Ever wonder why a whole bunch of elite Singaporean students would rather get a degree from Universities in the States and UK? Even though NUS and NTU are so highly ranked (in terms of QS ranking)? Aren’t NUS and NTU students the best in Singapore?
Well, Daryl Tng, a student from NTU, has recently shared about the “open secret” on Quora. And it makes total sense.
Here it goes.
Daryl begins by describing that this reason is what some alumni have already mentioned.
I’ll let you in on an open secret.
I think some alumni of Singapore’s “highly regarded local universities” have mentioned this already somewhat, but I’ll just repeat it using layman’s terms.
By “highly ranked”, I think you are referring to the the annual world university rankings published by a handful of educational consultancy firms.
He then described that QS rankings are heavily influenced the number and quality of research citations published by the faculty. And of course, these papers are not released by freshies who are still having fun at orientation camps.
Now, being in my freshman year in NTU, I’m not very familiar with the criteria in which Universities are ranked, but I’ll share my observation.
There is a stark difference between the undergraduate, and and post-graduates.
If I recall correctly, the QS World University rankings are heavily influenced by the number and quality of research citations published by the faculty.
To that end, NUS/NTU excel.
And continues to list down some project initiatives that cost millions. Now we know where all that funding is going to… Definitely not used to keep monitor lizards, wild boars and snakes away!
There is no shortage of funds and collaborative projects directed to both universities by both the Singapore government, as well as private corporations.
Moreover, there are generous benefits given to foreign professors to encourage them to take up faculty positions in these universities.
Unsurprisingly, these 2 universities fare rather well if they are being judged via this somewhat narrow criteria.
Oooouch! The harsh truth.
In the realm of undergraduate education, our 2 local universities cannot escape from their raison d’être, which is to input a large portion of our high school leavers (Polytechnic, Junior College), and in turn output workers for the local economy.
It is a small, and extremely tight labour market.
For that reason alone, it cannot afford to be as selective in admission criteria compared to numerous other institutions that are ostensibly inferior.
Such as Yale, Seoul National, and Tsinghua, just to name a few.
Admission to these univerisities is far more selective than NUS/NTU, I guarantee it.
They can afford to be selective, as USA, Korea, China has numerous other less prestigious universities to fulfil that more mundane role of being economic drivers.
Singapore, does not.
Due to that same reason as well, you will find no shortage of students with lackadaisical attitudes, who have no idea why they are pursuing a degree, who skip lectures so they can sleep in, so on and so forth.
They got in by virtue of their Singapore passport, by being subject to far less stringent entry requirements than foreign students.
In fact, many foreign students from China, India and ASEAN, after coming to NUS/NTU, realise that they have been sold a lie.
The local student body here, as a whole, is nowhere near as driven and resourceful as they have been led to believe.
Genius students do exist, but I would say they number in the minority.
For Singapore’s best and brightest young students, they would not be challenged and stretched to their fullest potential if they were to pursue a degree locally.
In that pursuit, the Ivy Leagues and Oxbridge still provide a far greater plethora of opportunities for them.
The post has since gotten over 66.2k views in just two weeks, with over 500 upvotes. Some NUS and NTU graduates/alumni also commented to illustrate more on the point of Lackadaisical.
To be fair, I would say that courses in NUS/NTU were often quite badly taught during my time. This is likely to have a significant effect on the motivation of the students.
I say this as an NUS graduate who has spent some time in universities in the US and UK.