Scholarship Guide Student Insights Survey 2023

Welcome to the latest edition of the Scholarship Guide Student Insights Survey. Featuring responses from over 400 students, this annual survey explores the preferences, priorities, and motivations of Singaporean students regarding higher education and scholarships, providing valuable insights into evolving mindsets and industry trends. The findings serve as a guide for students making crucial decisions about their academic paths, while educational institutions and organisations can use the information to enhance programmes and communication strategies, ultimately better supporting students in their academic journeys.

This year’s survey reveals dynamic shifts in students’ top choices for courses and scholarship providers. There are notable changes in how students research and evaluate scholarships, as well as significant shifts in attitudes toward scholarship bonds and overseas education. Improvements in the accessibility and quality of scholarship information within the Singaporean landscape are also highlighted.

We believe that the survey extract will prove beneficial to all stakeholders, offering a comprehensive overview and assisting individuals and institutions alike in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of higher education and scholarships in Singapore.

2023 Key Survey Highlights

  • Study Abroad Trends:
    Students are showing an increased desire to pursue studies abroad, aligning with their growing interest in courses such as Public Policy/Political Science/Global Affairs, where an international academic lens is seen as valuable for broadening perspectives, fostering cultural understanding, and equipping individuals with a well-informed and inclusive approach to addressing complex global challenges. While the United Kingdom remains a top destination choice, countries like Germany and the Netherlands are gaining traction due to lower tuition fees. Affordability and education quality are pivotal factors in students’ overseas choices, with many relying on family support for financing. 
  • Impact of Technology and an Interconnected World:
    Students are increasingly drawn to technology-related fields, including Data Science/Analytics and Computer Science/IT/Information Systems. Emerging areas like Computing Law & Business, Bioengineering, and Aerospace Engineering are also gaining prominence, reflecting the recognition of technology’s importance in the job market. Furthermore, students’ rising interest in Education and Public Policy/Political Science/Global Affairs reflect a forward-thinking perspective and a desire to contribute meaningfully to global challenges presented by an increasingly interconnected world.
  • High Intent for Scholarships:
    Interest in scholarships remains robust, with over 90% of students planning to apply, and 9% having already applied by December 2023. Mid-term scholarships are also gaining popularity, indicating persistence in seeking opportunities throughout the academic year. Significant shifts are observed in students’ top 20 scholarship providers, with several big jumps in rankings aligning with students’ growing interest in the technology, economics, and international affairs-related courses of study. The newly launched Temasek Foundation-Union Scholarship has also gained immediate popularity among students for its commitment to accessible education and diversity empowerment.
  • The Bond Dilemma:
    The bond duration has always been a deterrent to some students in applying for scholarships. However, in the last year, students have shown a greater acceptance of longer bond periods (three years or more) due to concerns about economic slowdown, prioritising job security and stability. In fact, when deciding whether to accept a scholarship, bond duration is not the top consideration; instead, students prioritise award value and a future career aligned with their interests and offering excellent job mobility. 
  • Accessibility of Scholarship Information:
    The accessibility and quality of scholarship information in Singapore have improved over the years, as fewer students cite a lack of information as a barrier to applying. Familiar scholarship aggregator websites, such as Scholarship Guide, are increasingly popular for research. (Thank you for the vote!) Confidence in finding the desired scholarship information has increased, emphasising the effectiveness of providers’ efforts to enhance outreach. Students rate the information on scholarship providers’ websites almost as influential as the advice from family, friends, peers, mentors, teachers, and counsellors, highlighting the importance of compelling and up-to-date online scholarship content. Additionally, active participation in talks and fairs remains crucial for providers to stay top-of-mind during scholarship decisions.

Intention To Pursue Further Studies

Nine out of ten students plan to pursue further education, with the majority leaning towards local institutions. Notably, there is a substantial and increasing interest in studying abroad compared to previous years.

Where Would You Pursue Your Tertiary Studies?

The Local Education Scene

The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Singapore Management University (SMU) maintain their positions as the top three choices among local universities for students. Among local polytechnics, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), and Singapore Polytechnic (SP) continue to hold the top three spots. Additionally, the three private higher learning institutions preferred by students in Singapore are the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), Raffles College of Higher Education, and James Cook University Singapore (JCU).

Students’ Top 3 Local Choices

New & Popular:
In an era where the gaming industry is booming, it is no wonder that DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore, the international campus of a distinguished North American game design school, has quickly become the 7th most popular private higher learning institution in Singapore, surpassing eight others in its debut on Scholarship Guide’s Student Insights Survey.

Top 20 Courses

There have been notable shifts in the top 20 courses according to the latest survey. Data Science/Analytics has ascended four positions, claiming the second spot and displacing last year’s runner-up, Banking and Finance, which now ranks third. Additionally, Computer Science/IT/Information Systems and Economics have made substantial progress in the rankings. Among the top 20 courses, five are new entries: Education, Computing Law & Business, Bioengineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Public Policy/Political Science/Global Affairs.

The increasing popularity of technology-related courses, such as data science and computer science, reflects the growing acknowledgement of technology’s significance in today’s job market. Technology continues to play a crucial role across various industries, driving innovation and impact. The rise of the digital economy also enhances the appeal of fields like the business side of computing and computing law.

Meanwhile, in our interconnected world dealing with urgent issues like climate change, economic inequality, and political instability, a strong understanding of public policy, political science, and global affairs is crucial for effective global functioning. This forward-thinking perspective is also evident in students’ growing interest in education and bioengineering, indicating a desire to contribute to future generations and improve medical technologies for human well-being.

Whether students are driven by an interest in space exploration or the aspiration to contribute to a more sustainable and interconnected world, aerospace engineering emerges as an attractive field, with aerospace engineers having developed some of the most remarkable feats of mankind.

Studying Abroad

There is a growing interest among Singaporean students in studying abroad. The United Kingdom (UK) has reclaimed its position as the top choice for students, displacing Australia to second place. Additionally, Germany and the Netherlands are gaining popularity due to notably lower tuition fees at these destinations compared to the UK and the US.

Choosing a University

Students fall back on the practicalities of admission requirements and course fees when deciding on a local higher education institution. Similarly, affordability and quality of education are top considerations for students when evaluating their overseas university options. 

Considerations for Choosing a Higher Education Institution
Considerations for Choosing an Overseas University

Scholarship Interest

Will You Be Applying for Scholarships?

Over 90% of students intend to apply for scholarships. As of December last year, nine out of 100 students have already applied. Students are also equally interested in applying for mid-term scholarships, suggesting that students are not limiting their efforts to one specific application period but are open to seeking opportunities throughout the academic year.

Reasons For Not Applying For Scholarships

When students were asked about the reasons deterring them from applying for scholarships, the top reason remained the lack of information. However, the proportion of students citing this as the main obstacle decreased year-over-year (2023: 24%; 2022: 28%), suggesting a positive outlook of increased scholarship publicity and outreach efforts by providers and greater proactive research by students.

Unfortunately, 20% of students are not applying for scholarships because they do not meet the academic requirements. Students also fear that they cannot keep up with the required grades should they accept a scholarship, and concerns around the scholarship bond will always be one of the reasons discouraging students from applying.

How Do You Intend To Further Your Education Without Scholarships?

For the 10% of students not planning to apply for scholarships and as a backup plan for those who are unsuccessful in their applications, most students have indicated that they would rely on financial support from their family to fund their higher education. This trend has grown significantly year-over-year (2023: 23%; 2022: 18%), especially among those planning to study abroad, where the increased financial demands exceed what they can generate independently through part-time work or personal savings.

Top 20 Scholarship Providers

Scholarship providers NUS, MOE, NTU, and A*STAR have remained students’ top choices for three consecutive years. However, outside the top four, there have been significant movements within the charts this time around. 

The Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), Economic Development Board (MFA), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), GIC Private Limited, and Public Service Commission (PSC) are among the scholarship providers that have gained soaring popularity over the previous year. These choices align with students’ growing interest in technology, economics, and international affairs-related courses.

New in the top 20 list is Temasek Foundation (TF), which, in April 2023, announced the launch of its TF-Union Scholarships, committing over $4 million in grants for students and mature learners from lower-income backgrounds over a period of five years. The Foundation’s direct entry into students’ top 20 scholarship provider choices in its debut year reflects a positive public response to the organisation’s dedication to accessible education and diversity empowerment.

Scholarship Research

Almost all students (98%) agree that scholarship research is important, with over 50% indicating that they have started their research as early as their first year in junior college, IB, or polytechnic.

Importance of Following Activities to Prepare for Scholarship Applications

Most students cite internships as the most crucial activity to help them prepare for their scholarship applications. Having the hands-on experience and opportunity to nurture professional skills from their internship experience can help students craft a more compelling and competitive scholarship application.

Students also rank attending talks and fairs as highly important. These events serve as valuable platforms for students to seek expert guidance, discover diverse scholarship opportunities, and establish connections with potential mentors, enhancing students’ readiness to prepare a successful scholarship application.

How Do You Search for a Scholarship Online?

How Do You Find Scholarship You Are Looking For?

When it comes to online scholarship research, most students directly search for scholarships using keywords related to the scholarship name or sponsoring organisation. Year over year, there is a rise in students going directly to familiar scholarship aggregator websites such as Scholarship Guide for their research. The percentage of students confident in ultimately finding the scholarship they seek has increased from 74% to 86%, indicating that efforts by providers to enhance outreach and programme accessibility are proving effective.

Preferred Source of Scholarship Information

Scholarship Guide is proud to be voted one of the leading sources of scholarship information for students, ranked alongside their trusted schools, teachers, and career counsellors.

What Are Scholarship Providers Looking for When Reviewing Applications

When asked about the priorities of scholarship providers in reviewing applications, students believe that providers are seeking versatile candidates. In addition to exam grades, non-academic achievements through CCA and voluntary work are considered crucial, alongside one’s leadership traits, communication skills, and personality.

Evaluating & Choosing Scholarships

Deciding Factors To Choosing Scholarships

Evaluating scholarships involves considering various factors. Among these, students emphasise career opportunities with the provider, the chosen course of study, the bond period, and the overall value of the award, encompassing tuition fees and living allowances, particularly for those planning to study abroad.

Deciding Factors To Accepting a Scholarship

When deciding whether to accept a scholarship, students base their decision on the attractiveness of the award value and assess the scholarship’s promise for a future career that aligns with their interests and its potential to offer excellent job mobility. In fact, the length of the bond plays the least significant role in their decision.

Preferred Bond Duration

Year over year, students are indicating a greater acceptance of longer bond periods (3 or 4 years; >4 years). This change may be influenced by the anticipated slow economic growth, leading students to prioritise job stability and security by committing to an organisation for an extended period.

Mediums Influencing Scholarship Choice

The most influential factors shaping students’ scholarship decisions are advice from family, friends, peers, mentors, teachers, counsellors, and individuals they interact with at career fairs and talks, followed by information on scholarship providers’ websites. As such, it is important that providers maintain appealing and current scholarship content on their websites and actively engage in talks and fairs to remain prominent in the awareness of students as they navigate their scholarship decisions.

What Do Students Want To See More on Scholarship Websites?

As to what students want to see more on scholarship websites, they desire access to more comprehensive scholarship listings, provider information, and articles with tips and resources to help them in scholarship preparation and application.