Higher Education in Singapore

The Higher Education in Singapore is managed and administered by the Ministry of Education (MoE). After completion of 12 years of school education or equivalent students proceed to pursue college programme. Junior colleges and centralized institutes act as a preparatory school for higher education and offer two-year or three-year programs, resulting in the GCE “A” Level examination. Polytechnics, on the other hand, have the intention of educating middle-level professionals in technical and economic fields with the program ending with an advanced diploma. Singapore’s higher education institutions equip students with the knowledge and skills imperative to work in the industry.

Educational Facts and Figures

  • Singapore has five Autonomous universities, namely the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology & Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and one comprehensive private university: SIM University.
  • There are five polytechnics providing specific skills for the workplace. These are Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytehcnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic.
  • There are ten branch campuses of  foreign higher education Institutions in Singapore offering industry-specific courses of study.
  • Singapore also comprises of two private institutions that provide post-secondary education in the arts.These institutions are: LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of fine arts.
  • Singapore has other government-affiliated educational institutions also that offer specific diploma and degree programs.These institutions include BCA Academy.

Decree Governing Higher Education

Education Act (1957) revised in 1985

Academic Year

The academic year runs from July to April.

Language of Instruction

English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil

Structure of Higher Education- An Outline

Pre-University Education

Pre-University Education prepares students for the GCE “A” Level examination at the end of the 2-year junior college or 3-year centralised institute course of study.

  • Junior Colleges/Centralised Institute

There are 12 Junior Colleges, 7 Integrated Programmed Schools and 1 Centralized Institute in Singapore. JC's and CI's prepares students with developmental and interpersonal skills and knowledge required for Universities and Institute of higher learning in Singapore.

Post-Secondary Education

  • Polytechnics

 A polytechnic gives hands-on experience within a dynamic learning environment. There are five polytechnics that offer market-driven courses of study.

  • Institute of Technical Education

Singapore has three ITE campuses. ITE provide students with technical skills and knowledge and trains them for the job marketplace.

  • Specialised Arts Schools

Singapore has two specialized art schools, namely Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LASSALE College of the Arts that offer creative education to students.

  • Universities

Universities in Singapore offer a multitude of degree and professional programs. Singapore consists of four autonomous universities and one private university.

Levels of Studies

Non-University Level Post-Secondary Studies: 

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) provides full-time institutional training for school leavers and offers part-time Continuing Education and Training (CET) programmes for working adults.

  • Duration:  One or three-year full-time courses leading to the National ITE Certificate (NITEC) and Higher NITEC.
  • Qualification: Five Polytechnics offer training in a several areas of study resulting in a Certificate, Diploma, and Advanced Diploma.The major courses available are three-year Diplomas and two-year part-time Advanced Diplomas for holders of a Polytechnic Diploma and relevant work experience.

University Level Studies:

 At the University level studies one can attain the following qualifications:

University Level First Stage: Bachelor's Degree

Admission to first degree courses is on the basis of Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Level, Polytechnic results or other examinations of equivalent standing. 
  • Duration: 3 to 5 years, depending on the subject.  A bachelor degree in Dentistry, Law, Engineering, Real Estate, Architecture and Music is of four years, while Medicine requires five years of study.

University Level Second Stage: Postgraduate Degree

Candidates for a Master's by research must hold Honours degree and submit a dissertation. The minimum entrance qualification for a Master's by coursework and dissertation is a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent.
  • Duration: 1 to 2 years
  • Completed following: Bachelor’s degree

University Level Third Stage: Doctoral Degree

The Doctorate in Business needs a combination of coursework and dissertation. The Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Science is granted on the basis of published work.
  • Duration: 2 to 5 years
  • Complete following: Master’s degree

Teacher Education: Pre-Primary, Primary and Secondary School Stages

The National Institute of Education, an autonomous institute, under the Nanyang Technological University is the only tertiary level institution providing both pre- and in-service teacher education at all levels of teacher training. 
Duration:  Two-year Diploma in Education or Physical Education or a four-year Bachelor of Arts (Education) or Bachelor of Science (Education) degree for non-graduates. In that respect is also a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Primary and Secondary education or a two-year Postgraduate Diploma in Physical Education for graduates. 

Singapore as a Study Destination

Singapore’s vibrant, diverse and distinctive community of world-class higher education institutions: pre-tertiary, tertiary and corporate training institutions have been of great appeal to international students, professionals and researchers. Singapore is the powerhouse with some of the world’s best infrastructure and educators and providing a range of quality study options to local and international students.

Quick Facts:

  • According to QS University Ranking 2014, there has been a strong progress for Universities in Singapore. The National University of Singapore reached a top spot while Nanyang Technological University ranks 7th. 
  • Universities in Singapore stand out for their success in attracting high numbers of students and academics from around the globe; the top four scores for percentage of international students go to NTU and NUS. 
  • Singapore takes third spot in global education rankings, 2014
  • Bilingualism is a cornerstone of the Singapore education system. 
  • Singaporean universities have made significant breakthroughs in modern technology and science. 

Popular Courses in Singapore

Singapore is coming forth as one of the most popular destinations for higher education in Asia. Singapore has established itself as the top player in the international education market with its quality education and diversity of courses offered. 
Following are the popular courses in Singapore:

Hospitality and Tourism

  • Hospitality Studies 
  • Travel and Aviation Studies


  • General MBA
  • Marketing
  • Accountancy
  • Finance
  • International Business
  • Executive MBA (For those having more work experience)


Top undergraduate engineering courses:
  • Computer Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
Top postgraduate engineering courses:
  • M.Sc. Computer Control & Automation
  • M.Sc. Civil Engineering
  • M.Sc. (Power Engineering) 
  • M.Sc. (Bioinformatics) 
  • M.Sc. (International Construction Management
The list of courses given here is indicative in nature. There is no shortage of study programmes with focus on skill development to prepare students for work life.
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