Singapore is a first world country with a diverse economy and strong manufacturing base. This island nation of 4.68 million people offers fertile ground to recruit both local and third country students in various degree programs. Representatives of American universities and colleges would do well to include Singapore as a key target for international student recruitment.
Traditionally, Asian parents including Singaporeans place a premium on their children obtaining a good education and therefore, many of them strive to send their children to top universities and colleges. As such, branding and ranking of educational institutions are very important. In order to achieve good grades to enroll in top universities and colleges, the Singapore Government has established an education system that is well known for its excellence. This has lead to qualified professionals and skilled workers (both local and foreign) that are contributing towards the economic growth.
Besides Singaporeans, U.S. universities and colleges should also take into consideration the large number of foreign students in Singapore. Five years ago, there were fewer than 50,000 foreigners studying full-time in Singapore and the majority (about 30,000) study at local government schools or tertiary institutions. Today, the number of foreign students in Singapore has jumped to more than 80,000 and the target in 5-7 years time is 150,000 foreign students. Chinese students - numbering an estimated 33,000 - have now overtaken the estimated 8,000 Malaysians and 8,000 Indonesians, who have been relegated to second and third place in terms of student numbers here.
Together, Indians and Vietnamese rank a distant fourth, with easily 4,000 students each here. Next are students from Myanmar (Burma), numbering about 1,800 followed by nearly 1500 South Koreans. Other smaller groups include students from the Maldives, Madagascar, Nigeria, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan all of whom contribute towards Singapore being a global schoolhouse. With a varied spectrum of nationalities, Singapore affords U.S. universities the convenience of targeting and promoting their curriculum to an array of students in one international location.
Traditional disciplines such as Business Administration, Engineering Sciences and Mass Communication will continue to be popular choices amongst Singaporean students. This is partly due to Singapore’s role as the gateway to the region with close to 7000 multi-national companies (MNCs) based in the country and a manufacturing sector that contributes at least 25% towards the economic growth every year.
Information Technology is a very important component in the classroom and many companies that supply multimedia educational software are experiencing more business as private schools expand their operations and diverse courses. These multimedia content companies also provide a wide range of services such as training of educators, courseware development and production of textbooks locally as well as regionally. This can be accomplished through a joint venture or franchising in Singapore.
The following degree courses are becoming increasingly important and are expected to see an increased demand from Singapore and foreign students. These disciplines will be key to the development of the local economy in the future.
Life Sciences / Healthcare
Life Sciences – including biotech - are now a key growth engine for the Singapore economy. Many of the big pharmaceutical companies such as Schering Plough, Pfizer and Glaxo all have facilities located in Singapore. There are also many eminent scientists from around the world that have been persuaded to come to Singapore to do their research at the Biopolis which is a US$300 million science center that was built by the Singapore Government specifically for the Life Sciences. It is expected that the current output of around US$7 billion will easily double over the next 5-7 years. This would translate to a demand for about 15,000 jobs where certain skills would be required.
Wealth Management / Financial Planning
With more than 600 financial institutions in Singapore, the financial services industry is an important component of Singapore’s economy making the country one of the top ten most sophisticated financial markets in the world according to the World Economic Forum. Singapore is looking to position itself as a stable and secure country to cater to wealthy individuals with money to invest. In addition, Singapore is now the sixth largest offshore private banking center in the world after Switzerland, the Caribbean, Luxembourg, the United States and the Channel Islands. Many of the financial transactions in Asia are conducted in Singapore because of the legal and stable financial controls that are here. The Wealth Management Institute together with the Swiss Finance Institute and a local university was set up five years ago for students who want a career in private banking. More than 1000 jobs in this sector will be created over the next few years.
Hospitality & Tourism
In recent years, the Singapore Government has relaxed a number of rules to make the country more attractive to tourists in the face of aggressive competition from other countries in the region. One recent and very significant development was the Government of Singapore’s decision to legalize gambling in Singapore, which has paved the way for the construction of two Integrated Resorts with Casinos worth a combined total of US$5 billion and this is expected to commence operation within the next two years.
Two companies have been awarded the licenses to build the Integrated Resorts with one in Marina Bay and the other on Sentosa Island. Approximately 35,000 new jobs are expected to be created as a result of the two new resorts. Despite only 250 square miles in size with no natural resources, there are around ten million tourists, mainly from Asia and Australia visiting Singapore annually but the target is double that figure in less than ten years time.
Supply Chain Logistics
To a large extent, Singapore’s geographical location has been an advantage in terms of trade and transshipment. The country was nothing more than a fishing village more than 150 years ago but today, it is the premier air, sea and land hub in the region. This has resulted in the airport and seaport being considered among the best in the world for many years. However, Singapore is constantly improving and in order to maintain an efficient and effective integrated system, skilled personnel with the appropriate qualifications are needed. Employment for the supply chain sector covering purchasing, operation, logistics and marketing is expected to number more than 100,000 workers in five years time.
Media & Animation
The creative industries and the arts are very important in enhancing Singapore’s overall economic competitiveness as this will also attract foreign investments. With the government’s emphasis on Intellectual Property and setting aside seed capital of more than US$100 million over the next few years to develop this industry sector, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) has already attracted Lucas Films and other prominent U.S. companies to establish operations in Singapore. There will be a need for skilled workers to staff these operations.
Sports Science & Medicine
Having a balanced life between work and play is also something that Singapore is promoting because workers that fall sick regularly are not productive. With this in mind, the government is constantly reminding its citizens to adopt a healthy life-style. Singapore will be hosting the 2010 Youth Olympics.
The old sports stadium will soon be torn down to make way for a new Sports Hub that will likely to include a Sports Institute, which will focus on Sports Science, Sports Medicine and Sports Management. U.S. universities and colleges who offer the above courses should therefore make every effort to market themselves in Singapore and the region. In addition, Executive MBA (EMBA) courses are also becoming very popular especially for working adults who either want to upgrade themselves or make a mid-career switch but it should be noted that starting salaries after graduation may not necessarily be that high. Singapore has at least five EMBA programs that rank highly in annual global rankings.
By CHAN Y K