Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Changi Campus For S'pore's 4th University

Source : The Business Times, August 12, 2008

THE sprawling plot of land near the Singapore Expo - which was to have housed the now-defunct University of New South Wales (UNSW) Asia campus - has found a new occupant at last.

Singapore's new publicly funded university will make its home at the vacant 22.6-hectare site along Upper Changi Road, with the first buildings set to be ready by 2013, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday.

Mr Ng : Might consider a 'garden university' concept for the new varsity

Students, however, need not even wait that long. The inaugural intake of 500 will begin classes much earlier at an interim campus in 2011, just three years from now.

Overseeing the establishment of the new university - Singapore's fourth publicly funded one - is Far East Organization's chief executive officer Philip Ng Chee Tat.

The well-known businessman is no stranger to the education field as he is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the National University of Singapore (NUS), and was involved in the setting up of both the Singapore Management University (SMU) and Republic Polytechnic.

Outlining his plans during a press conference yesterday, Mr Ng, 49, said his main priorities are to develop a masterplan for the university's campus development, come up with a suitable curriculum model and, more immediately, to start a global hunt for its first president.

Members of his committee, who will be named by the end of the year, comprise leaders from academia, industry and the public sector, he said.

On what sort of shape the university might take, Mr Ng said things were still at the drawing board stage but he might consider a 'garden university' concept, similar to what UNSW Asia was to look like.

UNSW announced in May last year that it would close its Asia campus because of lower-than-expected enrolments and the financial risks involved in continuing the venture.

Said Mr Ng: 'What we want to do is build an institution with its own character and identity, with good quality accommodation, easy access to public transport, and look at possible synergies with the surrounding industries such as banking and IT.'

One key advantage of having a university just next to the Changi Business Park is the opportunity to expose students to high technology businesses and knowledge-intensive facilities of leading companies, he said.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the budget for setting up this university is likely to cost 'hundreds of millions of dollars', although no firm figure has been derived as plans are still being drawn up.

He added that the MOE and the steering committee would be closely studying the SMU example, which also took about three years of planning before opening its doors.

One of the chief reasons why the government is building this latest varsity is to increase the number of university places to 30 per cent of each year's cohort by 2015, up from 25 per cent currently.

That works out to about 2,400 more places, which will be equally split between polytechnic graduates and junior college students.

The new university will be able to take in a steady stream of up to 2,500 students a year and offer three main disciplines - business, design and engineering.

The public, meanwhile, can have their say in what they want the new university to be called. A consultation exercise is currently on until Nov 30, and those who want to submit their ideas can do so at www.moe.gov.sg/name-the-uni/ for the steering committee's consideration.

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