Learning Minds Special

4 new ways to get a degree

4 new ways to get a degree
Illustrations: Ong Ze Teng

4 new ways to get a degree

Check out these higher-education and lifelong-learning programmes that prepare you for a future that emphasises job skills


There’s no need to commit to a degree programme from the onset with the stackable approach. Instead, opt for a sequence of credentials — such as certificates — that can be accumulated to build up qualifications relevant to your career path. 

Students sign up and pay only for the programme component they want. This approach marks a move towards smaller credentials and continuous education to acquire marketable skills. 

Notable courses: Undergraduate Certificate (UGC) courses in Engineering or Computing disciplines offered by the National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE), in partnership with the NUS School of Computing and Faculty of Engineering. 

How it works: You have the flexibility of completing a UGC in six to 24 months, depending on the number of modules that make up the certificate. Each certificate equips you with a group of marketable skills that can be used right away. Candidates who have performed satisfactorily can enrol in the Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree programme. Credits from modules completed in the UGC course (along with the grades) will be transferred to the degree and be counted towards fulfilling degree requirements. 

Perfect for: Polytechnic graduates and working adults.


Here’s a viable way to learn and earn: The SkillsFuture Work-Study Degree Programmes that feature greater employer involvement. 

These skills-based undergraduate programmes combine on-the-job training (OTJ) and study, and were launched earlier this year by the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). Both universities will work with partner companies to design and deliver these programmes, select students, as well as assess students’ OTJ performance. 

Partner companies comprise government agencies, small-and-medium enterprises and multinational corporations. Sixteen employers will be involved in the initiative at SIT, and one at SUSS. Students enrolled can look forward to OTJ training with these employers as well as sponsorship for their studies. 

Notable courses: Selected programmes in information security, software engineering, hospitality business, food technology, electrical power engineering, and civil engineering at SIT. Selected programmes in finance and business analytics at SUSS. 

How it works: 

• Term-in/Term-out (at SIT): Students alternate between one or two school terms (or trimesters) of studying at university, and one or two school terms of OTJ training at the workplace. 

• Work-Day/Study-Day (at SIT and SUSS): Each week, SIT students work three or four days at the company, and study one or two days at university. SUSS students work three days and study for two.  

Perfect for: Interested individuals who meet entry requirements, including fresh polytechnic graduates and 
in-employment upgraders.


Go where you want to go in less time with a programme that leads straight to post-graduate qualifications. 

Integrated programmes are alternatives to the traditional four-year bachelor’s timetable. They may be run in collaboration with reputable foreign institutions, and typically feature specially designed curriculum.

Notable courses: Such programmes are offered at selected schools and faculties at universities like Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore), NUS, Singapore Management University (SMU) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The SUTD Technology Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), for instance, allows students to graduate with two degrees: A Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science, and a Master of Science in Technology Entrepreneurship.

How it works: Students complete two degrees — a bachelor’s and master’s — in about four and a half years. Pursuing both separately could take a student up to six years and is comparatively more expensive. 

Perfect for: Degree seekers who want to specialise in a field, or hope to leave school armed with a unique combination of highly sought-after skill sets. 


Fresh polytechnic graduates now have new work-learn pathways to a skills-based degree: The SkillsFuture Joint Poly-Uni Earn and Learn Programme (ELP). 

Said Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post earlier this year: “Modules that participants learned during the joint ELPs can count towards attainment of SIT and SUSS degrees later on”. 

Mr Ong, who is also Second Minister for Defence, added: “We are connecting the dots between universities and polytechnics, and between our institutes of higher learning and industry partners. All these are important steps to prepare our students for work and provide multiple pathways for us to deepen our skills.” 

Notable courses: Joint ELPs have been launched in these three areas: Building Services developed by Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and SIT, as well as Facilities and Event Management, and Infocomm Technology, both developed by TP and SUSS. These ELPs take 18 months to complete.

How it works: ELP participants can take selected university-level modules with undergraduates from the relevant degree programmes at SUSS or SIT, while undergoing OTJ training at the same time. They can apply to the relevant degree programmes offered by the respective universities upon completing the ELP, and are eligible for credit recognition.

Perfect for: Fresh polytechnic graduates.

Contact the universities and institutions listed on this article for programme details and admission requirements. 

This article is published in the Sept 2017 issue of The First Degree, a publication of TODAY, Mediacorp Press.