instead allocate more resources to help locals achieve their academic dreams.

In response to feedback on the ground, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung announced earlier this month that subsidies for some master’s courses at local universities will be removed or reduced for foreign or PR students.

These changes will only affect foreign or PR students enrolled in vocation-based or master’s by coursework programmes. Subsidies for foreigners and permanent residents enrolled in master’s by research programmes or those that are foundations to doctoral training remain unchanged.

Besides this, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that certain postgraduate programmes (such as the master’s courses at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies) will not see any changes due to “the importance of fostering the exchange of ideas amongst both local and international participants in such programmes”.

These changes are expected to generate S$25 million in savings each year, but the Minister revealed that these savings will be funneled to support only shorter, industry-relevant modular courses for Singaporeans and PRs at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

Tens of millions of dollars are disbursed to foreign students each year. According to the Auditor-General’s report, some $40 million was disbursed to the scholarship schemes for foreign students, in the financial year of 2014/2015.

Foreigners who receive scholarships are expected to serve a bond of three years – however, the Auditor-General’s Office reported in 2016 that NUS, NTU and MOE did not maintain adequate oversight over scholarship recipients who failed to serve their bonds.

Indicating that NUS, NTU and MOE have failed to enforce scholarship bonds, the AGO said: “Without proper oversight of the monitoring and enforcement actions on fulfillment of the scholarship bonds, there was no assurance that the scholarship grants were used optimally for the intended purpose.”

The Straits Times later confirmed that the students who failed to serve their bonds were foreign students who were given Singapore scholarships: “The Ministry of Education (MOE) did not do enough to ensure that foreign students who received scholarships but failed to serve their bonds were reminded of their obligations and paid up liquidated damages.”

NTU, NUS and MOE not doing anything to FT scholars who break bond

I did an interview with Dr Devendran in a program called "sollathaan ninaikkiraen" where he broke down, recounting his…

Posted by Hayma Malini on Sunday, 18 March 2018



  1. Well this is Nothing NEW, but my recent encounter on the 19th/03/2018 was a New Citizen whom family come to Singapore both Brother …sister and himself is a admission of himself and his family as follows:

    1. Brother A (New Citizen) : Before becoming a New Citizen when he was here on work purpose and came with the whole family, he puts his kids into school (Local) was ask to “Donate” $5,000-$10,000″ as donation in order to get into a Neighbourhood School.

    Then as he became a Singapore Citizen he was SURPRISE a Local NUS/NTU only have 15% allocated for Singaporean which meant his elder kids NOT able to enter in them even when his son is a TOP in class

    2. Brother B (His very Brother A): Who is a Lecturer in NUS draw a monthly salary of $35,000 per month versus his own counterpart Singaporean holding a same degree only draws $18,000 per month teaching the same subject. WHY????

    3. Sister A, a PR and have yet got citizenship got her 2 kids FULL-Sponsorship by the MOE and the Books are also paid for as well as Transport….Pocket Monies….WHY

    • 1. ” Local NUS/NTU only have 15% allocated for Singaporean which meant his elder kids NOT able to enter in them even when his son is a TOP in class”
      Sure or not, top student also cannot enter NUS/NTU???? I know many many are qualified and able to enter leh!!! 15% allocated for Singaporean in NUS/NTU?? You believe??? Only idiots without thinking will believe him lah!
      Check out the statistics, it was 27% in 2012 and going to increase to 40% of the school cohort in 2020 with the increase to 6 local universities. That translate to about 16000 students each year. The universities also need to maintain the standard with reasonable entry criteria. It is a fact that not all are qualified to study in the uni. If not our degree paper will become no value. Statistics showed that the younger age group workforce has 50+% with degree and professional diploma certs. There are more and more youngsters with degree and diploma certs and finding a job is not easy nowadays. It is not true as reflected in your statement the 15% restriction for citizen to study in uni.
      2. Foreigner earning $35K and Singaporean earning $18k a month as NUS leturer, having same qualification. Again do you think this is factual? Which organisation so stupid to pay high salary to employ a foreigner with same qualification, doing the same job as Singaporean??? It is rather the opposite, the jobs were taken by foreigner with lower salary!
      3. I also heard about foreigners being sponsored fully by MOE but i had not come across one personally. I personally came across foreigner rented room from my neighbour, willing to fork out big sum of $ every month to cover their children’s living expenses, guardian fee and school fee in Singapore, $1000 plus a month for one child is quite a heavy burden. You may be interested to find out from MOE website how much is the school fee for foreigner. Of course, it is much much cheaper compare to international school fee.

      • Comment above, I understand and agree with what you said wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, I have learnt from countless debates and arguments on these platform 2 simple lessons:
        1. there’s no point giving facts, because these people are motivated simply by their dislike for their current predicament, and blame it on the government instead of themselves (read: facts don’t work on emotional arguments). Here’s an interesting video to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S74C-XF9kYY
        2. these people do not like it when their position or abilities are questioned. you mentioned that “it is a fact that not all are qualified to study in the uni, otherwise our degree paper will lose its value”. As an elaboration, not all are qualified for certain jobs and i definitely agree. It is also true that organisations will never pay 15k more for someone who can do the same job, regardless of nationality/race. it is also true that no schools/organisation will drop their standards or willingly reduce the quality of their student body/staff by actively choosing only from a limited pool of people. but that is not the point here, because again, these people make emotional arguments, not logical ones. simply put, they do not try to be competitive, and expect to simply get what they ask for.

  2. 1) They told us if we are not happy migrate elsewhere. 2) JT threaten to shoot us, 3)Indranee want our women to be strip search by male officer, 4) Shanmugan want to change the law to their advantage, 5) Demand apology from our nominated MP for voicing out on GST. 6) Giving FT free schooling. 7) Jobs going to FT and there is many more? Why all this sudden harsh attitude towards Singaporeans. Maybe they do not need us and FT is easier to control.

  3. Didn’t they give you a seat to pursue PhD ? Scholarship is another thing and depends a lot more on many factors. Sigh ! This website does the same thing again. Any of the writers of the article has tried applying PhD to understand how the entire process works.

  4. You better go or migrates to other country. our silly govt only cares for the foreigners and look down and suppress Singaporeans. Comes back when the PAP govt is over thrown and disappears. Good luck to you and forget about the idiotic PAP but don’t forget Singapore,

  5. We old Generation can’t even Apply A study Lian for Son to study in NTU where CPF locked up my LTA and Medisave total $200k?? At my age where to seek employment to fund the NTU Fee??Oh not happy Migrate to others and withdraw all CPF!@@Thats the government wanted to be??But can fund those overseas students do not intend to serve the bounds but Fool our Government say shall apply PR if granted Scholarship???

    • You seems to suggest the more chaotic the merrier! America can afford to let a crazy guy to screw upside down the system, it is a super power and it has the leverage on other smaller countries to drive their own interest. As for us, nobody will give a damn, we can only leverage on our labour resources. But we can’t compete on cheap labour, can we compete on digital, high skill product and innovation? Yet to know! China is picking up fast and overtaking many countries. What do we do? Going to eat grass already…and yet you are promoting Donald Trump?? He act like a compulsive dictator without much thinking, those cannot agree just get sack and how many top executives got sacked since then? Electing a clown like him is a disaster to America, it’ll be worst for Singapore! What good policy has he implemented? Building wall along Mexico border!!?? He can’t even get his policy endorsed by the lower house and senate even though the Republican hold the majority. What he could do is using his president executive power! American realized that this president is a laughing stock to the world! He is creating more chaos and disruption to America itself and the world.
      People are dreaming of Donald Trump alike to uplift their lives and all uncles and aunties can sit under the coconut tree twiddling their fingers and day dreaming! Hahaha, nothing wrong if it is just dreaming …..

  6. If you look at all the policy you know that the government is not serving Singaporean instead they are banking on Foreigners to turnover to new citizens to stay in power… this is not an isolation incident… it has become a norm in Singapore we living today…

  7. to be Fair…. MDIS degree indeed is NOT that deemed credible or high standards.. However while towards sinkees the gov’t adopt such high standards , but why some overseas students don’t really have such high standards from highly ranked Unis too??? especially are PhD Scholarship from NTU / NUS / SMU only awarded to applicants with Basic/Masters degree awarded by Top tier universities. e.g. those ranked in Top 300 in say ARWU (SHJI) , UK’s TIMES, QS ranking universities ???

  8. Such scholarship for Foreigners system is practised since many years ago.

    My classmate & his 2 siblings coming from a poor family, who were all 1st class honors in NTU, non can even get a bursary, let alone scholarship. So beside taking study loans like everyone, they had to give tuitions.

    Spore gov probably has allocated a huge budget mean to attract foreigners, with lavish scholarship & bursary, and good pay giv job. They hope out of 10, may be a few will find Spore a good place to settle down.

    I remember a PRC student was given a unbelievable scholarship by DBS(gov SOE) that every Sporean can only dream of. 25yrs ago, Fresh Grad Engr pay is only $1800. This guy got a package of free education, free books, with $2K pocket money and hostel accommodation included. He could literally buy a new car and live in good life.

    Guess what is his caliber? A 3rd grade quality in China, as he self admitted. Couldn’t get scholarship or enrol in local good uni, nor a scholarship to US uni, he grabbed that nobody want fat pay Spore scholarship. And he got a 1st class honor too, with a lucrative gov job in IT.

    Poor Sporean 1st Class no bursary, FT got fat package better than graduate can earn. It is all boil down to gov goal & priority. Local who can’t afford to study uni, won’t be able to emigrate, so can help contribute in low level work.

    FT if given sweet deal, some may come & eventually a few settle down. Most just get enough experience to move to Canada or Australia.

    Overall, Spore still gain as locals can’t runaway, and low pay job get high quality local labour. Yet new FT can fill the upper jobs. In short, overall GDP will increase, economic improve, tax revenue up, hence all PM & his cohorts ministers’ salary & bonus increase. What a happy win win occasion, build on local Sporeans sacrifice.

    Similarly, every year the $1B R&D budget mostly goes to subside foreign big MNC, not support local companies. EDB & A* director told me, otherwise its too tiresome for them to spread the fund to hundreds of local firms. Focus on a few MNC will get their annual report done nicely, since after few years all scolars will be rotate to another job.

    This is our PAP leadership mentality since Goh CT & LHL. Look at macro level & GDP, not micro benefits of locals. That’s why all good jobs are reserved for FT even 20% grads can’t find full time job. So many low grade migrants & junks are allowed in to flood the country, esp India Indians that have fake degree and work experience.

    The price to pay for a 3rd highest GDP PPP ranking prosperous Spore, a globalization phenomenon happening in all Western developed countries now. Only China, Japan & Korea won’t bite this poison bait to inflate GDP artificially at cost of society.

    • In those early years, not many people are keen on scholarship for local study, people doesn’t want to be tied down by the bond. Somehow people will scramble and save up the money to send their children to the uni if they are able to study.
      Nowadays, getting a scholarship will lead to a secured and well paid job, there are much demand and competition to obtain one. There is only a limited number of scholarships an organisation can offer and it should be offered to Singaporean first. If there’s no local talent then it is fair to look elsewhere.

  9. Voting a new government in GE 2020 is the only way ee can get rid of these bunch of useless elites whose real purpose is to preserve their hold on power at Singaporean expense. Vote wisely Singaporean. We need to take back control from the PAP and their cronies.

  10. The garmen need more foreign converted citizens to vote for them in order to continue stay in power while Singaporeans are worthless . They will all eventually vote for pap … so fxxk it . The bigger portion of the cake reserve for foreigners as baits

  11. Hi Malini, firstly I like to congratulate you on your scholarship from AUT and wish you the very best. I do not know the reason or was there any given for your rejection of the scholarship?
    My kids were also rejected when they applied for scholarship but were given a place just like you though having very good grades but the competition for scholarship is base on other s’poreans who may have better grades or who may have ace the interview and gave/showed better presentation.There is a certain percentage of scholarship offered to citizens and we compete among ourselves. Having said that ..the foreign scholarship has also a certain percentage and they compete among themselves and basically their standards may be lower than Sg as if they were of top grades in their country they would be given scholarship by their own country. So of course my kids and I are disappointed. Thankfully they were offered scholarships by other countries just like yourself and turn out to be great. The question here is what is your intend in your post as it borders on racial issues,Singaporeans vs foreigners or is it personal ? Please kindly note that I am even more of a minority( too small in numbers) being an Eurasian but a pure bred Singaporean with more than 150 years of generation in Sg. I’m also a part time unofficial volunteer for the opposition in my estate (opposition ward) and have always voted for WP. Being in the media you should know more on what to post as it may create tension among the races and religions like recent post of St. Patrick’s celebration and Thaipussam.
    I do feel very disappointed that my kids not getting the scholarship but to fair the reasons given were practical. Unfair maybe when we compare with the foreigners. Is it for the best for Sg as a country, possibly? Here is the thing, if the reason given to you is unbiased than its personal. If not than question NTU and the government.

  12. Actually she is considered lucky to get a PhD place in ntu. Her result & credential with MDIS degree probably not good enough to study in NTU, which is now very Highly rated WW. Top2~5 in some subjects like engineering, overall Top50, Asia Top1 beating all China, Japan uni.

    US ivory uni people already taking note of NTU & NUS ranking now, with their papers citations frequency.

    My nephew couldn’t even get into NUS Medical bcos Gov only want 200 Sporeans Dr per year. So he has to study in overseas at a $800K all in cost to his family. His result is top in University, with all distinction. Similarly another one who failed to get in NUS medical, proceed to Australia uni, and got Gold Medal, with Cambridge Uni research scholarship.

    So for Sporean its not easy to get in with that limited quota, let alone scholarship that won’t benefit Spore consider her age & subject. Gov prefer to bring in FT in certain subjects for overall increase in required talents instead of relying on Sporean. But HK didn’t do that, yet its Uni can consistently rank highly likely due to China talents moving over.

  13. Go Australia better. Over there, you get to meet people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. Australia is very open. It’s very different studying over there plus lots of opportunities to progress over there. Compare to singapore, 3rd grade fts come here, plus singaporeans, most of them are rubbish, study here. You will end up becoming stupid like them. Singapore has limited opportunities to progress in the media industry. Unless you are Annabelle Chong.

  14. What disturbed me is the reason where foreign students come to local university on scholarship and they also get to go for exchange programs to another country once more, depriving some local students the only chance for going to another country on exchange program. This system is unfair to local students because it is based on GPA. Of course only the best performing foreign students are here on scholarship but what about our local students who aspire to have foreign exposure as compared to those foreign students get to enjoy studying in two countries? I am not going into who awards the scholarships for foreign students, yet!

  15. congrats, you are our ft in new zealand.
    stay there, don’t come back.
    its a blessing in disguised.
    some have tried to explain that there is a quota for ‘scholarship’ for locals. how did they know?
    and quota for foreiners. but we are not attracting the best foreiners. most of them are 2ND – 3RD GRADE junk, just look at the ping pong players.
    I know the white clowns give bursaries, free hostel, free books and allowance to sec school students right through poly. after working 1 year, they get pr. there are ads in china to recruit them.
    they want to build their vote banks.
    wait ge 2020, teach them.

  16. If i read the comment correctly, it seems to say look at my scores.. so good. Sg and NTU is nuts not to accept me. F U NTU and SG I am now doing my PhD in Aust where I am want. Is my assessment correct?

  17. Self-entitled individual who thinks there is unjustice here but no qualms about taking a foreign scholarship in a foreign land. Wonder if the NZ pple thinks the same like some of the SG folks who whine about FT studying at their local uni. and getting scholarship. Hey Malini, does the NZ pple ask you if you are entitled their scholarship and a place at their U?