SINGAPORE: SIM University (UniSIM), which was named as Singapore’s sixth national university, says it aims to produce "work and future ready" graduates.
UniSIM’s president Professor Cheong Hee Kiat estimates that with the fifth and sixth universities on board by 2020, the number of polytechnic graduates entering publicly—funded local universities could potentially double from the current 15 per cent to 30 per cent.
As a private university, Professor Cheong said UniSIM is much more nimble in meeting industry needs, but it also wants to produce graduates who can adapt to the fast—changing knowledge economy.
This means empowering students with a strong foundation of "soft skills", he said, also pointing out that UniSIM is mindful about "over—vocationalising" university education.
"You must not swing too much to the industry, where everything is dictated by what the work—place wants immediately upon graduation," Professor Cheong emphasised.
"We would want to produce what is called the ’T—Shape’ people whom I would say are work—ready today and future—ready. When they go to work after graduating, we’d like them to be able to contribute immediately, but they have also been given skills that will enable them to prepare to be adaptable."
"The self—learning bit is important. Things like understanding the social perspective of what they do, thinking about sustainability —— about when you start something, ensuring it’s not just a flash—in the pan —— and cross—cultural intelligence," Professor Cheong added.
Courses will also be flexible, so a student can decide to switch from full—time to part—time midway, or even extend an internship programme.
"We will want to have work—attachments for our students, probably for one semester," Professor Cheong said.
"If the student finds it good and if the employer says, ’come on, stay on a little while more’, and if the student ... wishes to extend his work attachment, that’s fine," Professor Cheong said.
"And if a student finally says, ’oh, my employer is giving me a good job. I haven’t finished my degree, but the employer finds me good —— I wish to be employed’, we will say, good, go ahead, get employed and finish your degree. Come back to us like the people who are doing part—time with us."
Professor Cheong said that the important thing for UniSIM was to have a curriculum that will be flexible enough to allow for these situations to happen.
"Our goal is to see how we can provide what is suitable training for the students according to the circumstances," he said.
Professor Cheong also said that being a private institution was one of UniSIM’s strengths.
"The modus operandi of an AU (Autonomous University) is you must assemble the complement of full—time faculty that will run the programme for you," he said.
"Ours is, we get one or two faculty who knows the area, who then talks to the industry, and gathers people from the industry, and then we sit together and we formulate the programme. Of course we then get external assessors to tell us whether the programme is good or not good."
"Here’s a chance for us to make the university sector more vibrant, more diversified and a chance to introduce the private sector into university education," Professor Cheong added.
While details on the kind of full—time courses rolled out and student intake numbers are being worked out, new full—time programmes will likely cover areas such as social work, counselling and business.
The university is also looking at boosting its faculty numbers and expanding its facilities and teaching spaces, with a four—storey sports and arts performance block due to be completed by 2014.
But even with the expansion, UniSIM said it will max out its space when it reaches its target intake of 14,000 by 2015.
This figure does not include the extra intake for full—time degrees.
UniSIM currently sees an enrolment of about 4,000 students a year, with a total student population of about 12,000.
It has about 80 full—time staff and about 700 associates, who are employed on a part—time basis.
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