9 Cheapest Universities in Singapore for International Students

Singapore is a country that is synonymous with innovation, world-class development, and high prestige. It is frequently referred to as the global ‘garden city’ of the world due to the striking balance between its authentic culture and globalized western modernity. It is one of the fastest-growing nations in the world.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Singapore is home to novel infrastructure facilities, high standards of living, an iconic healthcare system as well as one of the most prestigious education systems in the world. This is only supported by notoriously strict laws in the country such as those that prohibit chewing gum and smoking in public places.

With the blend of cultures, languages, and religions coupled with the aforementioned qualities in terms of its world-class modernity, Singapore is indeed a top choice for many international students.

Studying in this country not only offers to its students high standards of education and academic excellence but also the dynamic, big-city environment in a tropical climate with multiple sights of seeing and attractions. Its location in Southeast Asia and its status as a global transport hub makes exploring the rest of the subcontinent easily accessible.

However, studying in one of the richest countries in the world raises the question of expenses and funding for studying in Singapore. In this article, we explain and bring to you some of the cheapest university options in Singapore and if it actually is expensive or cheap to study in this highly reputed country.

Is the admission process for universities too competitive?

Granted that the country sets high standards for its academic studies, admission is significantly competitive. Furthermore, when considering the fact that the country is home to only 6 major universities (excluding private institutions) and that Singapore is a very popular study destination, it comes as no surprise that these universities are highly selective as they receive a large number of applications on an annual basis.

Universities tend to set a specific quota for the number of international students that are accepted.

To help you with this process of admission, we’ve prepared a guide on How to Study in Singapore for International Students. If you are unsure about the whole application process in Singapore, read the guide!


Is university education free in Singapore?

University education is free only for national and local students of Singapore. However, international students are required to pay tuition fees for their studies. In addition to this, a multitude of scholarships, bursaries, and funding opportunities are available for the students through the universities or via the government.


How much does it cost to study in Singapore?

This would depend on the individual university as well as the student’s prospective program. On average, students can expect to pay between SGD $2000 to $12000 (roughly equivalent to USD $1500 to 8000) on a monthly basis in the case of the undergraduate and postgraduate students.

In the case of programs in the field of Medicine or Dentistry, the tuition tends to be approximately a quarter higher than the standard fees.

You might not be able to afford this cost because of your financial situation. However, there are still ways that you can afford your education through various means. In How to Study in Singapore for Free (Complete Guide), we cover nine ways that you can implement so that you can be able to afford your studies. Check this wonderful resource!


What are the languages of teaching?

Singapore is a country that is rich in diversity and culture. However, although languages such as Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay are official languages in the country, English is the primary mode of instruction at all, if not most, institutions of higher education.

Therefore, international students need not worry about learning additional languages if they do not feel the need to.


Affordable Universities in Other Countries

There are many universities in other countries that have an excellent curriculum offered at an affordable price. If you are interested, check this list out.


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Cheap Universities in Singapore

1. National University of Singapore

The pinnacle of education in Singapore, the National University of Singapore (NUS) was the first autonomous university to be built in the country. Considered to be the oldest institution of higher education in the country, it was originally founded in 1905 as a medical school until it gained its status as the NUS in 1980.

The main campus is located in southwestern Singapore with additional campuses located in close proximity. It is a comprehensive research-intensive university that provides degrees in a wide array of disciplines.

Currently, the university has a student population of over 36,000 with a high proportion of foreign students. Admission is highly selective and the university only seeks to admit top performers who usually tend to be in the first 5-10% of their graduating class.

To this end, it comes as no surprise that this cheap university in Singapore has been consistently ranked in the top places in league tables; it is ranked 1st in Singapore and in the top 25 universities based on the Times Higher Education and QS rankings.


2. Nanyang Technological University

Founded in 1981, the Nanyang Technology University (NTU) is classed as the second oldest autonomous university in Singapore. Located in the west of Singapore, the NTU currently has a student enrolment of over 34,000 students. It is also one of the largest universities in the Asia Pacific region.

Academically, the university is comprised of 8 major colleges and schools ranging from the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, the Nanyang Business School, and the College of Engineering. It is additionally a high-profile research institution and is home to several iconic research facilities such as the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

This cheap university in Singapore aims to provide a holistic student experience for its student body. In addition to the high-quality courses and degrees, students also have access to over 100 organizations within the university.

The NTU has been consistently ranked in the top 100 universities of the world. It is considered to be the 3rd best university in Asia according to the QS world rankings.


3. Singapore University of Technology & Design

Based in the municipality of Tampines, the Singapore University of Technology & Design is another autonomous university that was founded more recently in 2009. The university was established in collaboration with MIT in the United States. As such, development of the curriculum, student exchanges, research collaborations, and development of the faculty are covered by this partnership with MIT.

A unique feature of SUTD is the fact that the co-curriculum with MIT enables students to finish 8 terms within three and a half years, which is significantly faster than most universities and institutions in the country. Foundation programs are compulsory in which the university ensures students have a thorough base knowledge of their degrees.

Additionally, graduate programs are administered as dual programs in partnership with MIT while doctoral programs are offered as means of giving students the opportunity to begin their research careers.


4. Singapore Management University

The Singapore Management University was founded in 2000 and is the fourth autonomous university to be established in Singapore. It created a partnership with the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and its business programs are thus modeled after the Wharton School.

The university is based in the Downtown municipality of Singapore City. Currently, the SMU has a student population of over 10,000 and is academically comprised of 6 major schools.

A diversity of subjects and disciplines are offered for undergraduate and postgraduate students (both Masters and Ph.D. programs) ranging from accountancy, economics, business administration, financial services, law, and information systems management.

Students are further encouraged to have a diverse student life. International exchange programs are highly encouraged with the university’s 220 partnerships in over 40 different countries. The SMU has been consistently ranked among the top business schools in the Asian continent.


5. Singapore Institute of Technology

Founded in 2009, the Singapore Institute of Technology is the country’s fifth autonomous university to be established. Located in the neighborhood of area of Queenstown, the university aims to provide education through an applied industrial focus. Partnerships with additional universities enable the SIT to confer joint programs as well. The 6000+ students in its student population have access to over 40 different degree programs.

Academic programs at this cheap university in Singapore are grouped according to clusters including Engineering, Information Technology, Health & Social Sciences, Chemical Engineering, and Design & Specialised Business. Admission is highly competitive with over 14,000 applications for just over 2600 places.

Furthermore, granted the high research profile of the university, students have access to multiple research and work placements, particularly through initiatives such as the integrated work-study program.

6. Singapore University of Social Sciences

The 6th autonomous university to be built in Singapore is the Singapore University of Social Sciences. One of the more recent additions to the higher education system in the country, the SUSS was founded in 2017 as a university that provides applied education with a focus on the social sciences.

It was originally of the Singapore Institute of Management. Since its inception, the university has grown into a dynamic institution of over 15,000 students.

Degrees take on an applied pathway and can be completed between 4 to 6 years. Over 70 degrees are provided for the student population. The SUSS further maintains multiple partnerships with overseas universities such as Cranfield University (UK), Embry-Riddle University (USA), and Nanjing University (China).

Admission is competitive with over 5500 applications for just under 700 places. Exceptional applicants with high academic results are eligible to go through an accelerated pathway program.


7. Republic Polytechnic

Republic Polytechnic is an institution of higher education that is located in Woodlands, Singapore. Founded in 2002, this cheap university in Singapore is one of the only universities in the country that currently provides education through the problem-based learning (PBL) system. Polytechnics in Singapore admit their students after secondary school and tend to focus on providing diplomas (which can be up to 3 years long).

Academically, the institution is comprised of 7 major schools that offer around 40 diploma programs. These range across Management, Communication, Engineering, Hospitality, Sports/Healthcare, etc.


8. Nanyang Polytechnic

Nanyang Polytechnic is a polytechnic institution of higher education based in Ang Mo Kio based in northeastern Singapore. Graduates from this cheap university in Singapore are usually required to explore industry-based work experience upon graduation. Nanyang Polytechnic was founded in 1992 and currently provides education for over 15,000 students.

Seven academic schools constitute the institution; these include the Schools of Business Management, Design, Engineering, Chemical & Life Sciences, Information Technology, Interactive & Digital Media, and Health/Social Sciences. Students further have access to over 50 different co-curricular activities in addition to their studies as means of developing student life.


9. James Cook University Singapore

James Cook University is an international extension of Australia’s James Cook University. Founded in 2003, the JCU was established to expand the international excellence and world-class standards of the original JCU campus in Australia, which currently sits in the top 2% of universities in the world. JCU Singapore naturally models the curriculum of its Australian parent university.

As of 2019, the university has a student enrolment of over 4200. Currently, the university offers degrees across multiple pathways ranging from Business, Education, Environmental Sciences, Aquaculture, Information Technology, and Tourism & Hospitality.

The benefit for Singapore is in the fact that enrolments increase as most national students as well as students in neighboring countries choose to study at the Singapore branch instead of migrating to Australia for their further education.

The only disadvantage to students is the lack of accommodation offered within the university’s campus. However, the university offers thorough assistance to ensure all students have proper accommodation during the course of their studies.


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