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Singapore introduces regulation overhaul for private providers

Singapore, a hub for international branch campuses, has released a string of rules for private education providers including mandatory participation in a graduate employment survey and obtaining a four-year quality assurance certificate.

Singapore is a hub for international branch campuses and private education providers like SIM Global Education which provides degree preparation for a number of foreign universities. Photo: SIM Global Education

Private institutions will be required to participate in the annual Graduate Employment Survey

The regulations are aimed at private education providers offering external degree programmes as well as those that articulate into foreign degree courses, including pathway and foundation programmes.

Institutions will now be required to participate in the Committee for Private Education’s annual Graduate Employment Survey. Results from the survey will be published on each institution’s website to allow students to see their employment outcomes.

“As the sector matures, we need to ensure that institutions continue to have sound foundations on which to operate”

Institutions which don’t currently have an EduTrust certification will have until June 1, 2018 to obtain its four-year certificate. The quality assurance scheme, administered by the CPE, has been voluntary until now but is mandatory under the new regulations.

Enhanced EduTrust standards will be released in January 2017, according to the CPE, that place greater emphasis on academic processes and student education outcomes.

SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the agency overseeing the sector and CPE, said the regulation shakeup aims to safeguard students enrolled in private education and provide greater transparency for prospective students.

“As the sector matures, we need to ensure that institutions continue to have sound foundations on which to operate and deliver the quality of training that students expect,” said Brandon Lee, director-general private education at SSG.

“At the same time, we wish to remind students of the need to exercise due diligence by researching and assessing the suitability of the various education pathways available.”

Part of CPE’s effort to enable students to make better choices is The Graduate Employment Survey which was piloted in December 2015 to June 2016, on the 2014 year.

New mandatory participation by all private providers offering a foreign degree “will allow for greater information transparency for prospective students” and “will enable students to make better informed education and career choices”, according to a CPE spokesperson.

Leon Choong, president of Kaplan Singapore, which offers pathway programmes for entry into Australian, Irish and British universities as well as its own professional training qualifications, welcomed the changes saying they are a “positive step towards strengthening the private education sector”.

Under the new regulations, private institutions will also be required to provide a paid-up capital of $100,000 and meet minimum credit ratings by June 1, 2017. Raising the bar on the minimum financial requirements for private providers is also a good thing, said Choong.

“It is only reasonable that students will want to put their trust in institutions that have proven track records substantiating their ability to deliver and resource the programmes they are offering through to completion,” he said.

“With so many smaller setups closing down each year, this move will help protect students from institutions that aren’t financially stable.”

“With so many smaller setups closing down each year, this move will help protect students from institutions that aren’t financially stable”

Smaller private providers could find it difficult to keep up with the new regulations, Choong observed.

“How individual PEIs approach the new requirements will be up to them. Admittedly, some may find the improvements overwhelming,” he said, adding, “however, in over half a decade of experience working with the CPE, I have found them to be reasonable and judicious. Whatever the outcome, I am confident that the interests of the students will be well-looked-after.”

The new measures come amid a class action lawsuit brought against New York University by former students alleging they defrauded them by claiming academic quality of its Tisch Asia school would be the equivalent of the Tisch School of the Arts in New York.

NYU opened the campus in 2007 but closed it in 2012 citing “significant financial challenges that have required increasingly unsustainable subsidies totaling millions of dollars per year”. But other international branch campuses including James Cooke University Singapore, established in 2003 and and Queen Margaret University Asia which opened in 2002, remain operating in Singapore.

A number of joint ventures between foreign providers and Singaporean partners are also in operation including EASB East Asia Institute of Business Management and SIM Global Education. In total there are 291 private providers in the country compared to approximately 1,000 six years ago.

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