Proposal for UniSIM to become Singapore's sixth autonomous university

UniSIM graduates at the university's convocation ceremony on Oct 12, 2016.
UniSIM graduates at the university's convocation ceremony on Oct 12, 2016. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung speaks at UniSIM's convocation ceremony on Oct 12, 2016.
Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung speaks at UniSIM's convocation ceremony on Oct 12, 2016. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The privately-run SIM University (UniSIM) will become Singapore's sixth autonomous university and be fully funded by the Government, if a proposal by the Education Ministry (MOE) is given the green light.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung who revealed this at UniSIM's convocation on Wednesday (Oct 12) morning, said MOE had discussed the proposal with the university's board of trustees and the governing council of the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), the membership organisation which UniSIM comes under.

All parties have agreed that it is a "positive and logical next step in the development of UniSIM", said Mr Ong.

But given that SIM is a membership organisation, Mr Ong said, the proposal needs to be presented at a general meeting of SIM members before a final decision is taken.

The five autonomous universities are the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).

Mr Ong said that as an autonomous university, UniSIM, with a campus in Clementi Road, will be a unique Singapore university, focusing on applied learning, in the domain of social sciences, targeted at both students and adult learners.

"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 in family and criminal law. It will retain limited offering in other areas such as accountancy, business and engineering," he added.

Mr Ong went into the history of the set up of UniSIM, on how it was built on the foundation of SIM's partnership with the Government, to provide upgrading opportunities for working adults.

The partnership started in 1992, when SIM was invited by MOE to run an Open University Degree Programme. To build on this, SIM later proposed setting up a university for adult learners and the proposal was approved by the Government in 2005.

Over the years, the Government worked with UniSIM to expand its offerings, including part-time programmes, new full-time applied degree programmes, and more recently, the hosting of Singapore's third law school, which will see its first intake in January next year.

MOE has since 2008 provided subsidies for Singapore citizens enrolled in its part-time programmes, up to 55 per cent of published full fees, similar to their peers pursuing part-time undergraduate studies in the other five autonomous universities.

UniSIM's full-time degree programmes, launched two years ago (2014), are also funded by MOE, and the students on the programme receive the same level of fee subsidies as the undergraduates in the other universities.

"UniSIM now occupies a unique space in our education and skills training landscape," said Mr Ong of the university which, besides its enrolment of 490 full-time students, has 13,200 part-time students, mostly working adults.

He praised UniSIM for having supported so many working adults and mature learners over the years and noted that it had developed expertise to cater to the needs of working adults 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.

During this year's convocation, UniSIM's 11th such event, 2,133 students will receive their degree scrolls. They include graduates in facilities and events management, counselling and aviation management.