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Malaysians’ Guide To Enrolling Into Universities In Singapore: Visa, Academic Requirements, And Scholarships

Some Malaysians extend their studies across the causeway to help them transit to a career overseas.


Studying abroad is part of the plan of some Malaysians. Perhaps because they want to have a global education (and transit into a global career) while instilling a sense of independence and experiencing a different culture. According to the Education Ministry, there were 79,254 total Malaysians who continued their studies in a different country. 

A study by Wise showed that Malaysians’ expenses studying abroad were the highest in the United States averaging at RM130,470.38 per year, followed by New Zealand at RM100,206.91 and Australia at RM77,221.40 annually. Singapore came in sixth place with Malaysians having spent RM54,533.36 a year to study there. 

Due to the geographical proximity between the two countries, more practical Malaysians may be interested in extending their tertiary education in Singapore. The similarities in culture could also be an encouraging factor. Singapore’s education system is also reputable globally with the National University of Singapore placing 19th in the 2023 World University Ranking by Times Higher Education. 

How The National Education System Works In Malaysia (From Pre-School To Post-Secondary) 

In Malaysia, the national education system comprises four levels of schooling. Education begins with pre-school from the ages of four to six. Then, students graduate into primary school which typically takes six years. 

Students will proceed to secondary school which is divided into a lower and upper level. The lower secondary education takes five years generally. In the final year, students take the national exam Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), equivalent to the O-Levels. 

Then, students continue with upper secondary school that takes two years and concludes with the pre-university Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) exams (equivalent to the A-Levels) that are recognised by the Cambridge Assessment in the United Kingdom.    

Level  Age 
Pre-school  4 to 6 
Primary education  7 to 12  
Secondary education 




13 to 17 

18 to 19 

Post secondary education  20 and above 

Do note that this is only a general framework for the national education pathway in Malaysia. There are circumstances whereby the education journey may not follow the above. For instance, students can enrol into matriculation program, a substitute for STPM, which takes only one year. The education levels above also may differ from those of an international curriculum.  

Before You Apply: Getting A Visa For A Full-Time Student And Some Other Considerations 

Singapore public universities allocate 10% of enrolments to foreign students from the world over. There are six public universities in Singapore as listed below: 

Malaysians can also apply to international universities in Singapore namely: 

Before applying to a Singapore university, there are several things a Malaysian student may need to think about. Firstly, classes in a Singapore university are conducted mainly in the English language so a certain proficiency level is required for students to follow the lessons. 

Secondly, foreign students who sign up for full-time courses in Singapore will need to apply for a Student’s Pass before entering the country. This is unless you already hold a valid Dependent’s Pass, Long-Term Visit Pass, Immigration Exemption Order or Short-Term Visit Pass.  

For example, your parent may be working as an expatriate in Singapore, and you have a Dependent’s Pass in which case you would not need a Student’s Pass to study in Singapore. 

Malaysians can apply for the Student’s Pass via the eServices portal. Start applying at least two months before school starts but not as far back as three months prior. 

Here is a list of documents and information that you need to prepare: 

  • Registration Acknowledgement Letter from the university 
  • Travel document biodata and birth certificate if applicable 
  • Personal information  
  • Your family’s personal information 
  • Residential address and contact details in Singapore 
  • Email address 
  • Photograph in this format   

There is a processing fee of S$30 (RM104.81). The duration of the application is between one and two weeks but can take longer. Applicants can check their status on the portal. During application, you don’t need to be physically present in Singapore. 

As we are in Covid times, Malaysian students need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering Singapore unless you receive exemption under special circumstances from a doctor in Singapore. 

Academic Requirements For An Undergraduate Programme In A Singapore University 

The specific admission requirements differ for each university. However, in general, most of the public universities in Singapore require international students to complete a minimum of 12 years of general education.  

In addition, students need a minimum STPM qualification to fulfil general requirements of most of the universities. Some also accept students with the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) qualifications, a test taken mainly by students in Chinese vernacular schools.  

Most of the schools also request for the sitting of an international English test and submission of the scores under the programmes below: 

  • IELTS 
  • TOEFL 
  • SAT 
  • Pearson Test of English Academic 
  • ACT 

The Singapore of Social Sciences’ admission requirements include the taking of general tests SAT or ACT with writing test. Meanwhile, the NTU does not require Malaysians to take an English test. 

The SUTD states that students who perform well in Maths and Science subjects may have a higher advantage.    

Applying To A Singapore University 

Some Singapore universities may need applicants to undergo medical examinations. Foreign students that are accepted into the SIT need to pass the ICA medical exam.    

Malaysians can apply to all the Singapore public universities online. Students fill up an online application form and upload necessary documents. An application fee applies in most cases. 

Scholarships For Foreign Students 

The public universities in Singapore do offer their own scholarships and financial aid that are available to international students. For example, NUS offers freshman scholarships to eligible international students such as the Chinese Studies Major Scholarship and the Science and Technology Undergraduate Scholarship. 

Malaysians with excellent academic and curricular achievements can also apply for the ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship (AUS). The scholarship assists students in paying for tuition, accommodation and living expenses. 

Featured Image Credit: SMU


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