NUS announces new education initiatives

Incoming NUS students can look forward to a range of new programmes and initiatives this coming semester, designed to offer greater flexibility to students keen to pursue their passions in a fast changing world, said NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua in an interview on 26 February. 

Among them is the plan to award up to 1.25 bonus points (equivalent of one H1 grade) to students applying for their first choice programme. The bonus points, applicable to programmes not requiring a pre-entry interview, will be added to the student’s University Admission Score. Because admission is a highly competitive process, these bonus points will “move the needle for quite a few people”, said Prof Ho. 

He added that this is in line with the approach adopted by most of the top schools abroad to “go beyond grades”. In Academic Year (AY) 2017/18, NUS admitted 14.5 per cent of students based on qualities other than grades. Prof Ho hopes that this will allow students to pursue subjects they are truly passionate about and venture beyond what is taught in the classroom.  

NUS will also further broaden the undergraduate curriculum in line with its emphasis on developing students with skills in more than one discipline. To this effect, some 55 new Double Major and 31 new Major-Minor combinations will be offered from AY 2018/19, bringing the total number of combinations to 180. 

Prof Ho said that the idea behind introducing a broader selection of carefully curated courses was to create multiple pathways for students, and to “allow them to be able to change their minds”, while preparing them for a lifetime of diverse careers. Currently, about 15 per cent of each NUS cohort is trained in more than one discipline. Prof Ho hopes to bring this up to 50 per cent within the next five years. “The goal is that when they graduate, they have multiple job offers in different domains; they have a chance to choose,” he said. 

NUS will also offer three new undergraduate degree programmes from August, including the Concurrent Degree Programme (CDP) with University of Melbourne Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, the first veterinary studies degree programme in Singapore. The new CDP, offered by NUS Biological Sciences, will teach specialised theoretical, practical and clinical skills in veterinary medicine and veterinary science, and will allow students to complete their degree in an accelerated 5.5 years. 

The other new degree programmes are the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Pharmaceutical Science offered by NUS Pharmacy, which will address the growing demand for skilled professionals who can work across the entire continuum of the pharmaceutical business, and the Joint Degree Programme with University of Dundee (UoD) offered by NUS Biological Sciences, which will equip students with drug discovery and design expertise and provide hands-on training through UoD’s partnerships with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

The goal is that when they graduate, they have multiple job offers in different domains; they have a chance to choose.

Keeping in step with the University’s core belief that talented students should benefit from a transformative education regardless of financial background, NUS will offer an additional 200 bond-free scholarships to deserving undergraduates, bringing the total number of NUS scholarships to 430 per year. The University already has in place a comprehensive suite of financial assistance schemes, including loans, bursaries and work-study opportunities.

In another announcement, Prof Ho shared that entrepreneurial students keen on participating in the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) progamme this year will have two more destinations to choose from as the programme expands to include Jakarta, Indonesia and Toronto, Canada.

The NOC Southeast Asia programme will begin with Jakarta, home to the world’s fourth largest population as well as a diverse and vibrant start-up scene. Students will embark on a three-month internship programme, developing innovative solutions to real-life problems faced by growing Indonesian and Singaporean firms in areas such as agribusiness, social entrepreneurship and e-commerce.

Participants of NOC Toronto will spend a year immersed in the local start-up scene while taking classes at partner institution University of Toronto. The city is North America’s fourth largest and home to more than 4,000 technology start-ups and over 30 incubators and accelerators. 

The popular programme is already available in Beijing, Shanghai, Israel, Lausanne, Munich, New York, Silicon Valley, Singapore and Stockholm. The two new destinations will bring the total number of start-up hotspots on offer to 11. 

Singapore Polytechnic student Noelle Kwek, who intends to enroll in NUS Arts and Social Sciences this year, welcomed the new initiatives. “I think it’s good, especially since there are careers which require a combination of different skillsets. It also helps students who may have multiple interests. With more options, students will be better prepared for the working world.”