Friday, 14 October 2016

UniSIM set to be sixth Autonomous University by 2017; SIM University renamed Singapore University of Social Sciences on 17 March 2017

With full funding from MOE, it will have more resources to support its students
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Oct 2016

With a focus on applied learning and an eye on SkillsFuture, the privately run SIM University (UniSIM) is set to become Singapore's sixth autonomous university, if a government proposal is accepted.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) then intends to fully fund the university and bring it within its ambit. It has discussed the arrangement with the governing council of the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), the membership organisation that oversees UniSIM.

The proposal will be presented at a general meeting of SIM members for their approval, said Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung at UniSIM's convocation yesterday.

If the move is accepted, UniSIM will occupy a unique niche in the landscape of Singapore's autonomous universities, now comprising the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).

Autonomous universities receive government funding and are subject to government oversight but have the flexibility to set their own direction and differentiate their educational offerings.

Mr Ong pointed out that UniSIM has supported generations of working adults and mature learners and become an expert in addressing the needs of those who juggle work and study commitments. "In this era of SkillsFuture, it is timely to consider putting in the concrete and making this a permanent and recognised path in our education and training landscape," he said.

UniSIM, which has a campus in Clementi Road, will continue to focus on applied learning in the domain of social sciences, said Mr Ong. It will target both adult learners and younger students.

"Just as SIT will focus on applied programmes in science, technology and engineering, UniSIM will focus on social sciences, and preparing students for socially related careers," said Mr Ong. "This will include social work, human resource, psychology, early childhood education and also law, focusing on family and criminal law."

Right from the start, UniSIM has tried to offer upgrading options for working adults. MOE provides the same level of subsidies for Singapore citizens enrolled in UniSIM's part-time and full-time degree programmes as it does for undergraduates in other autonomous universities. Besides 490 full-time students, UniSIM has 13,200 part-time students, mostly working adults.

UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat said that with full funding by MOE, UniSIM will have more resources to support its students.

It intends to keep its focus on applied learning and customising courses for working adults.






















UniSIM's mission fits with SkillsFuture movement
It has expertise in providing skills and knowledge upgrading pathways for working adults
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Oct 2016

In less than a decade, Singapore went from three universities to six, offering a variety of degree programmes and learning pathways.

The diversification of the higher education landscape took place in tandem with the expansion of university places to offer degree opportunities to more Singaporeans.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) had pledged that, by 2020, some 40 per cent of each cohortwould be able to attain degrees through full-time study at one of the local universities. Another 10 per cent would be supported to gain degrees through part-time study.

The MOE had also announced that, while the research-intensive National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design offer more academic degree pathways, the two newer universities - the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University (UniSIM) - will provide application-oriented programmes, where the emphasis is on mastery of skills required for a specific profession.

Last year, the Government launched the SkillsFuture initiative, a national movement to harness the aspirations and talents of the population and encourage Singaporeans to keep on learning and upgrading their knowledge and skills.

As Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said yesterday, it is in the context of SkillsFuture that it makes sense for UniSIM to become an autonomous university fully funded by the Government.

Indeed, as Mr Ong pointed out, even before SkillsFuture, there was UniSIM, which had its beginnings in the Open University Degree Programme started in 1992 to offer part-time degree programmes to working adults. Building on this, the Singapore Institute of Management proposed setting up a university for adult learners, and the proposal was approved by the Government in 2005. UniSIM launched its part-time degree programmes in 2006.

Mr Ong said that, if the MOE's proposal goes through, then as Singapore's sixth autonomous university, UniSIM will play two unique roles. He said, just as SIT will focus on applied programmes in science, technology and engineering, UniSIM will focus on social sciences, and preparing students for socially related careers.

The other area of focus for UniSIM, and some would argue the more important one, will be in providing courses for working adults and mature learners.

As Mr Ong pointed out, since its inception, UniSIM has been the university for lifelong learning, with its mission of providing skills and knowledge upgrading pathways for working adults. It has developed expertise over the years.

One of its practices is its "funnel approach" to admission, where UniSIM gives applicants with work experience, but not necessarily very high academic grades, a chance to prove their ability to cope with the rigours of a degree programme by taking relevant foundation modules. Those who do well can then progress to the corresponding degree programmes.

As Mr Ong said, the practice "strikes a good balance" between providing opportunities, while at the same time, maintaining standards in the degree courses.

UniSIM's expertise in adult learning is also evident in how well the courses are packaged for working adults - blending online and face-to-face instruction. Course materials are digitised, and videos of lectures are put online so that students can catch up on lessons in their own time.

Classes are also made up of students of different ages and backgrounds. Even the full-time degree students are required to take some classes with the working adults in the evenings, so that their education experience will be enriched by mixing with adults already in the workplace.

UniSIM's practices and expertise in the area of adult education should be preserved, even strengthened.

As UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat said after the announcement yesterday, as an autonomous university, UniSIM will have more resources to deepen its expertise and provide more for its more mature learners who juggle work and study.

The Government has diversified the higher education landscape in recent years, through introduction of new applied degree pathways and, more recently, the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes, and skills-based modular courses.

UniSIM as Singapore's sixth autonomous university would add to this vibrant education and training landscape.

















UniSIM a popular pick among working adults

Over 5,000 apply a year; MOE subsidy and industry recognition among the main draws
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2016

Even as it expands its full-time degree offerings and places, SIM University has maintained its appeal among its key target group - working adults eager to pursue part-time degree studies.

The university, which looks set to become Singapore's sixth autonomous university, launched full-time degree programmes two years ago and now has 900 school leavers enrolled in six degree courses.

But based on enrolment figures released recently, its mainstay continues to be its 13,000 students enrolled in 60 part-time courses from counselling to accounting. UniSIM said it continues to receive more than 5,000 applications a year from working adults and mature students who want to pursue a degree.


Communications, logistics and supply chain management, early childhood education, social work, and building and project management are among the courses that continue to draw students.

Nearly 400 people applied for the 60 places in UniSIM's law school, which starts its two new programmes in January. The school, Singapore's third law school, hopes to plug a gap by training criminal and family lawyers.

UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat expects demand for its part-time degree courses to remain healthy over the next few years because of the SkillsFuture initiative, which encourages workers to update their skills to thrive in the workplace.

"Working adults want to further themselves in their career. Some want to make a switch. UniSIM offers them a flexible path to work and study for a degree at the same time," he said, noting that a UniSIM part-time student is 28 years old on average. Most have three to five years of work experience, and attain their degrees in four years.

He said one of the main draws is the Ministry of Education's (MOE) subsidy that covers 55 per cent of the tuition fees for Singaporeans. "It's recognition by MOE that UniSIM offers quality degrees."

Students say another draw is that the courses are job relevant and recognised by the industry. Many of its 60 courses are accredited by professional bodies. Its popular accountancy degree, for instance, is recognised by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Its Human Factors in Safety course is recognised by the Ministry of Manpower and meets a rising need for workplace safety and health professionals. By 2018, 19,000 will be needed, up from the fewer than 5,000 now.

Professor Cheong also noted the good outcomes for UniSIM graduates. In a survey last year, seven in 10 working adults reported a salary increase within a few years of graduating from UniSIM. The average increase in annual salary was 21 per cent.

UniSIM students welcomed the MOE's move to convert the university into an autonomous institution, saying this will boost its stature and the recognition of its degrees.

Said Ms Felicia Teo, 28, a business development executive who is studying for a marketing degree: "UniSIM is well thought of by employers. In fact, it was my employer who encouraged me to take up this course. But if it is on a par with the other five universities, then there would be even more recognition for my degree."

If the Government's proposal is accepted, then the privately run university will come under the ambit of the MOE and be fully funded by it.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who announced the proposal at UniSIM's convocation last week, pointed out that UniSIM has supported generations of working adults and mature learners.


Prof Cheong said UniSIM will keep its focus on applied learning and customising courses for working adults. "UniSIM aims to become the standard bearer for continuing education and training," he said.















* SIM University to be renamed Singapore University of Social Sciences
UniSIM gets new name, to have strong social focus
Lifelong learning will also be a mission for renamed Singapore University of Social Sciences
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2017

As part of its restructuring into the country's sixth autonomous university, SIM University (UniSIM) was renamed Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) yesterday.

The new name reflects the university's mission of lifelong learning, anchored in disciplines with a strong social focus.

Said Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on the change: "What will be most unique about the university is its tradition of applied education, and outreach to adult learners, all of which will be kept and strengthened."

The university will have two distinctive features.

First is its focus in the social sciences and disciplines that have a strong impact on human and community development.

Its programmes will prepare students for social sector jobs and those with strong social orientation, such as human-resource management and early-childhood education.

The university will still provide limited courses in other areas such as business and engineering.

Second, SUSS will focus on lifelong learning and participate actively in SkillsFuture, the national movement to foster continuing education and skills development.



UniSIM has focused on adult learners since its 2005 inception as a private university, equipping them for career advancement and transitions.

But at an extraordinary general meeting in November last year, UniSIM's members voted in favour of a government proposal announced the month before to bring the university under the ambit of the Ministry of Education (MOE) as an autonomous university.

This means UniSim, now SUSS, will be receiving government funding and be subject to government oversight but have the flexibility to set its own direction and differentiate its educational offerings.

The other autonomous universities here are the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore Institute of Technology.

Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, president of SUSS, said the school will cater to a wide range of learners while providing flexibility for their learning.

"We are committed to ensuring that SUSS remains at the forefront of innovative, flexible and applied tertiary education through close collaboration with industry, employers and the community in the development and design of our programmes," he said.

"Leveraging technology, our faculty will be progressive and adaptive in catering to the varied needs, backgrounds and abilities of learners."


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