The Buddhist College of Singapore now has its own $35 million building to better serve its students - monks from the region, many of whom go on to run temples and teach .
The minimalistic six-storey building, consisting largely of dormitories, has facilities such as classrooms, a basketball court and a rooftop garden for its 100 students.
The building within the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery compound in Bright Hill Road in Bishan, which was two years in the making, was opened officially by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
The college, which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary, gets about 100 applications for its degree programme every two years. Seventy undergraduate and 11 postgraduate students have passed through its doors.
It was founded by the Venerable Sik Kwang Sheng, the monastery's abbot, and is the only institution here to offer formal graduate and postgraduate education specifically to Buddhist monks.
College facts and figures
•Occupies about 10,000 sq m of land.
•Houses teaching, research, office, sports, hostels and other facilities.
•Six-storey building costs $35 million.
•Caters to 100 students and faculty.
PM Lee, congratulating the college, said that Buddhists - the largest religious group in Singapore - help the needy, fund scholarships and bursaries, and foster racial and religious harmony, among other contributions.
The community has thrived here because its leaders, such as Ven Kwang Sheng, "understand the context of a multiracial society and have a strong sense of service to the community", said PM Lee.
The Venerable Chuan Sheng, the vice-rector of academic affairs, believes students are attracted to the college as it is one of the few in the region to offer two streams - one in Chinese and another in English.
The programmes are in partnership with Sri Lanka's state university, the University of Kelaniya, and the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Thailand.
Undergraduates interviewed said they opted for the college because of its rigorous curriculum, and to pick up Buddhism knowledge in English, which would help the religion to be perpetuated more easily.
There are at least two other centres here which offer higher studies in Buddhism - the Buddhist and Pali College of Singapore in Eunos and the Buddhist Library in Geylang.
Open to all, their part-time programmes are popular among working adults here. The Buddhist and Pali College, likely one of the first on the scene in the 1990s, started out with diploma programmes, which about 400 students have gone through.
The Buddhist Library, which introduced these courses more than 10 years ago, had started out as a library that also provided basic classes in 1983, before later expanding to produce academics.
The Buddhist College of Singapore said it plans to conduct more exchange programmes with Buddhist institutions in the region. It also aims to expand its nun college, which currently uses the premises of the Poh Ern Shih temple in Pasir Panjang, and to eventually launch tertiary programmes at that college.