Overheard at PSB Academy: Common Misconceptions of Private Universities in Singapore

Posted on: 15th March, 2023

The decision to pursue a degree in Singapore may be one of the few significant contemplations in one’s life. While there is more than one choice to pick from – ranging from public universities to private ones, we typically make our choices based on the courses we are interested in and the reputation of the universities. Although many of us believe that the only options for higher education in Singapore are public or private universities, this is not the case. Unfortunately, when we search online for “private universities in Singapore,” we often find articles containing misleading or incorrect information. To clarify this issue, let us provide additional explanations.

Misconception 1: Private Schools, such as PSB Academy, are Private Universities

The first misconception is that private schools, such as PSB Academy (PSBA), are private universities. PSBA is actually a Private Education Institution (PEI) and an independent institution. It is not a private university, nor is it an overseas campus or an offshoot of any university. PSBA offers private degrees in partnership with universities overseas, with the same quality standards of education as their universities overseas.

Dr Charles Ong, Dean of PSBA explained, “Degree students at PSBA are formally registered (or enrolled and/or matriculated) with our partner universities and will be awarded the degree certificate solely from the universities. Our students will enjoy local administrative, pastoral and academic support from the school itself, such as academic consultations from our faculty.”

Misconception 2: All Foreign Universities Are Private Universities

This misconception is that foreign universities in Singapore are all private universities.

Although known colloquially by Singaporeans as private universities, this is actually a misconception of private education since the Singapore government does not accord university status to overseas universities or foreign universities in Singapore. Not all foreign universities are private universities because some foreign universities are actually public universities in their native countries.

Private universities refer to overseas campuses or branches of a foreign university in Singapore that are privately funded and operated. Private institutions are known colloquially as ‘private universities’, though this may not be entirely true for all. Some examples of foreign universities in Singapore and/or private university branches and/or campuses here include INSEAD (European Institute of Business Administration) and ESSEC Business School.

Misconception 3: Most Foreign Universities Offering External Degree Programmes are Private Universities in their Native Countries

Now that we know exactly what constitutes a private university in Singapore, let us address another misconception – foreign universities offering external degree programmes through PEIs like PSBA in Singapore are private universities in their native countries. This is not true, as most foreign universities that offer external degree programmes in Singapore are actually public universities in their native countries.

For example, one of PSBA’s partner universities the University of Newcastle (UON), Australia, is legally registered as a public university in Australia. Without an owner or any shareholders, it is established by the State Government for the benefit of the community under a New South Wales Act of Parliament – The University of Newcastle Act 1988 No 68.

According to a spokesperson from the UON, the majority of universities in Australia are public universities that are established under a State or Territory Act of Parliament. There are only six private universities in Australia, including Australian Catholic University, Avondale University, University of Divinity, University of Notre Dame Australia, Bond University and Torrens University Australia. On the other hand, organisations such as UON are registered as universities under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011.

Another example of PSBA’s collaboration is Coventry University, the UK. It was awarded university status in February 1992 by the Order of the Privy Council. The university operates under an Instrument of Government and Articles of Government.

According to the spokesperson at Coventry University, universities in the UK are not owned or managed by the government. However, universities must be approved by the Secretary of State in order to operate with university in their name and are required to follow the government’s regulations as determined by the Office for Students. The government publishes the list of universities with degree-awarding powers on its website.

The degree programmes offered via PSBA in Singapore operate using the same curriculum as students studying in Coventry University. However, term dates could differ, which could affect programme duration.

While some areas of Coventry University Group are private (e.g., certain areas within subsidiaries), Coventry University as an education provider is entirely public. This means that Coventry University can receive funding from the state. Interestingly, there are only six private universities in England and Wales and they are not entitled to any funding from the state.

PSBA’s partner universities are all accorded university status and quality assured in their respective countries. Here are some examples of their university status and the quality assurance received.

Table: University Status and Quality Assurance
Country University Status Quality Assurance

Royal Charter/Legislation:

Royal Charter (University of Nottingham)

Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (Coventry University, Edinburgh Napier University, University of Hertfordshire)

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education


University of Newcastle Act 1989

Edith Cowan University Act 1984

La Trobe University Act 1964; La Trobe University Act 2009

University of Canberra Act 1989

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency
New Zealand


Massey University Act 1963

New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (operating as Universities New Zealand)


Private education institutes (PEIs), such as PSBA, are not private universities, even though they may partner with foreign universities to offer private degrees to students. There are individuals who view Private Education Institutions (PEIs) as a solution to the increasing need for educational qualifications that may not have been fulfilled by government or autonomous universities in Singapore. Additionally, PEIs provide working adults, including those who have taken a break from their education pursuit, with flexible course arrangements to upgrade and upskill their qualifications.

Regardless of the educational institution you decide to attend, it’s essential to recognise that private education institutions and government or autonomous universities each have their own pros and cons. It is important that you do not simply follow a popular and conventional path when it comes to pursuing higher education; instead, take the time to consider all of your options when choosing a private degree, evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each, and then choose the one that aligns best with your needs, interests, objectives and preferences.

Learn more about our course offerings across a suite of disciplines at our Open House on 1st April.