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The Cost (& Average) of University Tuition Fees in Singapore [2021]

Education has always seen strong demand in Singapore, driven by parents wanting their children to get into top schools, whichever grade they’re in.

Getting into the best schools isn’t easy and requires good grades, so parents often enlist their children into private tuition and enrichment classes. 

As a result, the cost of education has risen significantly over the years. 

A university education, the last hurdle for most students, is the costliest of all types of education. 

Today, we take a deep look into how much a university degree in Singapore can cost and the average cost of getting one. 

Note: All prices are quoted in Singapore dollars (SGD). 

In a Nutshell

average university tuition fees singapore

The nationality of a university student will determine the subsidies (MOE Tuition Grant) they can receive. Singapore citizens receive the highest level of subsidies, followed by Singapore permanent residents, and then international students. A student who doesn’t wish to apply for or accept the MOE Tuition Grant will have to pay non-subsidised rates.

For a Singapore citizen, the total tuition fees of a four-year course at a local university cost between $22,500 to $53,200 (rough average of $37,850). In contrast, a student without subsidies will have to fork out between $96,878 to $179,080 (rough average of $137,979), which is 264.5% more than what a Singapore citizen pays. 

In addition to tuition fees, the estimated cost of living for a student is $10,300 per year; hence, the total living expenses for four years amount to $41,200

An Overview of the Cost of Education in Singapore

Let’s look at some statistics. 

Due to increased demand, the cost of education has increased by 80.7% over the past 20 years, while the headline inflation only increased by 34.1%, suggesting that schooling is becoming more expensive at a faster pace than the general cost of living.

The annual education inflation rate has always been positive since 2000, except in 2020, when the local universities decided not to raise tuition fees

education inflation rate in singapore

We’ve also computed that the average annual education inflation rate from 2000 to 2020 was 3%. (Knowing this is handy to project the future cost of university fees.)

average education inflation rate singapore

Over that same period, the average headline and core inflation rate was just 1.48% and 1.52%, respectively.

This could be why the majority (2 in 3) of respondents think that getting a degree is expensive, from a survey we conducted. However, a good number still believe it’s worth it.

71.3% of those who think degrees are expensive say they're worth it

University Fees Greatly Differ Between Singapore Citizens, PRs, and Foreigners

There are currently six autonomous universities in Singapore: 

  1. National University of Singapore (NUS)
  2. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  3. Singapore Management University (SMU)
  4. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
  5. Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
  6. Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

These autonomous universities are publicly funded but are given the flexibility to run their own operations and curriculum. Other common terms to describe these universities are “local universities” and “public universities”. Most Singaporeans would prefer to get a degree from a local university as it’s generally more “recognisable”. The two most well-known universities in Singapore are NUS and NTU.

The MOE Tuition Grant is provided by the government to subsidise tuition fees from these autonomous universities for eligible Singapore citizens, permanent residents (PRs), and international students. The grant is automatically applied for Singapore citizens, but Singapore PRs and international students must apply for it. The amount of subsidies will depend on the student’s nationality, with Singapore citizens receiving the largest subsidies, followed by Singapore PRs, and then international students. 

Having said that, accepting the tuition grant does come with conditions. While Singapore citizens don’t need to serve a bond after graduating, PRs and international students must work for a Singapore entity for three years after graduation.

Those who don’t wish to apply or accept the tuition grant have to pay the non-subsidised fees. 

As such, university tuition fees can be divided into four categories: 

  1. Costs for Singapore citizens (subsidised) 
  2. Costs for Singapore permanent residents (subsidised) 
  3. Costs for international students (subsidised) 
  4. Costs for non-subsidised students

For each of these categories, we’ll compare the fees of different courses from the six schools. We’ll then be able to derive the range of school fees and the average course fees.

Note: To be able to compare university course fees across the board and present our findings in a simple and meaningful way, we’re making a few assumptions. We’ve excluded the costlier courses such as medicine and law. Most degrees in Singapore take three to four years to complete, so in order to be prudent in our estimates, we assumed a four-year course duration when the total estimated course fees were not available. In tabulating the average course fee, we simply took the average of the lower and upper limits of the total estimated course fees. 

Cost of University Fees for Singapore Citizens (Subsidised)

Here’s a summary of the university course fees for Singapore citizens in 2021:

SchoolAnnual Course FeesTotal Estimated Course FeesAverage Course Fees
NUS$8,200 to $9,600$32,800 to $38,400$35,600
NTU$8,200 to $9,400$32,800 to $37,600$35,200
SMU$11,450$45,800$45,800
SUTD$13,300$53,200$53,200
SIT$22,500 to $36,960$29,730
SUSS$30,000 to $33,440$31,720
Overall$8,200 to $13,300$22,500 to $53,200$37,850

For Singapore citizens, total tuition fees are between $22,500 to $53,200, an average of $37,850.

Only NUS and SMU offer law degrees, and the annual course fees for both schools are $12,650. Thus, a four-year law degree costs $50,600. 

As for medicine, only NUS and NTU offer degrees in this area. NUS annual course fees are $29,300 ($146,500 for five years), while NTU costs $34,700 ($173,500 for five years). 

Dentistry is offered only by NUS, costing the same as its medicine course, but the course duration is only for four years. The total course fees amount to $117,200. 

University Tuition Fees for Singapore Citizens

Cost of University Fees for Singapore Permanent Residents (Subsidised)

Here’s a summary of the university course fees for Singapore permanent residents in 2021:

SchoolAnnual Course FeesTotal Estimated Course FeesAverage Course Fees
NUS$11,500 to $13,450$46,000 to $53,800$49,900
NTU$11,500 to $13,200$46,000 to $52,800$49,400
SMU$16,000$64,000$64,000
SUTD$18,750$75,000$75,000
SIT$47,160 to $70,800$58,980
SUSS$62,880 to $66,880$64,880
Overall$11,500 to $18,750$46,000 to $75,000$60,500

To complete a university education, a Singapore PR can expect to pay between $46,000 to $75,000, an average of $60,500, which is about 59.8% more than what a Singapore citizen pays.

A law degree costs $17,700 per year for both NUS and SMU, so a four-year course is $70,800. 

The annual tuition fees for medicine are $42,300 at NUS ($211,500 for five years) and $49,000 at NTU ($245,000 for five years). 

University Tuition Fees for Singapore Permanent Residents
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Cost of University Fees for International Students (Subsidised)

Here’s a summary of the university course fees for subsidised international students in 2021:

SchoolAnnual Course FeesTotal Estimated Course FeesAverage Course Fees
NUS$17,550 to $20,550$70,200 to $82,200$76,200
NTU$17,550 to $20,100$70,200 to $80,400$75,300
SMU$24,500$98,000$98,000
SUTD$28,700$114,800$114,800
SIT$63,558 to $96,300$79,929
SUSS$75,200 to $80,000$77,600
Overall$17,550 to $28,700$63,558 to $114,800$89,179

The total estimated cost for a subsidised international student is between $63,558 to $114,800, an average of $89,179. This is 135.6% more than what a Singapore citizen has to pay. 

A law degree costs $27,050 per year, with a total of $108,200 for four years. 

A degree in medicine at NUS costs $64,650 per year – $323,250 for the full five years. And at NTU, the cost is $74,900 per year – $374,500 in total. 

University Tuition Fees for International Students (Subsidised)

Cost of University Fees for Non-Subsidised Students

Here’s a summary of the university course fees for non-subsidised students in 2021:

SchoolAnnual Course FeesTotal Estimated Course FeesAverage Course Fees
NUS$29,850 to $38,200$119,400 to $152,800$136,100
NTU$32,950 to $36,830$131,800 to $147,320$139,569
SMU$44,770$179,080$179,080
SUTDTBA
SIT$96,878 to $145,606$121,242
SUSS$125,760 to $133,760$129,760
Overall$29,850 to $44,770$96,878 to $179,080$137,979

Non-subsidised students pay the highest course fees. They can expect to pay $96,878 to $179,080, an average of $137,979, which is 264.5% more than what a Singapore citizen pays. 

A four-year law degree costs $153,200 at NUS and $189,280 at SMU, while a five-year medicine degree costs $809,000 at NUS. 

University Tuition Fees for Non-Subsidised Students

School Fees of Private Institutions in Singapore 

In general, most students would prefer to enrol into globally-ranked universities such as NUS and NTU.

However to meet the changing needs of consumers, private institutions such as PSB Academy, Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), and James Cook University are offering attractive study options too. 

Top ranking overseas universities often partner with local private institutions to offer their bachelor’s and master’s degrees programmes.

As such, their prices may vary greatly. At times, they are as competitively priced as public universities even for those who do not qualify for the MOE Tuition Grant.

Course fees at private institutions can vary from below S$20,000 to S$50,000 for bachelor’s degrees programmes. Studying abroad will be an even more expensive option.

Other Costs on Top of Tuition Fees

Tuition fees are not the only costs you should be concerned about. 

Other costs can be broken down into costs related to studying and the cost of living. 

University-related costs:

  • Application fees
  • Miscellaneous fees
  • Textbooks, laptop/tablet, study materials, etc
  • Overseas exchange programmes 

As for a student’s cost of living, here are some estimates: 

ItemsCost 
Hostel accommodation (single/double occupancy)$2,900 to $4,200
Food$3,000
Personal expenses$2,500
Transport$850
Study materials$400
Total estimated costs excluding accommodation (annual)$6,750
Total estimated costs including accommodation (annual)$10,300

The estimated annual cost of living for a student is $10,300, which is $41,200 for four years. 

How to Save for Your Children’s University Education? 

In summary, Singaporean students enjoy the greatest amount of subsidies and the average course fees are $37,850. If you want your child to study law or medicine, it’s going to cost a lot more. Moreover, you’d still have to factor in living expenses, which can amount to $41,200 for four years. 

The total cost of a university education then becomes about $80,000 in today’s value. 

The first step to save for your children’s education is to decide where you want to send them. Next, after finding how much it’ll cost, you’ll have to forecast future costs by factoring in inflation. You can simply use our education fund calculator.

From that calculation, you’ll be able to determine how much you should have when your child is ready to enter university. 

Also, do check out various ways to help you fund your children’s education (e.g., a child education savings plan).

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Abram Lim

With over 7 years of experience in the financial advisory industry, and previous stints in Citibank and UOB, Abram eagerly shares his knowledge by publishing research-backed articles. Learn more about Abram