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Local vs Private Universities: Things to look out for

If you have successfully made it through your A Level or IB program you may move on to university studies.

A number of local (autonomous) as well as private universities offers you the opportunity to pursue the career of your dreams.

Both of the aforementioned universities offer various opportunities, appeal to employers end are chosen by both local and foreign students.

Local universities - NUS, NTU, SMU, SUTD, SIT and SUSS. 
Private universities offering external degrees - there are many so examples are Insead, SIM, MDIS, Informatics, EASB, Kaplan, PSB, Raffles College, TMC, etc.

Get the full list of universities in Singapore here 

So how can a student choose between these two excellent options? What should you keep in mind before deciding which type of university to attend?

Here are the 7 things to look out for when making your choice.


1. How much will it cost?

Of course one of the main questions you ought to ask yourself is: how much will your studies in either of these universities will cost?

If you opt for a local university you may get your hands on the grant from the government which will help with your tuition. This will help you subsidize your studies and alleviate some of the money pressure.

Read: Moneysmart - NUS, NTU, SMU & Other Singapore University Degrees – How Much Do They Cost in 2020? 

Public universities overall offer more scholarships and financial aid to its students. So if you are restricted financially this is an excellent option for you.

Whereas private universities usually have higher tuition fees and, in addition, may not offer government grants and subsidies. If you choose to attend one of them, you may have to pay for in entirely out of your own pocket.

Although recently private universities started attracting sponsors in order to provide financial aid to their students, and now they even offer student loans which are entirely interest-free.

Needless to say this differs from university to university, so make sure to do your research about the specific establishment you want to attend.


2. What are the requirements for admission?

This is another difference that exists between local (public) and private universities. 

When public universities recruit their future students they take into consideration such thing as: extracurricular engagement, exam results, relevant soft skills and other aspects. 

One could say that their method of recruitment is more holistic

Meanwhile the criteria for entering a private university are much stricter

Unlike public universities, private universities have specific predetermined grade thresholds for their potential students, and falling below the threshold will spoil your chances of attending a private university. 

For example a student must have a band score of at least 5.5 in IELTS  in order to be allowed into the private university. 

There are some additional requirements you need to satisfy and they vary according to the program that you would like to apply for. 


3. Consider how the curriculum is structured. 

Another thing to keep in mind when deciding between private and local universities is the structure of the curriculum. 

In some private universities the path towards your university degree may be structured in a slightly unusual manner.

For example, some programs may ask you to undergo some relevant vocational training

Some private universities  may also allow you to take a full-time or, alternatively, a  part-time course. 

Registering for a part-time course is ideal for those students who are planning to work during their  studies.

However, if you end up opting for the part-time program take into consideration that it will increase the duration of the study significantly. 

Meanwhile the program that is offered by public universities allows you to focus fully on your student life. 

The program usually takes about four years to finish and you may even study two fields at the exact same place.


4. What about the accreditation?

Read: Accreditation format in local and private universities

On the one hand, in public universities the accreditation is provided to you personally, and it proves that you indeed graduated from that  university

On the other hand, degrees in private universities are usually given out in cooperation with the partner institutions or universities. 


5. Which university offers better chances of employment and higher salary?

This is a very important question. 

A good job and high salary are the reasons the majority of students decide to go to a university in the first place.  So, which one offers better prospects in this regard? 

If you have graduated from a local university, then you may basically get a job almost anywhere. A wide variety of course choice means that you will probably have an easier time finding a job. 

However you should keep in mind that the salary may vary depending on the  subjects you studied at university.  

On the other hand, those who have graduated from private universities find it slightly more difficult to get a job. 

The reason for this being a fierce competition

Although there are many private companies that seek privately educated students, they have to go through a rigorous recruitment process and only the best ones get hired. 

Similar to public universities your starting salary may also vary according to the program you have graduated from. 

According to Salary.sg, starting salaries for graduates of local and private universities can range from $3000-$4500, some going to as high as $5500 - $6000

But it is vital to remember that while your degree helps you make a favorable first impression during the recruitment process, once you get the job it doesn't really matter which university you graduated from, private or local. 

Employers judge you based on your performance and if they notice that you are not worth your  salary you will be shown the door. 

There have been numerous instances when graduates of local universities got picked for promotion over those who graduated from  expensive private universities. 

This goes to show that your university degree will help you get your foot in the door, but whether you will be allowed to stay in the room and be successful in your career depends entirely on the amount of effort you make. 


6. Does one of them rank higher?

If you're the kind of person to whom ranking matters then you will be pleased to know that, on average, both local as well as private universities do quite well in this regard. 

University rankings determine the prestige of any given university and may have an effect on your future employment prospects. 

So make sure to do your research before you apply to the university of your choice.  If you are a stickler for university rankings, here is the Time's Higher Education's World University Rankings.

Another site for university ranking is QS Asia University Rankings 2020.


7. How big are the classes?

Usually local universities tend to be larger in their capacity than private institutions, so they may have  more people attending the same class. 

By comparison private universities may be slightly smaller which may help to create a more intimate learning environment and, in addition to this, in smaller classes students may get an opportunity to get to know their lecturers better. 

However a larger class size does not necessarily mean that the quality of education is lower. Remember in the end it all depends on how diligent you are. 

If you are truly passionate about the subject you are studying you will listen to the university professor, make notes and to try to retain as much information as possible. 


Making the decision of your life

There is no enormous difference between local universities and public  ones. 

Overall, they offer similar opportunities to students.

However,  there will be some areas where one particular university outshines the other. 

The quality of education differs depending on university and the course you are planning to pursue.  In the end, only you can choose which university is most appropriate for your personal goals and your personality. 

Apply yourself to the maximum and you will flourish  in either of them. 

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.