Alternative Tertiary Education Options That Don't Cost An Arm And A Leg

Alternative Tertiary Education Options That Don't Cost An Arm And A LegAlternative Tertiary Education Options That Don't Cost An Arm And A Leg

Who says education has to be expensive?

We all know how expensive education can be – some of us are still paying off student loans, thank you very much. But there’s a socialist in each and every one of us that believes that education should be free (or at least affordable!).

Short of learning a new language and flying off to Germany or France to enjoy more affordable education options there, we make do with what we have. Don’t forget the living costs and the other varied expenses that come with moving overseas!

For those who opt to remain in Singapore (or not so much opt, but have no choice but to stay), the cost of tertiary education can be exorbitant.

University fees at private, unsubsidised universities like James Cook University, will set you back about S$55,000 for your degree. At local, subsidised universities like Nanyang Technological University (NTU), you would pay S$27,000 for your degree.

For some of us who are looking to further improve ourselves (without having to sell a kidney on the black market to fund our degree, masters or PhD), here are some alternative tertiary education ideas to consider.

Alternative tertiary education options:

1. Get a nanodegree

alternative tertiary education

Source: Udacity

A nanodegree is education provided by companies like Udacity, Code Louisville and AT&T. It is an online certification that you can earn in 6-12 months (spending about 10-20 hours/week) for US$200/month. However, the scope of education is pretty limited to basic programming skills that will only qualify you for entry-level programming and analyst positions. Still, better than nothing! And a great way to learn a new (very much in demand) skill.

James Williams, a full-time staff at Udacity as well as someone who has completed six nanodegrees with the school, recommends scheduling a recurring time during the week to do coursework and take notes during the classes so you won’t have to keep rewatching the videos.

2. Competency-based learning

alternative tertiary education

Source: Pixabay

As a journalist, having gone through 3 years of journalism school, I can safely say that I apply less than 10% of what I learnt in theory, in my real job now.

Competency-based education addresses two flaws in the traditional tertiary education system. The first is the relevance of topics learnt in school and the ability to apply it to real-world jobs. The second is affordability.

The most important characteristic of competency-based education is that it measures learning rather than time. Students progress by demonstrating their competence, which means they prove that they have mastered the knowledge and skills (called competencies) required for a particular course, regardless of how long it takes.

In Singapore, the Center For Competency-Based Learning & Development (CBLD) has been set up for this very purpose. CBLD offers courses on HR consultancy, On-The-Job Training (OJT) consultancy, Digital Marketing, Business Transformation and strength coaching services, among others. Full course fees start from only S$1,300 here.

3. Massive open online courses (MOOC)

alternative tertiary education

Source: Pixabay

Did you know that National University of Singapore (NUS) offers free online courses? Yup, that’s right! Through Coursera, NUS offers a bunch of courses ranging from Introduction to Public Relations to more obscure topics like Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato.

Occasionally, the UNESCO literary arm will also pair up with universities, like Athabasca University, to offer MOOC on topics such as communication and digital literacy. All you need to do is to look out for such courses and apply. The best part is that it is totally free and you are awarded a certificate at the end of your participation.


Are you ready to take the next step in furthering your education through these alternative tertiary education options? Let us know which option you would pick in the comments below. 

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Written by

Sarah Voon