Saturday, February 11, 2006

Singapore Management University

If there is a country which we should emulate in terms of setting the right foundations for a new (to be) world class university, it will be (unfortunately for some), Singapore.

Most of you would have heard of the two premier universities in Singapore, the National University of Singapore as well as the Nanyang Technological University, both regarded as top 50 universities in the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education Supplement survey.

However, there is a "new" university in Singapore (although possibly not so new in the sense that it absorbed certain established institutes and colleges) in a spanking new campus right in the heart of Singapore's Orchard Road - the Singapore Management University (SMU). Interestingly enough, the local New Straits Times did a thorough and complimentary review of the University today. Here are some snippets of the review:

While most universities conduct classes in huge lecture halls, SMU limits its students to a maximum of 50 per class. They don’t usually take down notes because materials would have been posted on the Intranet a few days before class.

"It is a state-of-the-art campus. But most importantly, we adopt a different pedagogy in educating our young minds. Our students don’t attend lectures and tutorials. They learn through small-group seminars which stimulate interaction. As a result, students become more bold, confident and articulate and are much sought after," says Hanson [Assistant Director of Corporate Communications].
Job Prospects
A survey conducted last year revealed that all of SMU’s students landed jobs within six months of graduation. About 60 per cent of them were offered jobs even before they finished their studies while 75 per cent have received at least two or more job offers.
Teaching Assessments
The university has a unique system where students, at the start of each term, are given "e-dollars" to bid online for courses, preferred professors and time slots. And while professors grade students for their course work, students rate their lecturers on their teaching and mentoring capabilities.
[Try doing this in Malaysian universities, and there might just be a revolt by the lecturers.]
Quality of Lecturers & Academics
More than half of them come from outside Singapore while 90 per cent of them obtained doctoral degrees from Ivy League institutuons [I'm extremely impressed! Compare this against only 30% PhD holders in Malaysian universities from don't know where] and are familiar with the American education system.

"In the education business, it is important not to compromise on the quality of professors. We don’t employ people who are looking for jobs. Instead, we go headhunting for the best brains and offer them a package that would attract them to Singapore," says Goh [Director for Undergraduate Admissions].

Malaysian-born Chua is an example. The 26-year-old who completed his bachelor and doctoral degree at the prestigious Wharton School in just five years is now SMU’s youngest assistant professor. He has been with the university since 2003.
Well, that's a real example of focusing on quality and not quantity. I'd not be surprised if SMU climbs the world rankings table quickly in the next few years.


Anonymous said...

As a Malaysian who spent a semester in SMU, I would like to share some of my views.

Yes, SMU is definitely an up and rising university in the regional landscape. Some of their unique attributes includes:

1) They usually have a class of 30 odd students. Gone are those lectures packed with hundreds of students. I have to say its really hard to dozed of when i was attending classes there as it's just too small for you to do so.

2) true enough, almost everyone in the campus carries a laptop, during breaks, u see groups of ppl wifi'ing everywhere. In one of my classes where a lecturer asked who doesn't have a laptop, it is surprising that out of the 30 odd, only less than 5 doesn't have one.

The fact that they shifted the campus along orchard road also shows an attempt to position the student in the businsess world.

One thing very liberal about this school is that it allows students to do things which are usualy baned in malaysian universities such as smoking publicly and wearing shorts to classes. Good or bad, its for you to decide.

Anonymous said...

For your info, UTAR has had its own method to rate the lecturers' qualities and weaknesses thru an online survey by its students. I knew this b'coz I'm an undergrad in UTAR and had done a survey and commented on all my lecturers for a particular semester.
(This is in contrast with
[Try doing this in Malaysian universities, and there might just be a revolt by the lecturers.] by Tony. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear anon @ 05:36:12 PM,

While UTAR has such a system, can the same be said to other universities? Even if there were, are the results even taken into account? I doubt so.

As for SMU, it just might become the Wharton/Harvard MBA of Asia veryyy soon, especially when you have 90 per cent of them obtained doctoral degrees from Ivy League institutuons.

However, I think this amount is bloated. 90% !? Even Ivy leagues universities do not have 90% of their faculty from ivy institutions.

A look on their
page shows that a large amount of them possess Ivy PhDs ... but not 90%. However, all their certifications are from very good universities nonetheless.

As for Dr Chua Choong Tze, he joins the long list of oversea Malaysian academicians. Oh Malaysia, when will you tap into them?

Golf Afflicted said...

Hey Anon 05:36:12 PM,

Yes, I actually do know that UTAR had the student eval practised, it was highlighted to me a while back on this blog. It is however, an exception to the rule plus, I was referring to the public universities we have, particularly the premier ones like UM, USM etc.

As for the Ivy League thingie - I believe that it could be the journalist who made the "error". I believe that he would have meant 90% of Ivy League or "equivalent" institutions. But the point is there, and we should be too petty or pedantic over the minor error.


Anonymous said...

Even the Thais are studying NUS e-learning strategies. See:

Anonymous said...

You want Malaysia to follow Singapore. No way they will do it. They are just too proud to admit their error. :P

Anonymous said...


Everything is fine. Everything is going well. All fail Shafie.

Anonymous said...

i have seen SMU building at Orchard was really air campus high tech on and so on..
this really impress me how they emphasize on education environment..
Good luck to SMU to kick Malaysia asses...

Anonymous said...

yeah, SMU building is really coolz, very high tech-looking, with a shinning neoned emblem overlooking orchard road. Even the parking lots look like an office area parking lot.