James Cook to get coveted branch campus status

James Cook University's campus in Singapore at Sims Drive.
James Cook University's campus in Singapore at Sims Drive. PHOTO: ST FILE

S'pore campus can now call itself a university instead of a private education institution

Last year, James Cook University Singapore won the Edutrust Star, the highest quality mark awarded to private education institutions here.

In July this year, it will become the first Australian institution here to gain branch campus status as part of a wide-ranging agreement signed last week between Australia and Singapore.

JCU vice-chancellor Sandra Harding said gaining branch campus status in Singapore is the realisation of a long-held dream for the university.

"We wanted to be seen as an Australian university with a campus in Singapore, and now we have that recognition and that capacity to refer to our presence in that way.

"James Cook University's campus in Singapore is wholly owned by the university. The announcement adds legitimacy and clarity to our position and our ambition to be one of the great universities of the tropics."

Instead of referring to itself as a private education institution, this status would allow the Singapore campus to call itself a university.

Students from institutes of higher learning, including universities, enjoy privileges such as being able to work part-time.

The university which started here with just 50 students in 2003, has grown its student population to 3,500 and is currently housed in a central campus in Sims Drive.

The 54 degree courses it offers, ranging from business to psychology, are the same as those run at JCU's two home campuses in Queensland and its students here sit the same examinations.

Its psychology degree, for instance, is accredited by the relevant professional bodies here and in Australia, which means JCU graduates can practise in both countries.

Full-time faculty members are required to have at least a PhD. The university has also set up laboratories, brought in a research dean and hired researchers for its campus here.

Deputy vice-chancellor Dale Anderson, who heads the Singapore campus, said the university was looking at increasing its degree offerings and increasing its student population to 5,000 in two years.

Among the new offerings that it is seeking approval from the Council for Private Education are degrees in banking and finance, allied health and marine aquaculture which the university is known for.

Dr Anderson said the university is also looking at launching shorter certificate courses in allied health fields such as diabetes management and dementia management. The courses which are already run in the home campus in Australia are offered to health care professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and nutritionists.

"There is a need for people trained in these areas because of the rapidly ageing population in Singapore," he said, stressing that the university has always believed in serving the needs of Singapore.

Research undertaken by the faculty here is also focused on creating new knowledge relevant to Singapore and the region. For example, a study on the effectiveness of telephone-based counselling for people looking to kick the gambling habit was started in the light of the opening of the integrated resorts here.

JCU aims to become a world leader on tropical issues and has declared that its Singapore campus will play a key role in its plan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'James Cook to get coveted branch campus status'. Print Edition | Subscribe