7. The PSC has always sought to ensure that public servants should have a variety of expertise and background to help solve the country’s diverse needs and problems. The PSC does not force diversity on candidates for diversity’s sake. We do not have rigid quotas for different countries, universities or courses, but bear in mind the interests and inclinations of the candidates themselves when making offers. This must be so because our very top candidates today have many other scholarship options available, including bond-free scholarships from some top American universities.
8. In its early days, PSC sought diversity by sending its scholars to study in different countries, as well as in Singapore. Our top scholars studied mainly in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, mostly financed by the Colombo Plan. Some also went to Germany, France, Japan, and later on to the US and China. (The PSC launched the China Scholarship Programme in 2009 and nine scholars from our first batch have graduated and are now doing their Master’s in the US.) The attempt to continue to send our scholars to countries other than the UK and the US continues today, and the PSC encourages applicants to consider studying in such “non-traditional” countries. In the last ten years, only about 7% of our scholars studied outside US/UK/Singapore, both as undergraduates and graduates. We would really like to see more doing so. Our scholars should see value in putting themselves out of their comfort zones to gain unusual experiences. They should not regard higher education as an exercise to collect degrees from renowned universities to burnish their CVs.
9. Yet another way of ensuring diversity is to send our scholars to study a variety of courses. Over the last 10 years, 42% studied Econs/PPE/Law, 31% studied Science/Math/Engineering/Medicine, 25% studied Liberal Arts/Other Arts/Humanities & Social Sciences, and 2% studied Finance/Business Admin/Accountancy. We would start to worry if the variety of courses narrows significantly.
10. We also like to see our scholars study in different universities, rather than only in the well-known Ivy League universities or Oxbridge. Public officers are, and have always been, judged by their performance on the job, not by the pedigree of their academic credentials. The Permanent Secretaries at the top of the Public Service have never come from only the Ivy League universities or Oxbridge. Those aspiring to be public servants should realise that their performance will often be enhanced if they can bring a new perspective to help tackle a public policy issue, gained by their stint in a “non-traditional” university or “non-traditional” country.