Education Minister says half of faculty at local universities are Singaporeans – but QS data contradicts that

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has been ranked among the top 20 universities worldwide according to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings for 2019 released earlier this month. NUS and NTU tied at 11th.

While NTU recorded higher scores than NUS in terms of research citations per faculty and faculty-to-student ratio, both of which measure the impact of institutional research, NUS fared better in terms of employer and academic reputation.

More international staff than locals

Now, according to the QS website, both NTU and NUS have more than double the number of international staff compare locals. In fact, 64.5% of NUS faculty is international while in NTU it’s 68.8%.

Ratio of staff at NTU and NUS (Image from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS))

This contradicts the statement of Education Minister Ong Ye Kung in parliament on 14 January this year, that Singaporeans account for half of the faculty at six local universities.

Responding to questions from Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), Nominated MP Walter Theseira and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) who asked about the foreign-local divide in the universities, Mr Ong said that his ministry started the Singapore Teaching and Academic Research Talent (Start) Scheme to develop Singaporean academics.

Detailing the number of scholarships that have thus far been awarded by Start, Mr Ong says 16 out of 91 have completed their studies. Of those, 13 are faculty members at local universities while the rest will join them later this year.

Mr Ong went on to say that MOE together with local universities will continue their efforts to build a strong Singaporean academic core, particularly in the field arts and social sciences.

The thing is, why did Mr Ong says that Singaporeans account for half of the faculty at local universities when NTU and NUS clearly have more international staff members than Singaporeans according to QS?

Could it be that NTU and NUS are the only two universities that have more international staff compared to domestic staff and that those figures disproportionately affect the overall average that Mr Ong is referring to?

But that is highly unlikely because the QS website indicates that even Singapore Management University (#477) has more international staff, 352 compared to 243 domestic.

SMU faculty ratio (image from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS))

This begs the question as to why the ratio of local to foreign staff for NTU and NUS are so high compared to what Mr Ong said in parliament earlier this year.

The government can’t possibly say that the figures by QS are wrong while still accepting the prestige of the organisation’s global rankings. After all, the rankings are based on data that QS obtained about the universities themselves.

What metric is the Ministry of Education using to determine the ratio of international to foreign staff members at Singapore’s local universities?

To find out more ways to support us, visit this link: Donate