The statistic, cited during a February parliamentary sitting, revealed that over the past ten years more than 80% of applicants obtained residency.
“From 2008 to 2017, 7,251 foreign students applied for ‘PR’ on their own merits,” Teo told parliament.
“Close to 82%, or 5,932, have been granted ‘PR’,” she continued, adding that of those, “1,072 or 18%… subsequently [took] up citizenship as at the end of 2017.”
“An important consideration is the applicant’s ability to integrate with the local population”
Teo was unable to elaborate on the country of origin breakdown of those who received residency but said she believed it was inline with the general student population within Singapore, primarily driven by students from Asia.
“[I]n assessing whether an applicant should be granted ‘PR’ or Singapore Citizenship, an important consideration is the applicant’s ability to integrate with the local population as well as his potential to contribute to our society,” she said.
“These considerations apply to all applicants, including the foreign students.”
But while conversion rates for those who applied for permanent residency were high over the past decade, the proportion of international students in Singaporean universities has declined, due to a cap on overseas students imposed in 2011.
According to a piece in Today Online by National University of Singapore academics Kelvin Seah and Ivan Png, the number of international students at the university has slowly declined since 2013.
Seah and Png argued that an increase to the number of fee-paying international students – a significant majority currently come using Singaporean government grants – would strengthen universities’ bottom lines and political uncertainty in traditional destination markets presented a unique opportunity.
“These developments actually mean that Singapore is in an excellent position to present its universities as viable alternatives for the brightest international students looking to acquire tertiary education,” they wrote.
“It would be a shame if we let this opportunity slip.”
NUS recently topped Times Higher Education’s Asia Rankings for the third consecutive year.