SINGAPORE: From next year, international students will no longer be subsidised for a majority of the postgraduate degree by coursework (PGC) programmes offered at local autonomous universities, while Singapore PRs will see a reduction in subsidies.
This was announced by Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Monday (Mar 5).
The new move will free up around S$25 million in the ministry's budget each year, which will be channeled into the expansion of bite-sized, industry-relevant modular courses offered by the institutes of higher learning for the local workforce, revealed Mr Ong during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
The PGCs include Master's by coursework programmes – degrees primarily designed to prepare students for jobs – and post-graduate diplomas offered in the local autonomous universities.
The newly announced funding cut will impact courses that are skills-based with industry relevance like the Master of Architecture, and academic programmes such as the Master of Music. A few selected programmes, such as the Master of Public Administration at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, will be excluded from this change, according to information from the Ministry of Education.
There will be no change in the subsidy level for Singaporeans.
Mr Ong said the subsidy change in the PGCs for non-Singaporeans come as the Government ramps up support for the SkillsFuture Series courses.
“Given our limited budget, we need to do some re-allocation of resources,” he explained.
“Notwithstanding the reduction in subsidy for non-Singaporeans, we must continue to attract selected, deserving postgraduate international students that can make meaningful contributions to Singapore.”
Mr Ong revealed that more than 4,900 adult learners have enrolled in the SkillsFuture Series courses as of February.
These SkillsFuture Series courses, a new SkillsFuture scheme launched last year, comprises modular courses targeted at emerging and critical areas, such as data analytics and cybersecurity. They are offered primarily by the institutes of higher learning to help upgrade the skills of working adults.
He added that in the next three years, the Government expects to put in an additional annual funding of S$100 million into the lifelong learning programmes by the institutes of higher learning.
“The (institutes of higher learning) will develop more modular courses in the coming year and sharpen their focus to meet industry’s evolving needs,” he said.
EXPANSION OF MICRO-CREDENTIALS BY UNIVERSITIES
In light of that, Mr Ong mentioned that autonomous universities will also be repackaging certain courses to “create pathways that lead to smaller qualifications”, which are often referred to as micro-credentials.
“Our autonomous universities will progressively roll out more of such micro-credentials in the coming years, and subject them to the market test,” he said.
Micro-credentials are awarded upon the completion of one or more modular courses at the local autonomous universities, without the student having to meet the full-qualifications requirements, according to MOE. These serve as a recognition of a student’s learning achievements in a focused, industry-relevant niche.
Made up of “modules targeted at developing expertise for work”, micro-credentials can be “useful in providing a milestone for adult learners to aim towards, and which employers can recognize”, said Mr Ong.
But he cautioned against letting micro-credentials “become a new arms race to collect credentials”.
“(Institutes of higher learning) should instead focus on imparting skills and knowledge needed by industry, and package them into a nice bundle that represents a meaningful upgrading of skills and know-how,” he said. "Learners too, should focus on picking up what is necessary for their upgrading.”