Subject: ST News: Imperial College top choice for S'poreans in Britain Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2006 09:57:24 +0800 (SGT) From: To:, This message was forwarded to you from Straits Times Interactive ( by

Jan 2, 2006
Imperial College top choice for S'poreans in Britain

LONDON - THE Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine is the new crown jewel for Singaporean university students in Britain.

The latest statistics show that 276 Singaporeans were enrolled at the college in the 2003/2004 academic year.

That was more than double the 110 studying at Oxford and well above the 195 at Cambridge as well.

The trend is a marked change from years past.

In 1990, Imperial counted only 64 Singaporeans in its student population. By contrast, 70 Singaporeans were enrolled at Oxford and 86 at Cambridge that year.

But the numbers at the London-based college have multiplied rapidly ever since.

By 1995/96, Imperial had 210 Singaporean students, compared with 150 at Cambridge and 140 at Oxford.

Mr Loh Wei Jie, who was a former secretary of the United Kingdom Singapore Students' Council, attributed Imperial's growing popularity to its rise in Britain's league tables.

It has moved up in the university rankings in both The Sunday Times and The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) tables.

'Most of the PSC scholars who are sent to Britain go to Imperial as well, for engineering or science, while the London School of Economics (LSE) gets the economics and politics students,' said Mr Loh, who is a medical student at Imperial.

Imperial College made headlines in December when it pulled out of the University of London, which includes colleges such as the LSE and King's College.

This move underlined the increasing prestige of degrees awarded by Imperial.

In fact, its rector, Sir Richard Sykes, wrote in a college student newspaper: 'Do we want to be badged as London University along with some less prestigious institutions?'

The growing reputation of the Imperial degree has earned it the label 'MIT of the UK' - a reference to the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. THES rated Imperial above Cambridge as the best university in Britain for technology this year.

Mr Joseph Peh, who did a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Imperial, described courses as 'very hands-on'. [Note added by Limsoon Wong: Mr. Peh was winner of the 2005 ICAAS Most Outstanding Student Award and a life member of ICAAS.]

'There's lots of course work. In the US universities, students have to take a lot of modules across different subjects, but at Imperial, they push us deep into the subject,' he said.

'So you get breadth in the US, but at Imperial you get depth.'

He estimated that 60 per cent of the Singaporeans enrolled at Imperial now are doing engineering degrees, while 40 per cent are reading the sciences.

Mr Peh said he had chosen Imperial over Oxbridge as it offered the subject that he was looking for. But he is surprised that Imperial now has the largest number of Singaporean students in Britain as it is 'still not so well-known as Oxbridge in Singapore'.

'I didn't hear of it until I was doing research for a university, then the Imperial name popped up,' he said, adding that its London location made it more accessible.

Mr Charles Ng, who was a former president of the Oxford University Malaysia and Singapore Students' Association, said that Oxford's decreasing popularity may be a result of 'perception among the general public back at home that Cambridge is better in science whereas Oxford is generally better in the humanities'.

Indeed, the 2005 THES ranking placed Cambridge above Oxford in science, biomedicine and technology, while Oxford beat Cambridge in arts and humanities as well as social sciences.

Overall, the number of Singaporean students pursuing higher education in Britain has almost doubled since 1990, when there were 1,966 compared with 3,905 in 2003/2004.

Singapore accounts for the fifth-largest number of students coming to Britain from the Asia-Pacific region for higher education.

China is tops with 47,740 in 2003/2004, Malaysia next with 11,805 and Hong Kong third with 10,575.

Universities such as Warwick, Leicester and Nottingham are also enrolling larger numbers of Singaporeans.
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