No plans to merge institutes of higher education: Ong Ye Kung

Amidst concern over merging of eight Junior Colleges (JCs) in Singapore, Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) has clarified that there are no plans to merge polytechnics, universities or the campuses of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

The Minister was speaking to Singapore reporters at the St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, where he was on a four-day working visit.

Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills)
Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Singapore. Photo courtesy:

There will be no merger as despite falling cohort sizes of between 10 and 15 per cent, these institutions still have a critical mass of students.

Questions had been raised in Singapore over whether institutes of higher learning would merge, after the Education Ministry announced last month that eight junior colleges (JCs) would merge in 2019 because of falling cohort sizes.

The Minister said,  “The situation for ITE, polytechnics and universities are quite different from JCs. The ITE currently has an intake of about 15,000 students across its three campuses.”

He added, “Even if demographic changes meant this figure could go down by 10 to 12 per cent by 2020 or 2025, with three campuses we will see a good critical mass.”

He added, “The situation with the five polytechnics and six universities – which have an intake of 24,500 and 19,000 students each year respectively – is similar. Cohort sizes are projected to fall between 10 and 15 per cent by 2025, but the polytechnics and universities would still have a critical mass of students.

He also added that universities also educate students at a "fairly specialised level" and do not need a big critical mass.

Stressing on bringing talents from a limited pool, he said, “There is in fact an argument that because cohorts are falling, to make up for the quantity of talent, you actually need more diversity, more pathways in order to bring out the full potential of the limited talent we have.”

Ong added that while general education required a critical mass of students, this was not the case for institutes of higher learning, that educate students in niche areas.