Friday, February 17, 2006

Sourcing for information on the issue of international student enrollment in NUS/NTU

Still on the objective impact of the increased international enrollment at NUS/NTU upon the local students, especially on the question whether the former development has prejudiced the educational opportunities of the locals. My attempted quantative analysis in the previous post suggests that the answer is "no" or "not obviously", that is, the data is at least consistent with the claim that (anecdotal observations, subjective perceptions aside) the increasing numbers of international students are not depriving locals of places, that the Government's international student program is a "separate 'package' running parallel to the education of local students".

Even granting the truth of my tentative conclusion above, it doesn't mean that one cannot have a deeper philosophical disagreement with the policies driving the recent developments in the local university scene. That is, even granting the claim that the increasing numbers of international students are not depriving locals of places, one might nevertheless believe that tax dollars should not be spent on foreign students simpliciter, that if there is going to be any increase in enrollment, it should all go to the locals (i.e., calling for an increase to the proportion of each local cohort entering university), and so on. These are much more contentious issues that cannot be resolved by any straightforward appeal to data; but by the same token, they should not be confused with the more mundane issue underlying my tentative conclusion.

One question now is, are there other sources of relevant information that will make the analysis more complete. The answer is a qualified "yes"--it exists, but not as much or as comprehensive as one might wish. Since I don't actually have the time to look through the stuff found so far, this is just a link dump for the moment. If you know of any information, do drop me an email or leave a comment. I would be much oblidged.

Statistical Data

- Education Statistics Digest Online (has data going as far back as 1984, but not specifically on international students).

A couple of useful overview articles that contain some analysis as well

- Jason Tan, "Recent Developments in Higher Education in Singapore", International Higher Education (Winter 1999)

- G. Sanderson, "International Education Developments in Singapore", International Education Journal 3.2 (July 2002)

Stuff from the MOE website

- Press releases on the meetings of the International Academic Advisory Panel (IAAP) in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005. This is more tantalizing than useful. We know that NUS/NTU increased their international student enrollment upon the recommendation of the IAAP. It would have been useful if the actual recommendations and reasoning of the panel are available.

- A couple of Forum Page replies from MOE: "Reducing Tuition Grants for Foreign Students" (Dec 21, 2004), "More varsity places part of reform" (Jan 21, 2005). As with the case of most official forum page replies, they tend to be rather useless. However, the second letter contains an interesting bit of data:
Currently, about 21 per cent of the primary one cohort every year enters our local universities. Of this number, about 2 percentage points come from the polytechnic route while the remaining 19 percentage points come from the junior college route. By 2010, when the projected 25 per cent of the primary one cohort is admitted into our local universities, the polytechnic route's share will be increased from 2 percentage points to 6 percentage points. This translates into a tripling of the number of polytechnic graduates admitted into our local universities.
- Several Parliamentary Replies on university education: Sep1, 2004, Apr 20, 2004, Jan 5, 2004, Apr 19, 2005. The Apr 20, 2004 and Apr 19, 2005 replies are especially relevant.

- Archived Speeches by Minister/Acting Minister of Education--I've not have a chance to comb this yet. (see below)


- The Percentage of the Primary 1 Cohorts admitted to NUS/NTU either via the JCs/PUCs/CIs or via the Poly's, 1980-1997 (click to see larger version):
I've also turned the data into a chart, together with extrapolations based on the information in the forum letter quoted above:
corrected: Looks like the data and chart are ok, just that I interpreted them incorrectly. For instance, the figure for 1997 (20.4%) tells us that 20.4% of the relevant P1 cohort (presumably of 1983) entered the local universities in 1997. (I wrongly read it as saying that the 20.4% of the 1997 P1 cohort entered the local universities, which would be impossible as a statistics since that cohort has not entered the right age!) Note also that the information is from 1997, and the projections are projections given the data known then. It would be interesting to see how the actual figures for 1998-2004 go. I'll update that when I have the data. (My thanks to ted for his alertness.)

- A reader points to the MTI Economic Review Committee Report, which has a section on education.Relevant speeches archived on the MOE website with the important bits extracted where possible.

DPM LEE, 23 Aug 97:

- "6. When you go to university, if you are a good student, you will find many scholarships chasing you. There are PSC scholarships, EDB scholarships, MAS scholarships, SPH scholarships, and company scholarships. There are SAF scholarships, even for women. (This year we awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship to two very good recipients.) Plus, for those who prefer not to be tied down by a bond after graduation and want to keep their options open, there are in extremis father-mother scholarships, for with rising incomes, nearly every family can afford to pay tuition fees in NUS or NTU. In any case, NUS and NTU now have a "needs blind" admission policy, so any student who wins a place will be able to fund his studies through scholarships, bursaries, loans or paid work."

PM GOH, 24 Aug 97 NDP Rally Speech:

- GLOBALISATION (read ss. 46-84)

DPM TAN, 19 Feb 98:


RADM TEO, 20 Mar 98:

- "Will there be enough places for Singaporeans? ...there will be enough university places for Singaporeans who...make the grade. The increase in intake of foreign students will be undertaken as part of the university's overall expansion plans and will not be at the expense of Singaporeans. There is flexibility to enlarge the intake in most courses if there is demand. In fact, for the coming academic year, 1998/1999, there will be increases in intakes in almost all the faculties, ranging from 1% to 11%, except for Dentistry, Law and Business, where the intakes will remain about the same. Members will understand the reasons for Dentistry and Law. For Business, we are making adjustments as well. The total intake will increase by about 4½%. For the academic year 1999-2000, a further 4½% increase in undergraduate intake has been projected. We will refine this number as we go along. So there is no shortage of places for Singaporeans."

- "The establishment of the Management University in 2000 will result in an increase in the number of places for students wishing to pursue an undergraduate business course. While NUS will reduce its undergraduate Business Administration intake slightly from the current 600 to 500 in the year 2000, and NTU will stop offering its undergraduate Business programme, there will be more places available in SMU to make up for these changes. So in fact the Business intake will increase overall. The facilities given up by NTU's undergraduate Business programmes will be used for an expansion of NTU's post-graduate Business programmes and increase in the number of engineering students taking Business minors and to house the overall expansion in post-graduate students in all disciplines.

- "Bilingualism is a cornerstone of Singapore's education system. SMU has stated that applicants will need to satisfy the minimum grade in the mother tongue, as in the case for admission into NUS and NTU. There is no change to this policy and we do not intend to make any changes. The minimum requirement to apply for NUS and NTU is a grade of D7 in mother tongue, either as a second language taken at the "A" level examination or as a first language taken at the "O" level examination. Currently, candidates who do not satisfy the above requirements for mother tongue may still submit an application for NTU or NUS. If selected, they will be admitted on a provisional basis. During the course of their study, they will be required to meet the requisite minimum language requirements before they are allowed to graduate. I am sure SMU will apply the same flexibility for deserving candidates."

DPM TAN, 17 Apr 98:

"At my speech at NTU in February, I emphasised three fundamentals which should not be compromised in the review of the University Admission System : First, continued emphasis on high academic standards and rigorous selection criteria in order to identify and reward students who work hard and who perform well academically; Second, retention of reasonable standards of competence in the Mother Tongue and English because bilingualism is the cornerstone of our education system; and Third, gradual implementation of the new University Admission System to allow sufficient time for students and teachers to adapt to the new requirements."

RADM TEO, 31 Jul 98:

"I am pleased to note that NUS and NTU have marketed themselves aggressively in the past years and are on track to reach their target of 20% foreign intake. For the academic year 1998/99, preliminary figures (up to 20 Jul 98) indicate that NUS and NTU have recruited more than 1,500 foreign students which make up 16.5% of their undergraduate intake. 70% of these foreign students are taking up courses in Engineering, Computers and Science. It is particularly important for Singapore to build up centres of excellence in these areas in order to catalyse the growth of high technology industries and ensure an adequate supply of qualified persons."

RADM TEO, 13 Oct 98:

"15. In 1981, we had about 10 research scientists and engineers per 10,000 labour force. Today, there are more than 60. [please see Graph] In 1985, the mean years of schooling in Singapore was 5.7. Today, about 20% of each cohort reach university, another 40% graduate from a polytechnic and more than 20% receive vocational skills training. Together, this implies that more than 80% of each cohort will receive some form of post-secondary education."

DMP LEE, 20 Jan 99:


PM GOH, 27 Aug 99 NDP Rally Speech:

"We also want to make NUS and NTU first-rate universities. NUS and NTU have already achieved high standards. They do not lack facilities and resources. Their constraint to doing better is talent.

Top universities in the US like Harvard and MIT recruit from the top 0.25 percent of a cohort of nearly 4 million, taking just over 1,000 students each per year. Only the brightest students have a chance. Furthermore, they recruit not just from the state they are in, or even the whole of the US. They draw outstanding students from the world over. So they attract top-rate professors, which in turn makes more top students want to enter these universities. Harvard and MIT can do this because they are private, not state universities. They do not have to look after all the students from the state of Massachusetts. They also have the advantage of long histories, and huge endowment funds from alumni and well-wishers. There are other state universities, which take the many other good students who do not make it to the elite institutions.

NUS and NTU are state universities. They have a responsibility to take in all Singaporeans who qualify. They admit about 20% of every population cohort, thus catering to a wide range of talent and ability. Together they take in 8,000 students.

To upgrade themselves, NUS and NTU must systematically enrol bright students from the region. Though they can never match the academic excellence of Harvard and MIT, they can emulate Harvard and MIT, and try and attract top students from Asia. Not every bright Asian student can afford to go to Britain or the US. Singapore is cheaper and closer to home. We do not expect all these students to stay on in Singapore. Many will go back and contribute to their home countries. Over time, they will form a regional network of old school ties, people who are well disposed to Singapore and whom we can do business with.

Last year, foreign students made up 16% of the total undergraduate intake in NUS and NTU. The two universities will increase their intake of foreign students to 20%. This increase in foreign students will not be at the expense of Singaporeans. We will always provide enough university places for local students who meet the admission standards."

DPM TAN, 18 Dec:


RDAM TEO, 7 Jan 2000:

"Singapore’s Universities of Tomorrow" | Interesting statistics: at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, the enrollment is 79% in-state, 12% out-of-state and 9% international; at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, it's 65%, 30% and 5%; for NUS, it's 85% local and 15% international, while at NTU, it's 77% and 23% respectively; note: the populations of the states of Illinois and Michigan were approx. 12.3 million and 9.9 million respectively according to the 2000 census.

"17. ...France has an open-admission university sector where everyone who graduates from high school can enrol, and a highly selective grandes écoles sector which admits only the crème de la crème – the top 2%. Even among the grandes ecoles, there is a pecking order. I recently visited one institution in Paris which admits only the top 0.1%. If we scale this to Singapore's size, this translates to an intake of just 50 students per year.

18. To take an even more extreme example, China's prestigious Tsinghua University admits 2,500 students a year, which if scaled to Singaporean terms, translates into 5-6 students per year. This is like NUS or NTU picking only each year's President's Scholars for the freshman class."

RDAM TEO, 13 Mar 2000:

"33. ...While there are students who score within the top 30% in English, Mathematics and Science but bottom 30% in Mother Tongue Language in PSLE, none has been channelled to the Normal stream as a result...

34. ...only about 2% of students who sit for the Mother Tongue Language papers at 'O' and 'AO' level fail to meet the requirement of grade D7 or better..."

(Done for 1997-2000)

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