NUS students to design their own learning journeys to better pursue their interests

  • Students to design their own modules 
  • Polytechnic graduates with entrepreneurial qualities to be considered for aptitude-based admission
  • Polytechnic, NUSHS and IB applicants get bonus points for first-choice courses

Students who enrol at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in the new academic year can look forward to a series of new initiatives designed to encourage them to take greater ownership of their learning journeys to better pursue their passions.

Professor Ho Teck Hua, NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost, said, “Students who enjoy what they are learning tend to be more motivated and are more likely to do well. At NUS, we constantly ask ourselves how the University can better encourage, facilitate and support students in embracing lifelong learning and pursuing their passions. In the new academic year, we are doubling our efforts by offering students the flexibility to chart their own learning journeys and opening access to NUS’ unique entrepreneurial education pathway to poly graduates. In the long run, we hope to nurture highly motivated, self-directed learners who are adaptable and nimble, and who will thrive in our fast-changing and complex world.” 

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NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua (left) with NUS undergraduates Syazwani Binte Daud Dave Nonis (centre) and
Felix Tan (right), who will benefit from the new Design-Your-Own-Module initiative.

Design-Your-Own-Module initiative

From August 2019, all NUS undergraduates will get to choose what they want to learn, how they learn and who they learn from, for one portion of their curriculum. 

Under the optional Design-Your-Own-Module (DYOM) initiative, undergraduate students may take up to four modular credits from their Unrestricted Electives Modules (UEM) to pursue subjects that contribute to their personal and professional growth. UEMs enable students to explore, in greater breadth or depth, any subject at any level. Students may use these modules to meet the requirements for a specialisation, minor, double major, double degree, or concurrent bachelor-master’s degree.

For the modules under the DYOM initiative, students will play a role in selecting course materials, assignments, and assessment criteria, under the guidance of an NUS faculty mentor. 

Students keen on designing their own modules can organise themselves into a group of at least 10. They can then submit a proposal to an NUS faculty mentor or to their home faculty for review and approval. Students can either invite a guest speaker from industry to tutor them on a subject – for instance fintech, urban sustainability, or the fine arts – or they may select modules from a suite of online courses offered by edX, a not-for-profit massive open online course (MOOC) provider. 

Created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in 2012, edX has partnerships with 89 top universities and offers more than 2,100 university-level courses to about 14 million people around the world. Some interesting modules offered by edX include: Becoming an Entrepreneur (MIT), Blockchain Technology (University of California, Berkeley), Climate Change: The Science by UBC (University of British Columbia), and Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success (Imperial College London). 

NUS students will interrogate the relevant learning materials guided by the faculty mentor, who will also set assignments, supervise discussions and ensure demonstrations of competence in the field of study. 

Students may choose to do a four-credit module (120 hours of work) or a two-credit module (60 hours of work). All DYOM modules will be graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis and will not contribute any marks towards a student’s cumulative average point. 

Prof Ho explained, “The exciting new Design-Your-Own-Module initiative dramatically broadens the range of modules offered by NUS and will better prepare our students for lifelong learning. Students can now pursue knowledge in niche areas currently not offered by NUS courses and access top university courses as well as teaching by industry leaders.” 

“The DYOM initiative empowers students to customise their learning experiences. While DYOM modules might not be directly related to a student’s discipline, the knowledge learnt will complement NUS’ rigorous academic curriculum as well as the existing general education modules to give our students a more enriching and stimulating educational experience,” he added.  

Admission of polytechnic graduates with entrepreneurial qualities

The admissions exercise for the new academic year will see NUS opening its door wider, to talented polytechnic graduates who have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial abilities while pursuing their polytechnic education. 

“NUS is a forerunner and key player in Singapore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we hope to position Singapore strategically as a key node in our innovation and enterprise network. As part of this effort, we are constantly looking for students with entrepreneurial inclinations to provide them with a pathway to realise their entrepreneurial ambitions,” Prof Ho said.

NUS is working with the five polytechnics in Singapore to receive nominations of graduating students who have displayed a strong entrepreneurial inclination during their diploma studies. This includes, among other things, active participation in entrepreneurship-related programmes while at their polytechnics. These nominees must also apply to NUS. If their academic results do not meet the NUS admissions requirements, they will be interviewed and considered for admissions to their first-choice courses[1] via the Discretionary Admissions Scheme. While academic results will not be a driving factor, it will still be taken into consideration to ensure that students can manage the academic rigour of the course they intend to pursue at NUS.

NUS expects to consider up to 200 nominated polytechnic students in total, with each polytechnic nominating up to 40 students.

Polytechnic students admitted under this new scheme stand to gain from NUS’ active industry partnerships and experiential entrepreneurial education, such as the highly popular NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Programme and the NUS Enterprise Summer Programme. Since 2002, more than 2,800 NOC alumni have established over 370 companies globally, more than a dozen of which have been acquired.

Each year, up to 15 per cent of applicants are identified for admission based on measures other than academic merit. The University continues to welcome applicants demonstrating various talents and with qualifications apart from the A-Levels, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science (NUSHS) Diploma.

Bonus admission points for polytechnic, NUSHS and IB graduates

Last year, to encourage and support students to pursue their passions, NUS awarded bonus admission points to A-Level students applying for their first-choice programmes (applicable for non-interview programmes). 

In Academic Year 2018/2019, 9 per cent more A-Level applicants – about 700 students – were offered admission to their top choice courses. A preliminary analysis by the University revealed that students who were admitted into their first-choice courses through the bonus admission points scheme are doing as well as students who were admitted into the same courses without the bonus points. 

Following these encouraging results, NUS will be extending this policy to students with polytechnic, NUSHS and IB qualifications who have applied for admission to NUS in Academic Year 2019/2020. The University expects more applicants to be offered their first choice as a result of this policy.


[1] This does not apply to courses such as Medicine, Law and Dentistry, where students are assessed on their aptitude and interests through interviews.