Monday, May 26, 2008

On (potential) bondbreaker from China

An email to the graduate student body was sent out last week, giving us the names of the incoming class of 2008 and the previous institutions they attended (similar to this). There is this person from one of the Singapore universities. She is obviously PRC (I don't think Singaporean Chinese have names spelled like hers, but I could be wrong), and a google-search of her name + university showed that she had topped her undergraduate class recently.

I wonder if she is one of those foreign MOE scholars who broke/is breaking bonds to come to the US for graduate study. I intend to find out when she arrives on campus in the fall.

Now you know why there is so much ill-will and resentment by the Singaporean students towards foreign undergrads in NUS/NTU/SMU when it comes to this topic of foreign MOE scholars (leeching off the goodwill and generosity of the Singaporean tax-paying public).


Fox said...

After I had noticed that the applicant was a MOE-PRC scholar who had a bond to serve out, I felt so indignant that I wanted to shoot an email to the NUS ECE department head asking him if he knew that his professors were writing recommendation letters for people who are not suppose to undertake any postgraduate studies outside of Singapore during their 6-year bond.

After a while, I realized that it may not have been entirely legit for me to have seen the applicant's resume and transcript. Damn it!

takchek said...

It's not NUS you should be writing to, but MOE. It's not the professors' job to administer the policies of the ministry.

Do these people have local bond guarantors? Will the guarantors get screwed when these *scholars* abscond?

testtube said...

To be fair, they aren't really leeching off the 'generosity and goodwill' of Singapore taxpayers. I think most Singaporean taxpayers would really prefer not to pay for these people. They're leeching off the delusions of MOE. The Singapore government as a whole, of course, is a leech on taxpayers. But not, I think, one that is viewed with much goodwill.

Fox said...

That is a very good suggestion. I'll write to the MOE although I'm not too hopeful that MOE will do anything about it.

Rumour has it that MOE either no longer require sureties for those MOE-PRC scholarships or no longer enforce them actively simply because too many of the 'scholars' in the past simply left the country immediately after their graduation, leaving their sureties in the lurch. I think that more locals are afraid and unwilling to sign on as sureties for these 'scholars'.

aglassofwine said...

that is not fair. how about singaporean scholars who break their bond too? aren't they also wasting tax payers' money?

takchek said...

Singaporean bond-breaking scholars most likely will refund the cost of their education to the Sg government, with interest.

These jokers on the other hand...just run scot-free.

It is harder for the former to do the same as many would have family roots in Sg. The govt would know who to go after if they abscond. But the PRCs? I don't think Sg has any jurisdiction in China.

aglassofwine said...

wait, do you know that for a fact though? do foreign scholars really not have to pay interest if they break their bonds?

takchek said...

I am sure they have to pay a penalty like the locals. But whether the state can make them pay up is another matter (eg they have no assets/family members in Sg, all in China).

Perhaps Fox can refer you to some real life examples he knows personally? I only know a few 'friends of friends' who did that.

Well, if this girl proves to be such a case, I can update you when she enrolls in the fall.

aglassofwine said...

haha, if you could update me on the situation. i am witholding passing judgment condemning the foreign scholars - from what you're saying, it sounds like the only difference between the singaporean scholars and the foreign scholars who break their bonds is that it's easier to make the singaporean scholars accountable... which doesn't make the singaporean scholars any more moral. don't damn someone just because he can get away scot free, and forgive another just because he can fork over the money. the government never intended to give out scholarships to receive interest payments from bond breakers.

aglassofwine said...

here's another story for you: one singaporean guy from my college applied for a job after graduation at a bulge bracket i-bank. the catch - he was a bonded scholar. he did well in the i-bank interviews, and received an offer. unfortunately for him, the dept he was to join included a recent alumni who knew that he had a bond to serve, and told on him. the i-bank subsequently rescinded their offer and the bitter scholar had little choice but to return to serve out his bond (or at least a portion of it before he finds another way to break it).

takchek said...

I am not referring to the morality of the scholarships. I am talking about how these foreigners are leeching off the taxpayers by running off the moment they complete their undergraduate studies. At least in the case of the locals, they paid back the monies given out by the state.

Frankly speaking, if these people pay back and then leave, I won't get so riled up. I am of the view that such scholarships are just monetary contracts. I will also feel the same way if locals just abscond without paying up. You are talking about one to two hundred thousand (S$) dollars per scholar (tuition + fees + living expenses). It's not an insignificant sum.

The discussion about the morality of scholarships is a separate issue (to me).

aglassofwine said...

ok, leaving off the issue of morality to another time, again, show me the proof that the foreign scholars can run away without having to pay any penalties.

takchek said...

Well, potential scholars better know what they are getting into when they sign on that dotted line. If you are not sure that you want to work for that company after graduation, don't take that scholarship.

I have no sympathies for that bonded scholar, although I think that the i-bank should have explored alternative options such as buying out his bond or allow him to break his bond if they wanted him that badly.

You make your bed, you lie on it.

Anyway, we digressed. Your friend's case and the China scholars' case are different. The latter simply run after getting the educational benefits, while the former wasn't given a chance by the bank to explore alternatives.

aglassofwine said...

yes, it was somewhat tangential, though both cases weren't all that different in that both the chinese scholar and the singaporean scholar wanted to run away after having received the benefits (no proof yet as to whether the chinese scholar had to repay the fees plus interest).

the i-bank did not want to get entangled up with the singapore govt on the bond breaking issue, which was why it declined to explore alternatives; the guy's family was going to fork over the money themselves to break the bond anyway.

Fox said...


It is well-known in the local universities that many of the PRC scholars simply leave Singapore immediately upon graduation. I personally know at least one who didn't last the 6 years in Singapore and packed his bag after completing his masters. The financial penalty for breaking the bond is about 125 to 150K.

It is hard to believe that any PRC national would have that kind of money. If they had that kind of money, they wouldn't have taken up the MOE scholarship to study in Singapore in the first place.

They couldn't even afford the subsidized fees in the first place. That's why the MOE scholarships were used to attract them to Singapore!

BTW, this is not an isolated case. There are many such PRC scholars who scoot immediately after graduation. It is sheer coincidence that I was asked to review the grad school application materials of one such scholarship holder who was still in his 4th year of undergrad.

wait, do you know that for a fact though? do foreign scholars really not have to pay interest if they break their bonds?

No. Those MOE-PRC scholarship holders don't pay ANYTHING back at all when they leave. What can MOE do? Send the court baliffs after them in Mother China? They are safe so long as they don't return to Singapore.

Fox said...


"ok, leaving off the issue of morality to another time, again, show me the proof that the foreign scholars can run away without having to pay any penalties."

What kind of proof do you want? I'm not being rhetorical here.

Are you looking for:
1. a sworned affadavit from one of the PRC scholars or
2. a court order from MOE to seize the assets of one of these PRC scholars?

aglassofwine said...

fox, i am simply wondering if MOE really does not write any bond-breaking clauses into their contracts with the foreign students. do you actually know that for a fact or are you basing it on conjecture that prc students cannot afford the $150K?

in any case, while the $150K is not a paltry sum by any means, it costs easily 6x as much to study in the UK or the US. chances are, the PRC students' families can fork over the $150K should their kid break bond, but they might not be able to afford the steeper premium of UK/US universities.

my take with this post is the negative light cast on the foreign student, which is unfair from my point of view because our own local scholars are just as likely to pack up and leave for greener pastures if they are afforded the opportunity.

Fox said...


MOE-PRC scholars actually sign two contracts - one for the tuition grant and another for the scholarship itself. The tuition grant agreement provides for subsidized fees and comes with a 3-year bond while the scholarship pays for the remaining fees as well as living expenses. The scholarship contract also comes with a 3-year bond. The bonds are to run consecutively, not concurrently,

While I have personally never seen the scholarship contract itself, the tuition grant agreement is available at
It is clearly stated that an early termination of the bond results in having to pay liquidated damages.

I am thoroughly familiar with how tuition grant agreement works because I had an ex-Malaysian buddy who wanted to leave for postgraduate studies in the US immediately after his undergrad. I remember emailing and calling MOE on his behalf. I offered to be his surety but I couldn't provide a Bankers Guarantee (BG) as I was fresh graduate without a job. In the end, fortunately, he took up SG citizenship to release himself from the terms of the bond. For him, he had been a PR for 10 years, so it took him only 3 months to get his citizenship after submitting his application. For the PRC nationals, there is absolutely no way they can obtain citizenship immediately after graduation.

While $150K does not suffice for a 4-year course in the US/UK (actually it does since many poly grads go to the UK without having to break the bank), it is certainly enough to go to Australia. For instance, the 2008 fee schedule for one of Australia's top universities ANU is available here: I find it very hard to believe that given the financial resources, a PRC student would rather go to NUS than ANU.

"my take with this post is the negative light cast on the foreign student, which is unfair from my point of view because our own local scholars are just as likely to pack up and leave for greener pastures if they are afforded the opportunity."

My point of view is similar to that of Takchek. This is a clear misuse of public monies, tax monies that could have gone into defence, social welfare, education, public healthcare, etc. In contrast, when local scholars break their bonds, they do no such damage to public finances.

Also, it is grossly unfair to other international students who sign and abide by the tuition grant agreement.

SM said...

Fox, Takchek:



Let me try to do a Mr Wang.

You have a young student from another country coming to your homeland to study. Part of your hard-earned taxpayer money goes towards funding this student, and the student signs a contract stipulating some manner of monetary penalties if he leaves the sponsoring country immediately after graduation, without finding employment in the sponsoring country. After the student finishes his studies and graduates, he leaves.

What Fox appears to be peeved at primarily is that the student goes about merrily applying for opportunities in a third foreign country without any sign of intending to remain in the sponsoring country to fulfil a single day of his duty of employment.

And what Takchek appears to be peeved at more than the blatant non-intention to stay is that when this student leaves, it is difficult if not impossible to recover the monetary penalties he is supposed to pay in lieu of finding employment in the sponsoring country, your country.

Because you cannot go and threaten that student's home country to try to recover the financial loss your country has suffered. It is not politically expedient to do so.

Fox said...


No. I am like Takchek - I am more pissed about the monetary loss than about the fact that he's not going to serve out the bond.

SM said...


Heheh. Yes, I was writing out an apology for not redirecting aglassofwine's attention to your 9:57 PM, May 28, 2008 comment when your reply came up.

ILMA said...

I had repeatedly written to the press and MOE about this issue but nobody bothered to do anything about it.

One favourite tactic of these unscrupulous students is to set up shell companies in Singapore, and have themselves hired by these companies, thereby "fulfilling" the bond obligations. They would then go to the US for their education, or go back to China to work, their resumes bolstered by the 6 years of English education...

This is really a ridiculous thing. But what is really sad, is that nobody cares. At least nobody wants to do anything about it. The people responsible for this, do not want to do something about it.

Lakers said...

Re: aglassofwine's comment "...because our own local scholars are just as likely to pack up and leave for greener pastures if they are afforded the opportunity."
Your statement is flawed, because local scholars have family, friends and roots in Singapore and are less likely to leave. A lot of local students who did well in A-levels (4 A grades) couldn't get scholarships. I'm sure if the government handed them some form of financial reward for their scholastic achievements, many of them will stay on in Singapore gratefully to help the country do better. Unfortunately, they are treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

prodigy said...

yeah, i know of pple who got straight As for A levels but no significant CCA achievements, hence they couldnt get any schlarship.

However our govt is happy to hand out MOE scholarships to hundreds of indians, chinese nationals who also have gd grades Only and no CCAs to show. these pple get abt 6000 per year of allowance if i m not wrong.

isnt it ironic?

Qwerty said...

This is just typical.

PRC students in Britain will max out all their credit cards just before they leave the country and abscond with the loot.

I overheard a group of PRC students discussing this as if it's the most natural thing to do and that one would be stupid if he didn't exploit this loophole.

-ben said...

qwerty wrote:

PRC students in Britain will max out all their credit cards just before they leave the country and abscond with the loot.

They do that across the pond too? Woah! And I thought it was only restricted to the "former colonies"!