Pioneering education, for the greater good

As Singapore’s flagship university, NUS has always been at the forefront of education, both in terms of producing leaders as well as implementing innovative academic schemes and experiential learning programmes

Many of Singapore’s political and corporate leaders, as well as senior civil servants, call NUS their alma mater, among them four Singapore Presidents, two Singapore Prime Ministers and nine ministers in the current Cabinet.

Singapore President and NUS Chancellor Madam Halimah Yacob; former Singapore Presidents Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Mr SR Nathan and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares; Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew; and former Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong are all alumni of NUS or its predecessor institutions. The same holds true for the likes of several other prominent public figures, such as Mr Tan Min-Liang, Founder and CEO of gaming devices company Razer, and Ms Chua Sock Koong, Group CEO of national telecommunications company Singtel.

Mr Lee, an alumnus of Raffles College, was a firm supporter of education and emphasised the critical nation-building role that universities needed to play. “We want to create an institution which will be self-perpetuating, which can constantly and continuously produce a stream of trained and disciplined minds which are imbued with the values of our society, keenly alive to its problems and able to respond to it,” said Mr Lee at the University of Singapore on 24 November 1966.

Since its modest beginnings on 3 July 1905 as a medical school located at Outram with only 23 students in its inaugural intake, Singapore’s flagship university has grown to encompass 17 schools and faculties offering a plethora of innovative programmes attended by 39,000 students from Singapore and beyond. With campuses in Kent Ridge, Bukit Timah and Outram, the University prides itself on providing a solid and relevant education that engages students and prepares them for a lifetime of productive careers. Several novel models of education have been put in place to this effect, including the living-learning concept first implemented at NUS University Town; Yale-NUS College, Singapore’s first liberal arts college; and the NUS Lifelong Learners (NUS L3) initiative.

NUS University Town, which was officially opened in 2013, exemplifies the University’s vision of a dynamic campus network. The unique experience of living and learning on campus offered by University Town was a first for the nation then. Students live in one of four residential colleges in the vicinity and attend classes alongside peers from their home faculty, as well as with fellow residents. Teaching facilities, study areas, sports amenities, performance spaces, as well as retail and dining outlets complete the ecosystem, providing students with a holistic intellectual and social environment where creativity can flourish.

Yale-NUS College was established in 2011 through a partnership between Yale University in the US and NUS. It is a four-year residential college that offers a liberal arts and science programme for a complex interconnected world. The College’s inaugural cohort of 119 students graduated in July 2017.

More recently, in March 2018, Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung announced that NUS, in a bold initiative, would offer a 20-year period of enrolment for its students from the point of undergraduate admission, allowing them to gain access to a list of skills-based, industry-relevant Continuing Education and Training courses for upskilling or reskilling, thereby enhancing their ability to stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment.

As NUS celebrates National Day along with the rest of Singapore, it remains mindful of its responsibility to the nation as well as to current and subsequent generations of students who will leave the University well equipped to face, and contribute to, a brave new world.