The Indian Institute of Management has set up its centre in Singapore. The Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai is coming into Singapore. The Delhi Public School has been very successful. [The Bharatiya Vidya] Bhavan Central School has also been very, very successful. They are actually expanding beyond their expectations. From other parts of Asia, Waseda has just set up, from Japan. It is a full, comprehensive university that is based in Tokyo.
If you look at Singapore’s Global Schoolhouse Plan, the intention really was to bring in the top universities from different countries. So, we had a lot of U.S. institutions in the early stages. Just before you interviewed the Minister [a year ago], we had a couple of European universities. We consider Australia as part of Asia. UNSW has just made an announcement about a huge campus (here). [From] China, Shanghai [institute] will be set up here. Even from Egypt: the Muslim Harvard-equivalent is doing it, together with [a Singapore institution].
Are you not running the risk of eclipsing your own brand names such as National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU)?
Why the Global Schoolhouse Programme? There are really three reasons. No 1., obviously, was the economic benefits that come from this. The second one was talent augmentation. The third was, of course, the [possibility of foreign students becoming] great ambassadors for Singapore.
Today, NUS, NTU, SMU (Singapore Management University), our public schools, have an overwhelming demand for places from students in the region. So the strategy is: why not bring in these foreign institutions, let them bring in international students as well, and then when we create this critical mass of students and institutions, it will create a virtuous cycle of positive competition that will actually increase the standards of not only our national and public institutions but also of the international ones that are here. will ultimately be a very powerful cocktail that will actually help us transit into a knowledge economy.
Those who get scholarships in your own universities have to serve here for a bond period. Do you intend to or do you already have in place such a bond system for work in Singapore after education in the foreign institutions here?
Maybe, the method we have adopted is a bit more subtle. Today, we have something like 7,000 multinationals in Singapore [including about 1,500 Indian companies]. Sixty per cent of them have got headquarters in Singapore.
We are producing 40,000 or so babies a year. The issue is one of talent augmentation: bringing as many of these people [to be educated in foreign universities in Singapore] to complement and work in many of these [multinational] companies. And Singaporeans will also continue to get their jobs, because there is an insufficient number of Singaporeans to take all these jobs that are being created by all these multinationals here. [For foreign students in Singapore], a lot of these institutions actually have good placement programmes [with] companies working in this region. So, there is no need for a hard rule: You are bonded, because they won’t be bonded, anyway. But the natural attraction of working in many of these companies here will actually create a conduit.
You are not giving up the system of [work-related] bonds for scholarship-holders in NUS, NTU?
That continues. The difference, of course, is this. In NUS, some of those on scholarships are being brought in at a very subsidised fee, almost equivalent or just slightly above local fees. But in these private institutions, they pay full fees as the market determines.
Will degrees be given by the foreign schools or will Singapore be associated with that?
We really leave it to the institutions. Our job is to ensure they offer only the highest of what they would have offered in their own home country.
What are the dos and donts for incoming foreign students?
Don’t dabble in racial politics, dont inflame religious issues. Observe the norms, rules of the host country.