Singapore's new public university aims to cater for socially-driven, working adults
Working adults with commitments and mature students are at a different stage in their life, thus having a set of different needs compared to fresh school-leavers entering university. Source: Reuters/Edgar Su

Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) took its place as the nation’s sixth public university yesterday, amid government efforts to make higher education in the island state more holistic, The Straits Times reports.

The new public institution aims to cater for working adults and will have a strong social focus. On top of adding more places for its popular courses such as business analytics and early childhood education, it will also expand its range of degrees related to the social sciences, like urban studies and environmental studies.

“The majority of them (adult students) want a degree to further themselves in their careers or to make a switch. The university offers them a flexible path to work and study for a degree at the same time,” SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said.

SUSS wants to cater for working adults. Pic: Reuters/Edgar Su.

Previously called SIM University, the school was restructured into SUSS, the island nation’s sixth autonomous university. The country’s legislature passed the Bill to bring the private institution within the ambit of the Education Ministry on Tuesday.

But SUSS will be “clearly differentiated” from the other universities, its Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament.

Singapore’s five other universities have long emphasised on the sciences and technology, as part of the country’s bid to drive the economy of the tiny but affluent island state. But the changing global economy is forcing the country to rethink its education goals and shift into one that promotes more critical thinking through the humanities.

Singapore’s wealth is driven by the government’s push on science and technology. Pic: Reuters/Woo Yiming.

SUSS is another step in the government’s efforts to fill this gap in its higher education sector, as the school’s strengths are its focus on quality education for adult learners as well as its emphasis on social sciences-related subjects.

The school is slated to work with SkillsFuture Singapore to develop courses to support industries, as well as to complement the Singapore Institute of Technology’s work, which focuses on applied degrees in science and technology, according to the minister.

There will be strong inter-lacing of theoretical knowledge with real-life application, Ong added.

Social sciences will also be infused into other areas of study, such as business or engineering.

“In civil engineering, for example, besides the technical aspects of putting up a new bridge or building, we want our students to consider the social impact as well. How will it impact the people living in the vicinity?,” Cheong said.

Lifelong skills

Education has to keep up with the economy’s needs. Pic: Reuters/Edgar Su.

While SUSS will ramp up its efforts to recruit more students, the education minister stressed it is not the degrees that should be the primary concern, rather the learning of lifelong skills.

Ong said the ability to keep pace with the economy’s needs, and not just having a degree, is “what helps a person earn a living”.

At a time when information can be Googled, he said, “skills are what carry a premium, and skills need to be honed throughout our lifetime”.

In a year, more than 5,000 working adults and mature students apply to pursue their degrees at their school, according to the school’s president, Cheong. There are 13,2000 part-time students enrolled in SUSS’ 60 part-time courses, ranging from counselling to accounting.

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