Does University ranking matters?

pexels-photo-590020.jpegBefore we go in-depth to the discussion, it is important to know what the different University ranking measures. Each ranking organisation measures institutions in different ways, using different criteria, and different weightings of similar criteria.

1. QS World Ranking of Universities: this ranking organisation uses a consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that it deems effectively capture university performance.
• Academic reputation (40%) – a global survey of more than 70,000 academics
• Citations per faculty (20%) – calculated by the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.
• Student-to-faculty ratio (20%) – the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled
• Employer reputation (10%) – measured by a global survey of more than 37,000 graduate employers
• International faculty ratio (5%) – demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, and implies a high global outlook
• International student ratio (5%) – see International faculty ratio

2. Times Higher Education World University Rankings: this ranking measures Universities based on teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook using 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators.

The performance indicators are grouped into five areas:


Photo courtesy of THE

3. Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) (previously known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong index): this ranking uses six indicators to rank world universities, including the:
• number of alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10%)
• number of staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20%)
• number of highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories (20%)
• number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%)
• number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index (20%)
• per capita academic performance of an institution (10%)

How then do University rankings assist a graduate?


It gives you a headstart with Employees and Businesses at the beginning of your job search…

Increasingly, employers (especially multinational organisations) use rankings as a screening tool to qualify fresh job seekers for an interview. According to Channel NewsAsia, Commentary: The age-old question about university rankings, “For hirers screening thousands of resumes from candidates from unfamiliar countries, a knee-jerk coping response is to correlate the quality of the candidate to the pedigree of the university inferred through a recognised university ranking publication.”

There is this perception that coming from a highly-ranked university indicates that this person has potential and is poised for success because they beat many others to get into a top-notch school in their youth.

… but does not guarantee you a job.

Taking note of that, once you secured yourself an interview, getting a job offer from a company is purely dependent on how you fared during the interview and the aptitude test (in some cases). For those not in highly-recognised University, the challenge is how to score yourself interviews of your dream career. After which, your sheer force of personality and drive may be enough to convince employers that you are a catch, without needing a degree from a highly-ranked university to prove their worth.

With this in mind, should a student put emphasis on rankings?

Rankings is not everything, especially the overall rankings of Universities. If you already have a good idea of the subject you wish to study, then subject rankings might be a good starting point, but should not be the only means of determining the University to study.

A recommended way to know more about the University is to take the time to do a campus tour or attend one of their Open Days. This initiative will allow you to meet academics, current students and alumni. It will also give you the opportunity to see the types of facilities, academic support and to speak to a representative in regards to questions you may have about career prospects, industry links and learning structures. In short, this will allow you to decide if the University is right for you.

Major global rankings are less likely to highlight these important features; thus, it is important to not place a huge emphasis on rankings alone.

More questions? Feel free to send me a message!


What are some of the Allied Health programs I can study?

The Allied Health programs are gaining popularity in Singapore as the demand continues to grow and the capacity needs to be increased. “Providing updates on the Healthcare 2020 Master Plan during his speech, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said more than 900 hospital beds were added last year, through Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and the Jurong and Yishun Community Hospitals. The three hospitals will continue to ramp up this year to add another 270 beds.” (TodayOnline, New schemes, awards among plans to attract more to join healthcare sector, 19 February 2018). With an interest to make a direct impact on people’s well-being as well as be part of a lucrative sector, what are some of the Allied Health programs can you consider studying? 


Nursing focus is wholesome – focused on the whole patient, thereby setting itself apart from other disciplines through the positive caring approach. The profession is a discipline that aims on alleviating pain and suffering through protection, promoting health, wellness, and prevention of illness and injury. It is an advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.

Occupational Therapy
An Occupational Therapist focuses more on evaluating and improving a person’s functional abilities. Their main aim is to help a person optimize their independence and their ability to accomplish their daily activities following an injury or in situations of physical impairment. They more likely to perform on-site assessments of both the home environment and work environment and give recommendations on suitable adaptations of each to allow for a better quality of life. The ultimate goal of an Occupational Therapist is to assist people improve their ability to carry out their everyday tasks. 

Most often overlapping with Occupational Therapy, a Physiotherapist tends to be more focused on evaluating and diagnosing movement dysfunctions as well as treating a person’s injury itself. He/She will be more likely to diagnose and treat the physical source of the problem; the injured tissues and structures.

Both professions are trained extensively in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system. 

Speech Pathology
Speech-language pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders. They work with both children and adults who have difficulty communicating because of certain conditions such as developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss (including other problems that can affect speech and language). They work in many different research, education, and health care settings with varying roles, levels of responsibility, and client populations.

Nutrition and Dietetics
A nutritionist will usually have completed a tertiary qualification in any various fields of nutrition, food science and public health. The primary role of a nutritionist is to assist people in achieving optimal health by providing information and advice about health and food choices.

According to the SNDA (Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association), Dietetics is the integration of the art and science to the application of food and nutrition to health. Dietitians are consultants and practitioners who assess, maintain and improve the health status of individuals and the public they serve. They are responsible for the management of the sick and for the promotion of health.

Both nutritionists and dietitians aim to assist in a person’s journey to reaching optimal health through food and nutrition. However, dietitians are also qualified to work in private clinical practice, hospitals and the medical nutrition industry. They provide expert nutrition advice for people of all ages and prescribe dietary treatments for many conditions such as diabetes, food allergies, cancers, gastro-intestinal diseases, and overweight and obesity.

Radiography / Medical Imaging
A radiographer (or medical imaging technologist) is a university-trained health professional who works with cutting edge technology to produce X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and other medical images to assist clinical radiologists and other doctors diagnose, monitor or treat a patient’s injury or illness. They have a very thorough understanding of the body’s structure, how it is affected by injury, and the causes and effects of disease.

Of course, there are other courses you may consider, though these pathways are currently not a common route that Singaporeans take (but hey, why not take a road less travelled?). You may also have a think of the following:
Prosthetists & Orthotists
Medical Social Worker

For more details of the descriptions of these professions, feel free to visit the official website of the Ministry of Health Singapore – Applied Health Professions.

What should I consider before choosing a University?

group of friends hanging out
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It is certainly daunting when you are 18, and asked to make one of the most important decision in your life – which University do I go to? 

If you are anything like the typical students whom I get, your first stop is to check the rankings – QS Rankings, Times Higher Education, ARWU…. none of them are even official, and still, students treat them like a bible. Yet, it is important to highlight that the best moments of your time at University is beyond those rankings, and the important lessons in life often take place away from the classrooms. With that in mind, I’ve narrowed down some of the questions you’d like to ask yourself before choosing a University. 

What type of University do I want to enter?
Do a search on how you will be taught and assessed in the Universities of your choice. Some Universities are more traditional, meaning that majority of their courses have a number of exams and essays while the modern Universities place emphasis on group work, presentations and practical lessons. Of course, there are Universities that are trying to be in between so it is important to read the course content and structure. 

Do I want a large University or one that gives me personalised attention? 
Group of Eights in Australia, which are bigger Universities typically have large campuses, as well as a healthy selection of student services and things to do. Class sizes tend to be bigger and students should be more proactive and initiative if they wish to get extra attention. A smaller University may offer a more intimate and personalised experience. A class is required to interact and discuss with each other. 

Do I prefer a campus life or the city? 
Do you love the grassy fields, open space and outdoors? Maybe a campus life at a rural area would be an adventure for you. On the other hand, if you’re used to late night shopping and the frequent trips to movies and restaurants, these kind of campus life may leave you unhappy during your University life. When deciding the options for a University, think about where you grew up, what you are accustomed to and how much of a change you want.

Does the University has Clubs, Societies and Sports that I want to join? 
Life at university can be much more than simply graduating with a degree if you want it to be. Many institutions are famed for their well-rounded approach to extracurricular activities such as clubs and societies and sports, such as soccer and rugby (the destination will matter, like New Zealand is very well-known for rugby). If you’re eager to get involved in life outside the classroom, it’s important to check out what’s available. Get in touch with the Guild House or Student Union to see what is going on within the student bubble.

Can I afford the cost of living? 
The cost of living will vary widely from one university to the next and should be a key consideration before choosing your place. In London, the cost of living is almost twice as much than it is in North Ireland. Living in Adelaide will be more affordable than living in a state like Sydney and Melbourne. Ultimately, choosing a university should be as much about what suits your personal situation as it is about the picking the right course.

Remember, while the primary purpose of undertaking a degree is to arm yourself with a distinguished qualification in the subject of your choosing, it’s important to enjoy the experience too!


How can I fund my overseas studies?


One of the common reasons I hear as to why a student will decline offers from very renowned Universities is related to COST. Such circumstances are unfortunate, but we have to be open to the fact the an international education can be a heavy investment thus parents and students alike are required to know how much they are bound to spend should one pursue education overseas.

In this topic, I will explore some means of lowering your costs and funding your studies.

1) Scholarships/ Bursaries
If you are a high-achieving student, there may be scholarships you can apply for to lower your tuition fees. It can range from 10% – 50% and in some rare instances, a 100% scholarship. For example, Griffith University is awarding polytechnic students from Singapore a 10% scholarship for their upcoming intakes, as long as the student meets the minimum entry requirements to enter. They even have the Griffith Remarkable Scholarship that will finance 50% of successful students’ tuition fees. Curtin University is also awarding students with 25% scholarships if they have meet a certain GPA. Nottingham University is awarding high achieving IB Diploma students with scholarships of £2,500 to £15,000 towards your tuition fees.

Bursaries are one-time off “discounts” given to applicant to lighten their financial load enable them to study in the Institution. UK Universities such as Queens University Belfast and Glasgow University are awarding £2500 – £5000.

2) Bank loans
If you do not have enough funds for your tuition fees, you might want to consider taking up an education or tuition fee loan. Of course, I never encourage an application to take up the full tuition fee as a loan; you might have difficulty paying back after graduation! The interest rate ranges from 4.35% to 4.88% depending on the amount of loan you are planning to take up and you would have to find guarantors to co-sign the credit agreement (guarantors are persons who agree to repay the borrower’s debt should the borrower default on agreed repayments). No longer are loans limited to just domestic education. Banks such as Frank by OCBC, RHB Bank and Maybank have options for students to take up loans to fund their studies overseas.

My recommendation is to limit the loan amount to half your tuition fees and make sure you also have enough fundings for your cost of living!

3) Part-time employment
Try to fund your cost of living by working the additional hours you have on hand!

Australia – 40 hours fortnightly and full-time during the holidays. According to Fairwork Australia, the minimum wage is AUD$18.29 per hour.
New Zealand – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to New Zealand Government, the minimum wage is NZ$16.50 an hour if you are 16 years or over
United Kingdom – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to the United States Department of Labor, the minimum wage is dependent on the state but the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Find out how to find yourself a job by reading my article on How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

Need to know more specific information about funding your studies overseas? Feel free to hit me up with a message!

When would be the best time to start preparing for University studies?

One phrase: It is never too early. 

Some parents start as early as Secondary One for their children, while some would wait till the final results of the A levels have been released. There are no right or wrong answers but depending on the destination and course you are planning your child to enter, there are some timings that would ease your stress.

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Secondary Three:

When your child reaches this stage, it is essential for them to explore subjects that they are interested in and brush up on those they are not particularly strong in. Most students tend to pursue subjects they feel they can excel in and miss out on the learning journey for the rest. For example, most female students feel they would excel more in Humanities such as Literature and History and feel that they should not pursue “hard” subjects such as Additional Maths and Physics. However, it is essential to note that the latter are hard not because they are tough to learn, but because not enough time and emphasis are given to these subjects. “Hard” subjects are usually better pre-requisites for majority of University programs thus it is good to have them in the list of chosen subjects for O levels to establish a good base. Parents can give additional support in finding techniques and methods to make learning more enjoyable.

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Secondary Four:

The O levels (equivalent to Year 10) is a crucial moment for most Singaporean students (and parents likewise) as it would determine if a student would pursue Singapore GCE A levels or the Tertiary Diploma. Students who already know they would be going overseas to pursue a University program can use this O levels to apply for the UK A levels or Foundation programs available in most countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The A levels (both SG or UK A levels) pathway is a MUST take if one is planning to pursue professional courses such as Medicine and Dentistry. The Tertiary Diploma is a great pathway if students already know what they plan to pursue. These students who already know what they want to do should explore doing a Foundation program, which is a bridging program of typically 8 months – 1.5 years (depending on student’s grades) that will lead to a University degree. It will be a shorter duration instead of doing the full 3 years in a typical Polytechnic here in Singapore. Parents, do take note of this opportunity cost.

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Junior College Year 1:

This is a good gauge if your child is coping well in the A levels program. If they are not doing so well, it could be a sign for you to explore either the UK A levels (which is only 3 main subjects) or the Foundation programs.

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Junior College Year 2 (mid year or prelims):

The A levels results will be out usually in late February or early March the next year after the exams. With this in mind, students and parents should have some contingency plans and start applying to the UK, Australia or New Zealand using the mid-year or prelims results which are usually out in August and October respectively. Do not wait till the last minute, otherwise you would realise that you would need to rush Universities for offers! Attend University fairs, start going for webinars, check on alternative pathways and googling on Universities you may be interested in attending if you do not get to local ones.  

Still confused what the different programs are? Speak to me about your options!



From a T to a Pi: A lesson on learning and career development


Photo courtesy of Coursera Mindshift

Recently, I took up a free MOOC Class called Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by Barb Oakley and Terry Sejnowski, professors from by McMaster University in Coursera. If you are unfamiliar to the term, a MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. I started on Week 3 class, and there is this particular lesson that made such an impact on my realisation.

It is the approach/concept of categorising individuals
as a T-shaped individual or Pi-shaped invididual

I have no idea of who came up with this concept and my search on the net seems to be futile. It seems as well that there are many other shapes to categorise individuals such as the comb-shape, but this two are the one that connects with me the most.

Let me elaborate on these two shapes further:

Photo courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

A T-shaped individual is a person who has deep knowledge and skills in a particular area of specialization (represented by the horizontal line and marked specialist) with enough general, superficial knowledge and skills of other things to complement your specialisation (represented by the vertical line and marked generalist/ broad knowledge). Barb put herself as an example, by mentioning that she learnt to speak extremely fluent Russian since Linguistics was her interest. She then took up a smattering of other skills like driving a truck and learning how to type. This of course allowed her to be a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers up in the Bering Sea, but after which, she found herself in a challenging position of not having enough opportunities when she wanted to move on. This relates to many of us in many ways, especially since most of us are taught to niched yourself in a certain area, like computer science, or linguistics. 

What then can we do to maximise our opportunities and enhance our development journey? 

pi.pngPhoto courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

Apparently an approach popularised by our very own Patrick Tay, an elected member of Singapore’s Parliament, we should aim to be a Pi-shaped individual. The concept is to second-skill oneself in another field that may be directly related or may be quite different from the first. Why have a second skill? As Barb puts it: 

“Much as I love the Russian language, I had put my focus on developing one single skill without thinking about how much that skill was really needed in the working world and without thinking about whether other skills might complement and enhance my ability to get the kinds of jobs I wanted to have.”

Having a second skill gives one a little more balance. An individual can bring a second skill into his or her work because this is a passion, or simply because it complements one’s first specialisation. One does not have to choose on just one niche. In fact, this choice of pursuing a passion/ second skill can greatly enhance one’s creative ability in the other skill. 

What then I would encourage is for students out there to choose a program that would allow you pursue both a myriad of programs. In Australia, there are Universities that will encourage you to pick up two majors in a course. In Universities such as the University of Western Australia, they have generalised their Undergraduate degree that allows you to explore outside your expertise by taking a major in a different faculty. Needless to say, there are options to do a double degree (such as ANU Flexible Double Degree, University of Sydney Bachelor of Commerce/Science/Visual Arts etc and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies) that would strengthen your journey towards becoming a Pi-shaped individual.

In the UK, there are options to do a Joint/ Combined Honours degree. University of Leeds for example offers a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Physics. University of Exeter offers a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Flexible Combined Honours. Other notable Universities would be University of Durham, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, and the list can go on. 

Ultimately, the aim is to enrich and enhance your learning and career journey by looking at the real world and work to both follow and broaden your passions. 

Good luck!

Should I take Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy? What is the difference?

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During my time as an education counsellor, I came across numerous students looking to study Physiotherapy, as it would be an occupation in demand to meet the needs of the ageing population in Singapore. Strangely though, there are students who believe that if they do not meet the entry requirements of the Physiotherapy course, they should simply opt for the Occupational Therapy course. 

The two programs are not synonymous.

In this article, we shall discuss the differences of the two career options.

As an Occupational Therapist (OT), the focus is on optimising a patient’s independence and improving their functional ability to accomplish daily tasks following an injury or disability. With this core aim, an OT is trained to assess and adjust the physical environment of a patient’s home or work office to help one adapt to his or her circumstance and ultimately improve his or her quality of life. An OT will also train the a patient to use assistive equipment to help him or her cope with the everyday activities. 

As an Physiotherapist (PT), the focus is on treating a person’s injury, specifically the root of the concern, which are the injured tissues and structures. He or she evaluates and diagnose movement dysfunctions and then treats these through physical methods such as massage and exercise to strengthen, increase endurance and joint mobility. 

It is also important to note that there are many areas in which both professions greatly overlap.

Both professions are often involve in injury-related recovery and a large component of their job is to educate how to prevent and avoid injuries. An OT and PT are heavily educated and trained in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system and have immense knowledge about musculoskeletal injuries and rehabilitation. 

Now that you know a little more about the two different professions, I hope you can make an informed decision about which program to pursue! Good luck!