Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why few local PhD students in S'pore universities

Local undergrads reluctant to pursue PhDs, universities to act
Thursday March 9

SINGAPORE : Many local undergraduates say they are still reluctant to pursue higher degrees despite a recent $500 million grant given by the government to boost academic research.

The number of Singaporeans who are enrolled in PhD programmes at local universities may have almost doubled from 400 to over 700 in the last four years.

But foreigners still form the majority of post graduate students here, with three in four university research scholarship holders being foreigners.

"There is a general perception here that there is less recognition for local researcher even if you graduate from the university. So most of the principal investigators positions at research institutes here are held by foreign researchers and not local researchers," said Tam Wai Leong, a Singaporean post-graduate student.

"A lot of jobs don't actually require PHDs and a lot of them want to start earning money and settle down. We get paid but not as much as if you are working in industries outside," said another Singaporean post-graduate student Cecilia Lee.

"Perhaps they find it less prestigious to do it in a local university compared to other universities," said Singaporean undergraduate Huang Shufen.

To make a career in R&D more attractive for Singaporean students, universities here say they are looking into increasing the stipend and grants for PhD students.

At the same time they are also exposing undergraduate to the excitement of research through compulsory final year projects in many faculties.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) says all its faculties give priority to qualified Singaporeans when it comes to PhD applications.

"We also work with A*Star. They have a pre-graduate award that identifies very good students in their third year and we fund their honours year. (To qualify), you must be a Singaporean or be willing to become a Singaporean," said Barry Halliwell, executive director of Graduate School at NUS.

But while universities are working to attract more Singaporean post-graduate students, they say an ideal local to foreign student ratio will be 50:50, similar to other internationally acclaimed research labs worldwide.

- CNA /ls

Have they done a study of the number heading overseas for their graduate degrees? I mean, if you are a qualified Singaporean (I take it to mean he/she has at least a 2:1), you have quite a number of choices if you are thinking of further education. You don't need to restrict yourself to NUS/NTU. Unlike undergraduate studies, Grad School (in the US, esp for the Sciences and Engineering) will pay you to attend. Most admission offers come with tuition waiver plus health insurance plus a monthly stipend that should allow you to live decently.

Wouldn't you want to experience something different after 4 years? Plus at the end of the day, you have the option to head back to work in Singapore with your foreign PhD (since Singapore likes talents with foreign degrees so much). If you have a local PhD, the converse (to work overseas) is more difficult. And your employability in the local job market is quite limited.

Edit (24 Mar): Facetious Cap'n Intrepid's account.

1 comment:

serendipity said...


*slaps five*

ok a lil lame around here but that's exactly what i' gonna do. but not for grad school but to pursue my undergrad.

wish me luck!