By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
The 2011 GE was a low point for the ruling PAP. It scored the lowest proportion of valid votes at 60.1%. Not surprisingly, the PAP government started to make some changes to its policies so as to “appease” the general public and “quell” public anger.
One of the common gripes from Singaporeans was that the government was allowing too many foreign students to enter our universities and thereby, taking away opportunities for our own locals to go to universities.
Indeed, in his 2011 National Day Rally speech (Aug 2011) right after the 2011 GE, PM Lee addressed the issue.
He said he empathised with the concerns stemming from the intake of foreign students in local schools but tried to clarify that it has not been at the expense of Singaporean students.
“One unhappiness is the feeling that maybe foreign students have taken the place of locals in the universities because our universities do take a proportion of foreign students. Right now they have about 18 per cent foreign students but I should say that these foreign students have not been at the expense of the local student intake because we have steadily increased the number of places for Singaporeans in our universities,” he said.
“So if you look at it, ten years ago, we only had 9,000 students in the universities, Singapore students, as I told you just now, we have 12,000, more than ever.”
FT students help “prepare” SG ones for global workplace
He added that foreign students “prepares” our local students better for the global workplace. “It exposes them to the competition and makes them, spurs them to work harder and give their best and quite often the local and the foreign students will even partner and make new start-ups,” he said.
But he promised to strike a balance between local and foreign students. He explained, “When you have this international mix in our universities, it is good for our students. We have got to keep on doing this but we also have to strike the right balance between the local and foreign students.”
He further explained that in the next 4 years (2012-2015), the government would expand the university intakes by 2,000 places and all these places will go to Singaporean students.
While increasing the university intakes, he said he would cap the foreign enrolment at the present level of 18%.
“By 2015 our universities will take in 14,000 Singapore students, more than ever before. But while we do this, we will cap the foreign enrolment at the present levels and therefore gradually the mix will shift and the proportion of foreign students will come down,” he added.
“We continue to develop beyond this and beyond 2015. I believe the universities should expand their enrolments further because the economy will need more graduates and our schools and our polys are producing more students with good results and many of our students passionately want to go to university and have the grades and the capability to benefit from a university education.”
Proportion of foreign students in NUS/NTU exceeds 18%
In the latest international QS ranking, the world ranking of NUS and NTU are both ranked 12th and 13th respectively.
For NUS, total number of undergraduate students is currently 26,818 of which 5,005 or 19% are foreign students (http://www.topuniversities.com/universities/national-university-singapore-nus).
If the graduate students are included, the total number becomes 32,705 of which 9,443 or 29% are foreign students.
In the case of NTU, total number of undergraduate students is currently 20,547 of which 4,472 or 22% are foreign students (http://www.topuniversities.com/universities/nanyang-technological-university-singapore-ntu).
Including graduate students, the total number is 25,367 of which 7,845 or 31% are foreign students.
Adding NUS and NTU numbers together, grand total number of students is 58,072 of which 17,288 or 30% are foreign students.
One theory is that NUS and NTU (both are public funded) may be deliberately pushing up the ratio of foreign students as well as foreign faculty staff in the universities so as to achieve high rankings from the world ranking agencies. Obviously, with high rankings, promotions would naturally come to the those university officials for “doing a good job”.
And with promotions, that means higher salaries and, big cars and big houses will follow.