Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is launching three new undergraduate degrees this year - philosophy, earth science and one merging engineering with business.
The university, with an annual intake of 6,000 students, will offer 95 places in the three courses starting in August. There will be 30 spots for the Bachelor of Engineering with Business degree, another 30 for earth science, and 35 for philosophy. All are four-year honours programmes.
While NTU provost Freddy Boey admitted that offering a philosophy degree may seem like an odd choice for a science and engineering institution, he said this one will be different. It will include courses such as philosophy of science and philosophy of technology.
"Science and technology has transformed our lives and will continue to do so. But there has also been a downside, for instance issues on environmental sustainability and the ethical limits to the genetic modification of animals and human beings," he explained.
"There is a need for people who can think critically and philosophically about such issues."
He also noted that NTU will design the new courses to make them relevant to industry. This will ensure good job prospects for the graduates.
Philosophy students, for instance, will be encouraged to take a major or minor in another discipline - such as politics, psychology or economics - which will help them apply the skills from the philosophy course in a specific discipline.
The final year will also include a six-month attachment to a company, where again they will get to apply their training to solve real-world problems.
Professor Charles Rubin, who will oversee the earth science programme, said students will be taught to tackle some of the key issues facing the world, such as climate change, management of natural resources, forecast of natural disasters and developing alternative energy sources.
Through the four years, students will also have to do extensive fieldwork in the region.
He noted the shortage of earth-science specialists in Singapore. "There are firms which have their business centres here, but their operations elsewhere in the region because of the lack of people trained in this area."
NTU's engineering dean Ng Wun Jern said the programme combining engineering and business will give its students more job choices.
They will be able to qualify as an engineer in their chosen field, but also be equipped with business skills in areas such as finance and accounting, marketing and operations management.
He said: "They can be assured of wider career options, as they would possess the flexibility and versatility to take on dual roles."
Asked about the university moving into new areas such as philosophy and earth science, NTU president Bertil Andersson said just like the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, NTU intends to keep the "T" in its name and its focus on science and engineering.
"But it cannot be technology alone. It has to be technology plus. The disciplines cannot be studied in silos. They are all interconnected and it is at these disciplinary interstices that many of the new discoveries are being made and Nobel prizes won."