Varsities play big part in changing cities: Minister

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that in recent years, Singapore's universities have been putting greater emphasis on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit among their students.
Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that in recent years, Singapore's universities have been putting greater emphasis on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit among their students.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Universities help to translate knowledge into new ideas, businesses and jobs: Ong Ye Kung

Universities can play a big part in transforming cities, as they help to translate knowledge into new ideas, businesses and jobs, said Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

"A university can be a tremendous generative and regenerative force for economies and societies, and help us stay resilient despite all the changes we see," he said.

He cited the example of Bordeaux, which previously had polluted industrial complexes. The city is now a centre of innovation and enterprise in France, due to its proximity to the University of Bordeaux as well as specialised engineering and business schools, he said.

Pittsburgh also had massive job losses and urban decay after the United States steel industry was downsized in the 1980s, he added.

Responding to this, its universities - in particular, Carnegie Mellon University - introduced courses such as biotechnology, information technology and clean energy to explore high-tech sectors. The city has since attracted tech giants such as Google, Uber and Facebook.

"In recent years, Singapore's universities are also putting greater emphasis on inculcating an entrepreneurial spirit among their students," said Mr Ong, who was speaking at the closing ceremony of the Asian Undergraduate Summit held at University Town of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He said this was evident from NUS' Overseas Colleges, Nanyang Technological University's Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme and Singapore Institute of Technology's Enterprise Immersion Programme.

AGENT FOR CHANGE

A university can be a tremendous generative and regenerative force for economies and societies.

MR ONG YE KUNG, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills).

The Asian Undergraduate Summit, a student-led initiative under NUS' University Scholars Programme, involved some 200 local and overseas participants. It was supported by philanthropic organisation Temasek Foundation Connects, set up by Temasek Holdings.

The 10-day summit, in its third run this year, examined how disruptive change impacts stakeholders in society, with students proposing ideas related to the topic. These included a parking app that allows users to book a carpark space in advance and a robot to meet the daily needs of senior citizens.

The winning team, comprising members from Singapore and six other countries, was Act!veBuddy. It conceptualised a location-based app that connects people interested in playing the same recreational sport. Once they have found another user, they may proceed to book a venue for their game.

Ms Bhakti Laul, 20, a student from Hindu College at the University of Delhi, said: "Working in a team of 12 people, it was important for us to be patient while pitching our ideas and working together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Varsities play big part in changing cities: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe