16 February 2011

Increase in Tuition Fees at Universities and Polytechnics

The three universities, five polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education announced in January that they would raise tuition fees for the academic year starting this year.

The fee increase at the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education will affect all new and existing students.

The fee increases at the universities will affect new students only.  (Fees for students who applied for places before their national service will be pegged to the date of their applications.)

Member of Parliament Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh) asked in Parliament on 14 February 2011 if the polytechnics could follow the universities' practice of applying the fee increases to new cohorts.  That would assure parents whose children are already enrolled in polytechnics, she added.

Senior Minister of State (Education) S Iswaran replied that —
  • It would be unfair for the latest fee increases at the polytechnics to be applied only to the new intake.
  • Fee hikes have traditionally been applied to new and existing students.
  • There was a "magnitude of difference" between polytechnic and university tuition fees.  The latter is at least three times the former.
  • The fee increase for polytechnic students was marginal.
  • Help would be provided to polytechnic students who had difficulties because of the fee increase.

Ms Teo's point was a simple and unambiguous one.  In light of an inconsistency in applying fee increases between polytechnic students and university students, should the status quo not be reviewed to align their practices?  Her question did not require a justification of the status quo — that is, do nothing.

Mr Iswaran did not explain why he thought it was unfair for fee increases at the polytechnics to be applied to new students only, nor to whom it was unfair.  It was not reported whether he was asked to explain.  In any case, if he considered it to be unfair at the polytechnics, is his ministry planning to make it fair at the universities by applying the fee increases there to both new and existing students?


"Fee Hikes at Polys, ITE and Universities", The Straits Times, 15 January 2011.

" 'Unfair' to Apply Poly Fee Hikes Only to New Intake: Iswaran", TODAY (online), 15 February 2011.

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