SUTD admits record 386 students for fourth intake

First-year undergraduates during a physics class at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on May 15, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
First-year undergraduates during a physics class at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on May 15, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Number of female students in new intake also exceeds 40% target

THE Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), which opened its Changi campus on May 9, has admitted a record 386 students this year.

The university said it received about 2,500 applications and accepted more than 400 students this year. In the end, 386 took up the offers and started classes this month.

The institution's intake numbers had previously raised questions about whether it was being too selective.

When it opened in 2012, it said it could take in up to 500 students. Though it received more than 4,000 applications that year, it admitted only 340. The next year, it took in only 283, and last year it accepted 332.

SUTD president Thomas Magnanti explained the shortfall in the first year by saying the university had gone for "quality, not quantity" because of the rigorous curriculum it had developed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

Officials also explained that the first year's intake was higher than in the next two years because the school had drawn applicants from two different cohorts of students, some of whom had been willing to wait a year to start classes.

Commenting on this year's batch, SUTD provost Chong Tow Chong said the increase in numbers and the continued high quality of students were encouraging.

"They show that our efforts to raise awareness of SUTD among students, teachers and parents, through targeted outreach programmes and engaging workshops, are bearing fruit."

Besides having good grades, applicants need to write a 500-word essay about themselves. They are also invited to submit portfolios and videos and share their blogs to support their applications.

Shortlisted applicants then go through a panel interview.

SUTD officials noted that besides being academically inclined, the accepted students tend to be passionate about technology and design. The university, which partners MIT and China's Zhejiang University, offers a curriculum with design infused into all courses, with specialisations in four areas: architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design, and information systems technology and design.

This year, close to half the intake - or 185 students - are women, exceeding a 40 per cent target in the engineering-heavy university.

To draw more women into engineering and other technology-related fields that they often avoid, it has run an advertising campaign highlighting the role that women have played in those fields.

It also conducts presentations at junior colleges and polytechnics, and runs a workshop to introduce female students to its design and engineering courses.

Freshmen interviewed said they were attracted by SUTD's emphasis on design thinking and its hands-on approach to teaching and learning.

Ms Marissa Ang, 19, who is enrolled in a dual-degree programme in technology and management jointly offered by SUTD and Singapore Management University, said: "Increasingly, the design-thinking approach is becoming the way to think around problems."

sandra@sph.com.sg