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.”
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