Singapore drops to 14th in global ranking of top cities for students
Thursday, 16 February 2017
SINGAPORE — The Republic has dropped eight places to 14th in the latest international index that ranks the best cities in the world for students, with Singapore’s high cost of living cited as a major deterrent.
In Asia, Singapore was ranked behind fourth-position Seoul as well as Tokyo and Hong Kong, which were ranked seventh and 11th respectively, according to the 2017 Best Student Cities index published by global higher education analyst Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
While Singapore has earned a reputation for educational excellence, QS said that the country’s downside is its high standard of living, adding that “tuition fees, particularly for international students, have gone up in recent years”. It cited a cost of living survey by global consultancy firm Mercer last year which showed that Singapore was the fourth most expensive city in the world for expatriates for the fourth year running.
First published in 2012, the QS index assessed cities based on five indicators — affordability, the city’s university ranking, desirability, student mix and employer activity. And for the first time, this year’s index has been extended to feature 100 cities, up from 75 previously, and also added a new category which takes into account students’ views of their cities in eight areas including diversity and friendliness.
Under the affordability category — based on tuition fees and cost of living — Singapore took the 72nd spot, much lower than the 32nd position it was in last year. The category was topped by Kuala Lumpur followed by Riyadh and Warsaw.
When it comes to desirability, which takes into account quality of living environment, safety and level of corruption, Singapore slipped by four spots to place 15th this year.
Meanwhile, under the university ranking category which reflects the collective performance of the city’s universities — Singapore slipped by four places to the 17th spot.
Under the new category of student view — which takes into account students’ ratings of their city in eight areas — Singapore was ranked 31st, with Ottawa topping the list.
Although Singapore’s ranking showed that it is still a desirable destination for international students, SIM University’s Dr Timothy Chan agreed that the country’s high cost of living could deter some from pursuing an education here.
“As our cost of living continues to go up, yes, some students may not be able to afford it and they will look for alternative options.”
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Jason Tan from the National Institute of Education, cast doubt on the survey’s findings, noting that the students’ responses were “probably largely impressionistic or anecdotal, rather than based on adequate and balanced knowledge of the various cities and the key attributes being surveyed”.
In the past two years, Singapore’s private education sector has been hit by a string of closures, with big-name institutions, such as New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia, shutting their doors due to financial woes.
While international students and their parents may be more cautious in selecting schools here, Singapore’s education system continues to be “highly regarded” within the region, said Dr Chan. However, he added: “We know that students, parents have a choice ... So, Singapore will need to continue to compete not just among ourselves but with the rest of the world.”
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