Working Paper

Strategies and policy effects in the global talent race: foreign academics in Singapore

Published 23 October 2017 / By Lucie Cerna & Meng-Hsuan Chou

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This paper addresses the gap between government strategies and policy effects by answering the question: Which factors (e.g. social, economic, academic networks and/or migration policy) are crucial for attracting and retaining international academic talents? Taking the case of Singapore, a country whose universities have consistently risen in global university rankings in recent years, we present the results from a survey of tenured and tenure-track faculty members at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and Singapore Management University. Singapore is certainly not alone in its efforts to attract the ‘best-and-brightest’ from abroad. The underlying assumption and belief among most governments engaged in the ‘war for talent’ is that, if the ‘right’ package can be designed and offered, the ‘right’ talents will come and stay. Our findings show that for those foreign academics based in Singapore the factors ‘able to communicate in English’ (both inside and outside of the work environment), ‘remuneration package’, ‘better access to research funding’, and ‘moving closer to parents’ are most crucial in their decision to relocate to Singapore. While the majority of our respondents intend to remain in Singapore, their satisfaction concerning ‘cost of living’ and ‘work-life balance’ are significant in their decision to leave Singapore.


Academia, attractiveness, policy development, retention, Singapore, talent, university


Lucie Cerna, COMPAS Affiliate, University of Oxford; Email:

Meng-Hsuan Chou (corresponding author), Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme, NTU Singapore; Email: or


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