4 Reasons Why the Degree is the New Diploma

By Peter Lin

I’m happy to see that in meritocratic Singapore, we’re finally changing attitudes that ITE stands for “It’s The End” and that you only go to polytechnic if you can’t make it into university. A polytechnic diploma should be seen as being the equiva… what? Only 60% of poly graduates are in full-time employment? The rest are in the midst of further studies? To get their degrees?

Okay. *AHEM* You know, that’s really not a bad thing. Here are 4 reasons why the degree is the new diploma.

1. There is a broader range of degrees available.

In the past, getting a degree meant doing law, medicine, engineering, business administration or settling into a life of research and academia. You know, a job that would allow you to command high salaries because of how prestigious it seemed.

That’s no longer the case now – with five public universities and even more private institutions, you can now get a degree in just about anything, from Digital Filmmaking to Public Policy, from Game Design to Criminology. Just about any field you may be interested in has a corresponding degree programme, so you don’t need to drag yourself through a degree programme you don’t like.

2. More private universities are offering good degree programmes

Gone are the days when it seemed like a degree that didn’t come from an Ivy League college, or even NUS or NTU, would be seen as a worthless piece of paper. These days, private universities are tying up with reputable educational institutes to produce graduates that are readily accepted into the workforce. With private universities offering more places than public universities, it’s not difficult to get into the degree programme of your choice.

With an increase in the number of private universities, the competition for students is also driving down the cost of fees somewhat. Not only that, but public universities have been gradually increasing their tuition fees too. Today, an accountancy course in a private university like SIM costs about $32,000 while a similar course in a public university like NTU would set you back by about $26,550. Getting a private university education is no longer only for those who can afford it.

3. You definitely need a degree to compete in the job market

According to the Council for Private Education, in 2013, only 56% of 227,090 private school students were Singaporeans and PRs. That means that almost half of those currently taking courses in private universities in Singapore are foreigners. Of these, half of them are currently doing degree or diploma courses. This means tens of thousands of foreigners will be out in the job market armed with these educational qualifications in the next couple of years.

Not only that, degree holders from all over the world are now coming to Singapore to work. The number of Employment Pass and S-Pass holders (i.e. those who have at least diploma qualifications) have been increasing over the past 5 years. These not only bring with them a degree but work and life experiences that most Singaporeans don’t have. If you don’t already have a degree, you’re already at risk of being edged out by a foreigner with better academic qualifications.

4. There is a public university specifically catering to diploma holders

Since it was established in 2009, the Singapore Institute of Technology is targeted at helping polytechnic graduates and this year it is preparing for it’s largest intake, 2080 students. At first it was matching a polytechnic graduate’s diploma to an overseas university degree programme, but it now offers degree programmes of its own. This way, it ensures that students continue in the same field of study. Not only that, credits from a relevant diploma course can be used to shorten their degree programme so that students can even graduate within two years.

So for those of you who just got your O Level results earlier this month, don’t think that JC is the only way you’ll get your degree. Pick a course that you enjoy, or at least a course that you’ll be good at. The number of ways you can get a degree these days are numerous. Here’s some excellent advice from a popular local Facebook group.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 5 February 2015. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Peter Lin)

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, a technical writer, a banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.


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