SUTD breaks ground for new campus at Changi

The interior of SUTD features different shades on different floors to enable way-finding

SINGAPORE: The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Singapore’s fourth publicly—funded varsity, has broken ground for its permanent campus at Changi.

Phase 1, which comprises academic and residential blocks, will be ready by early 2015.

With its emphasis on collaboration and inter—disciplinary learning, the SUTD doesn’t sound like a traditional university. It doesn’t look like one either.

Academic disciplines such as engineering and architecture are referred to as "pillars".

And they are not housed in standalone buildings but are linked by bridges and common spaces to encourage interaction.

The campus design also emphasizes sustainability and makes use of green technology design features to be as eco—friendly as possible.

For instance, buildings will be laid out and tilted to maximise natural sunlight and ventilation.

There will also be a bio—retention pond to irrigate plants using recycled water.

Speaking at the ground—breaking ceremony on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the school’s approach reflects the innovation the government wants in higher education.

It’s a goal that goes beyond increasing places for students. The government has said it wants to raise the number of places such that 30 percent of Primary One students can attend university.

"We had in mind not only the number of additional publicly—funded places that we could create. We also wanted diversity," said Mr Tharman, who is also the Minister for Finance and Manpower.

"We wanted to create new and different pathways, so that taken together with our established institutions, we have a landscape of options for young Singaporeans with diverse interests and abilities to prepare themselves for the opportunities and responsibilities of the 21st century."

With a global crisis looming, the next few years could be more difficult for fresh graduates.

The SUTD’s president, Tom Magnanti, is unfazed. "We’re always going to have economic upturns, downturns, but we’re going to educate people for the long haul."

What makes SUTD unique is the depth of collaboration with its two partners, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and the Zhejiang University in China.

MIT’s president Susan Hockfield explained: "We’re trying to provide an environment where boundary crossing is the norm...crossing boundaries between disciplines, crossing boundaries between countries, and crossing boundaries between the university and industry."

Professor Yang Wei, president of Zhejiang University, said the globalisation of the classroom mirrors the globalisation of business. "If you want to be a future leader, you have to understand the world."

SUTD will begin classes in April 2012 with an initial cohort of 500 students.

Students will also take courses from a range of academic disciplines.

— CNA/ck/ir