I saw your post: “Only One Singaporean PhD in NUS Economics Faculty” on TRE (and also chanced upon your blog) and I see that you feel strongly about this. However, I don’t think you quite get to the root of the problem. I hope you’ll allow me to explain my own point of view.
PhD studies in certain disciplines in most universities are not like undergraduate studies etc, where you need to pay fees.
For most science disciplines (I’d wager Economics ranks there as well), you get funding from the Universities. In other words, they pay the tuition fees, as well as pay you an allowance, in return for the PhD student teaching the undergraduates (capped at certain number of hours a week). If the PhD student is exceptional, then they do not need to teach, but still get the same benefits. This is the system used in most countries – and also why sometimes you can have crappy supervisors in undergraduate courses.
The only instance where a PhD student needs to pay tuition fees if he/she does not want to teach (and is not exceptional enough to get a fellowship), does not perform up to satisfactory academic OR teaching standards, or is doing studies in certain fields – eg History, etc.
I understand you also have posted:
Many Singaporeans have friends or relative who failed miserably in our school system, either dropping out or ending up in NT. It is not uncommon for them to get first class honor or double degree if their parents manage to send them overseas. Many Singaporean who ended up in medical or law schools overseas do not even qualify to enter JC. Many of these ex-losers are now extremely successful. Many of these students got advance degree or even PHDs because their host countries do not discriminate them unlike their own country – Singapore.
True! I myself did badly in secondary school and JC, and was lucky enough to have parents who could afford to send me overseas for undergraduate studies. But PhDs are different. Let me explain.
Most of the time, if you are accepted into the university, you do not have to pay school fees, and you even get an allowance. When I applied for my PhD in the US, I had several offers, which ranged from paying $16, 000 USD – $24,000 USD per year until I completed my PhD. Similar offers are also given in the UK, but only for the reputable universities.
Given an opportunity to travel overseas (with quite a substantial allowance – I doubt NUS / NTU even give that equivalent in SGD), and an opportunity not to go back for reservist, why would Singaporeans want to do a PhD in NUS?
I would thus suggest that instead of campaigning for more Singaporean students in NUS to do an Economics PhD (or otherwise), you might want to campaign to make local universities MORE attractive for Singaporeans to do their PhD there. Otherwise, so what if NUS adopts a policy to admit in a certain number of Singaporeans, when overseas Universities are more attractive?
My impression is: A Singaporean student can apply for NUS to do a PhD, as well as Universities in other countries. If he gets accepted by other Universities, very good. If he gets accepted by NUS only, he goes there, and you would be happy (I guess you would want more Singaporeans in NUS). If he gets rejected by all of them, then he’s obviously not good enough to do a PhD, and NUS should not accept him, regardless of how many FT PhDs are there. That’s because if NUS accepts a Singaporean who is not good enough over a FT who is better academically, then it sets a precedent for other universities to do the same and discriminate against Singaporeans. Which is bad for the talented people in the long run – who have to go overseas – like what you mentioned in your blog post (and is repeated in italics above).