Cambridge or local university?


In today’s Sunday Times, the personal career adviser gave a 19-year-old girl this answer: go for Cambridge.

However, it won’t be an easy decision for the girl, as “it would be an extremely heavy financial burden” on her family.

The costs and fees for an international student at Cambridge include:

  • Tuition fees. This depends on the type of course taken up, and can range from about S$27,500 to a whopping S$66,500 per year. For the girl, who intends to study natural science, it will cost her family about S$36,000 per year in tuition fees.
  • College fees. This depends on the college (there are 31 colleges in Cambridge). The fees can range from S$10,000 to S$13,500 per year.
  • Living expenses. It is estimated that living expenses will set a student back by S$20,500 to S$24,000 per year.

So, assuming that the girl is going to spend 3 years at Cambridge, it will cost her family around $200k (in Singapore dollars) for her entire Cambridge education.

This is a huge sum of money by most standards.


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  1. what for study natural science at cambrige if it doesn’t lead to a very high paying job? not as if she wants to get into NUS medicine but cannot and cambridge will take her then the huge cost is worth it cos a doctor can make a lot of money. what returns can natural science offer? not point investing so much for a degree that does not lead to a well paying profession

  2. When they are so many graduates in Singapore, brand name universities are to differentiate the elite from the middle class.

    Seriously, you don’t have to do finance to get into a banking job later on. Just having the Cambridge qualifications gives you a far greater uplift then a 1st class in SMU.

  3. You can have the top brand name, but if your performance and working ability cannot match your qualification in the real world, then the brand name won’t make a difference.

  4. i concur with firefly; the name of an elite university opens many more doors as long as one ends up with a reasonable okay grade. it’s not just about academic abilities and IQ; companies hire such graduates because they are generally assumed to have enjoyed greater exposure and thus developed broader perspectives, maturity, a global outlook, the skills to work/lead on international teams, and high-value networks, just to name a few. but of course as zerofire says, if one fails to cultivate/exercise all these assets then it will show sooner or later.

    moreover, studying overseas at an elite institution has alot to do with life experience too, in addition to money-making potential. in other words, the life experience is a huge return on the investment; and this is something that is much more difficult to replace than money. but of course sometimes, life experience is too much of a luxury that only the rich can afford.

  5. Study in local universities, get first class honors, go for student exchange for one semester at Cambridge or other equally top universities, or some enhancements programs that allows exposure to global outlook like internships at startup companies in Silicon Valley.

    As only need to pay tuition fees for local universities.

    There are many graduates in Singapore but not many first class honors.

    Study natural science if it is her interest and can first class honors, then do CFA part time.

    Since can save $200K saved by not studying in Cambridge.

    Compare marginal costs and marginal benefits, does she need additional $100k plus for that additional competitive advantage in the job market?

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