The free Tuition Grant Scheme (TGS) was introduced by the Government to help students with the costs of tertiary education in Singapore, said the government on Ministry of Education website.
Singaporean students will automatically get the free TGS without the need for any application or obligation. In essence, it’s a government subsidy for Singaporean students studying at any of the local universities or polytechnics.
Hence, for example, a Singaporean student pays only a tuition fee of $8,200 per year for the Engineering course at National University of Singapore (NUS) . Without TGS, the full fee would have been $38,200.
While most universities in other first world countries generally do not subsidise the tuition fees for foreign students, the Singapore government generously does so helping foreign students to study here. That is to say, these foreign students can apply for tuition fee subsidies under TGS and most would happily apply.
So, in the case of NUS Engineering course, a foreign student will pay $17,550, enjoying a subsidy of $20,650 per year.
And in return for obtaining the tuition fee subsidies, the foreign students are allowed to work in Singapore in any companies for at least 3 years upon graduation. This is so that they can help “repay” back to the Singapore government through working in Singapore. No repayments are necessary.
NUS clarified on its website, “International students who receive a Tuition Grant are required to work for a Singapore entity for three years upon graduation.”
Certainly in other first world countries, it’s not that easy for foreign graduates to get a job there upon their graduation.
Hard for foreign graduates trying to meet S’pore bond obligation
On Sunday (20 Sep), Straits Times (ST) published an article highlighting that it’s getting more difficult for foreign graduates to get jobs in Singapore especially after the government raising that the minimum salaries for hiring foreigners on work passes (‘Jobs hard to find for foreign graduates trying to meet S’pore bond obligation‘).
The baseline salary for newly hired Employment Pass (EP) holders was raised from Sep 1 from $3,900 to $4,500, while that of new S Pass holders will be increased from $2,400 to $2,500 from Oct 1. ST reported that this has “caused sleepless nights for some foreign graduates of Singapore universities”.
Staying in Singapore while unemployed creates financial pressure for these foreign graduates, ST said. It added that 6 of the 10 foreign graduates interviewed have not been able to get a job in the past four months.
An environmental studies graduate from India said she only had 2 interviews after sending out more than 60 job applications. She lamented that a marketing company had actually wanted to hire her but it could not afford to pay her the current EP minimum qualifying salary of $4,500.
“I told the company I might be able to get an EP on a lower salary, because exceptions have been made for TGS students before,” she said but the company did not get back to her. She thinks she is being rejected “off the bat” for being a foreigner.
“Going back to my home country will make job hunting (here) even more difficult, as employers (here) traditionally resist hiring employees not based in Singapore,” she added.
NUS science graduate from Australia, Ms Xi, said she has submitted up to 100 applications. She received only 1 offer, but the company retracted the offer two weeks later because of a new “no more EPs” blanket rule imposed by the company.
She pointed out that the implementation of the SGUnited Traineeships Programme open only to locals, has also made it more difficult for her to find employment. “Many entry-level jobs I was interested in have been replaced by traineeships. Moreover, the Government funds 80 per cent of a local trainee’s monthly allowance, which gives employers no reason to hire a foreigner,” she added.
Eventually she did get an internship opportunity with a thinktank but complained that her internship allowance “barely covers the rent”. She is digging into her savings and tries to limit her monthly expenditure to $400 by eating out less, she said. She hopes her internship will pave the way for getting a full time job at the thinktank later.
For foreign graduates who have found a job, they said it wasn’t easy either. A Vietnamese architecture graduate said it took her four months to find a job and another three months to get her EP approved, after the application was initially turned down.
“MOM did not say why my application was rejected, but my company submitted an appeal for me. I was praying very hard that they would not just give up and hire a Singaporean instead,” she said.
Meanwhile, some also worried that they might be forced to pay up if they can’t get a job here so as to fulfill their “3 year bond” requirement.
A NUS political science graduate from Malaysia, Germaine Lim, has already sent out 40 job applications with no news.
“The TGS covered about $92,000 in school fees for my four years in NUS. If I add in interest, it means I owe them more than $100,000 if I violate the terms of the bond,” she said.
“Some Singaporeans may think that foreigners have it easy, but people like me are actually struggling a lot. Raising the EP threshold to $4,500 is supposed to target the older, more experienced EP holders, but fresh graduates like myself still get hurt by it.”