Monday, April 24, 2006

Where Are The Local University Places Going To?

Tough decision yeah? Talent or local? The recent debate on having a 20 percent quota rule on foreigners for our local universities are leaving some people with a sour taste in their mouths. Already there are a significant lack of places in the local varsities for local applicants, yet the universities remain adamant on keeping at least 20 percent of the places for foreigners. Indeed is it really fair for us? Can't there be a flexible band where foreigners are considered second priority when there are so many local potential undergraduates?

The need for local universities to open up to a diverse of talents worldwide is essential for the well being of the universities. With many foreign students, the universities inevitably create an environment where more ideas and creative thinking would be bounced around. The foreigners would be also able to bring their various cultures into the social environment of the university, allowing local students to appreciate these diverse cultures more and to understand how other races live. And that is crucial for a small country like Singapore that relies on the need for multiculturalism.

Yet, by having this quota, it would mean that many deserving local students get squeezed out of contention for a place as the number of places in the universities are limited. This creates an outflow of potential talent as students who don't get a place move on overseas to countries like Britain and the US to further their studies. By losing these people, Singapore are losing locals that would eventually contribute to the economy of Singapore. Moreover, potential graduates. Could this create a brain drain?

With the upward mobility of social status in Singapore, inevitably, students get more educated and the need to further their studies are now deemed as a neccessity and not a luxury. Besides with the common mindset among Singaporeans that without a degree, there would be not future, it spurs more students to further improve themselves and to get the basic- a degree. Would it be fair if the local universities fail to provide Singaporeans with a chance to acquire this 'neccesity'? To force them out and take foreigners who may or may not stay in Singapore after the graduate?

These are questions that need to be asked as the local universities balance this delicate act of providing a world class education for both locals and foreigners. In order to be world class, the universities understandably need to recruit the very best of minds from all around the world to contribute to their status. Yet, local students need an education too and it would be unfair to make them pay a premium for an overseas degree.

Already there is a leeway for foreigners in Singapore pursing a degree as they hardly pay more than a local undergraduate for tuition fees. Unlike, universities in the UK, US and Australia, foreigners are made to pay the full fees just to study. Here, the Singapore government subsidies for the foreigners as well. This may be a contentious issue by itself as locals seek to question why we are not adopting the same policy as the other countries. Do foreigners really deserve a low tuition fee as well? Would not this enticement spark further interest for foreigners to flock at our universities and thus create a shortage of places for our local students?

We need foreign students to enhance our reputation of our local universities. But to deny local students a chance, especially when there is such a huge demand, is to be a tad too socially irresponsible. After all, the locals are citizens of this country and they would eventually come out and contribute to the progress of Singapore while there is still a huge question mark over the commitment of foreigners to stay and work here. So is implementing this quota really justified or do locals have every right to feel aggrieved?

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