Regrettably, the title of the letter - "Varsity Place for Every Singaporean Who Qualifies" is already stupid. If you cannot see the circularity of the statement, just compare it to phrases such as "Vitamin C for Everyone Who Eats an Orange" or "Death for Everyone Who is Hanged" or "Child For Woman Who Gives Birth".
OF COURSE every Singaporean who qualifies for a varsity place will get a varsity place. The question is - who should qualify? What is the criteria? How many varsity places are there? How many of those varsity places go to foreign students? How many varsity places are left for Singaporeans to qualify for?
I don't know why it is so difficult for them to admit that every place that went to a foreign student could have instead gone to a local student. Why can't they just admit that, and say that nonetheless they want to admit a certain percentage of foreign students per year, because there are certain benefits blah blah blah.
Instead they keep making statements like:
However, [the local universities] must continue to attract high-quality foreign students, while providing places for every Singaporean who qualifies for admission.... statements which implicitly, stubbornly and stupidly deny the plain, obvious fact that:
(1) the number of Singaporeans who can qualify for admission
is directly affected by
(2) the number of varsity places actually available to Singaporeans
which is directly affected by
(3) the number of varsity places given to "high-quality foreign students".
Full text of the letter below:
April 26, 2006
Varsity places for every S'porean who qualifies
I REFER to Mr Tan Thiam Chye's letter, 'Varsities: Talent-centred or citizen-centred?' (ST, April 24).
Our universities are Singaporean institutions whose objective is to serve Singaporeans. The Government's first priority in university education is to provide an affordable, top-quality education to citizens.
The three universities - National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University - are already admitting one in every five local students to their undergraduate programmes. We are committed to increasing this to one in every four local students in a few years' time.
We are also significantly increasing bursaries and study loans to Singaporean students who need financial assistance.
Our universities are reviewing their tuition fees for future batches of foreign students, with a view to widening the gap between local- and foreign-student tuition fees.
However, they must continue to attract high-quality foreign students, while providing places for every Singaporean who qualifies for admission.
Good international students create vibrancy and diversity that will benefit and spur on our own students, and ensure that they receive a quality university experience.
Likewise, the universities must attract the best faculty they can get, Singaporean and foreign.
Without this international orientation, our universities cannot be the first-class institutions that Singaporeans deserve.
Lim Chee Hwee
Higher Education Ministry of Education