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NUS institute to fund subsidies for some master's courses after SkillsFuture aid withdrawn

NUS institute to fund subsidies for some master's courses after SkillsFuture aid withdrawn

(Photo: National University of Singapore - Institute of Systems Science)

SINGAPORE: An institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will fund the subsidies for three master's programmes for its January 2021 intake, after SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) withdrew aid for the courses. 

The three programmes are the Master of Technology in Enterprise Business Analytics, Master of Technology in Intelligent Systems and Master of Technology in Software Engineering, all offered by the NUS Institute of Systems Science (NUS-ISS), said a spokesperson for the school on Thursday (Nov 19).

Many of the modules in the three programmes were supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) subsidies between 2018 and 2020, thereby leading to lower fees for Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents during that time, said NUS-ISS.

From January 2021, however, those modules will no longer be eligible for government subsidy as the funding agreement with SSG has ceased, it added.


In a statement on Thursday, an SSG spokesperson told CNA that funding for the courses was withdrawn because NUS-ISS did not meet the job placement targets under their funding agreement.

"As part of the funding agreement with training providers like NUS-ISS, SSG sets targets on job placement to ensure that the training leads to tangible employment outcomes," said an SSG spokesperson.

"NUS-ISS has not met the job placement targets under their funding agreement with SSG. Hence, with effect from Jan 2021, SSG is withdrawing funding for the courses supported under this agreement," the spokesperson added.

Students who have already been enrolled as part of the 2020 intake or earlier will not be affected, said NUS-ISS . 

"NUS-ISS will fund the subsidy for the incoming January 2021 intake for the full duration of their course. They will pay tuition fees of S$20,000 to S$21,000 for the course, same as what was indicated during the course application window from June to September 2020.

"We have reached out to all affected students to update them accordingly, extend our apology for the inconvenience caused, and assist with any queries," it said.

Students set to join the master's programme initially raised concerns after seeing their school fees more than double just two months before the first semester starts in January. 

The students said that when they were doing their research into the graduate programme, the fees cited for the Master of Technology in Business Enterprise Analytics (MTech EBAC) for the previous academic year was between S$19,951 and S$21,376 for Singaporeans and permanent residents, after subsidies.

An archived version of the NUS website from October confirms this. 

A screencap of an archived version of NUS' website detailing the cost of the Master of Technology in Business Enterprise Analytics programme in October.

On Nov 13, the total fees for the same course starting January 2021 were updated to between S$44,100 and S$49,770 for Singaporeans and permanent residents, excluding goods and services tax and miscellaneous fees. This applied to full-time and part-time students.

A screen capture of the updated fees and notice on NUS' website taken on Nov 13, 2020.

A 27-year-old software engineer who applied for the programme in August told CNA he was concerned to learn in his first offer letter from NUS on Nov 4 that the fees were under review.

In the original offer letter seen by CNA, NUS told students: "Please note that the fees and subsidies for the MTech EBAC programme are currently under review. The fees for the Jan 2021 cohort will be put up on the website as soon as possible." 

A note on NUS website on Nov 4 also said that students "should be prepared to pay full fees in the case that no subsidies are available".

"I emailed them to check what the fees would be like, because they said we have to accept the offer by Nov 10. Basically as the deadline approached, we didn't really have a choice so we just accepted the offer first," said the software engineer, who declined to provide his name.

A screen capture of the notice on the NUS website on Nov 4, taken by one of the students accepted into the programme this year.

A 30-year-old analyst said he chose the NUS institute programme because it was more affordable than other alternatives. The analyst said he felt that the manner in which the fee adjustment was communicated was "unfair".

"The thing is, we have already missed out on every other alternative that we have. The reasonable approach if there's a fee hike of such a magnitude is that they should tell us during the application process," he told CNA.

Another student, a 27-year-old engineer, who applied for the programme said he did so as the price was "reasonable" and much lower than similar master's programmes in Singapore. 

An email sent by the NUS institute to him on Sep 1 in response to queries about the course and subsidies stated that the total fees for Singaporeans and permanent residents taking the programme part-time would be S$19,951.22 to S$21,376.46. 

There was no mention that the fees and subsidies were under review.

All three students CNA spoke to hold full-time jobs and had applied to take the course part-time. They said they withdrew from the course after receiving news of the fee adjustment, but will now continue with their studies after receiving a new offer letter.

In an offer letter dated Nov 16 and seen by CNA, NUS-ISS informed students from the 2020 intake that it would continue to offer the "previously published" fees. 

"If you have previously declined our offer, or withdrawn from the programme, we do strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision," the new offer letter read. 

"Initially I wasn't expecting (that the fees would be reduced). I was hoping that it would happen, but I didn't put that much hope into it," said the software engineer.

"It was a pleasant surprise overall, that I would still be able to pursue the degree. But overall, I just feel like all this could have been avoided." 

Source: CNA/hw


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