Why It Matters

A leader in lifelong learning

As Singapore's sixth autonomous university, SIM University - renamed the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) - will carve out its own niche and play a unique role in the higher education landscape.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who set out the SUSS Bill for debate in Parliament, said that just as the Singapore Institute of Technology will focus on applied programmes in science, technology and engineering, SUSS will focus on social sciences and prepare students for related careers.

This is important, as Singapore needs to balance economic growth with social development.

The other area of focus for SUSS, and some would argue the more important one, will be in providing courses for working adults and mature learners.

As Mr Ong noted, even before SkillsFuture, there was SIM University, which had its beginnings in the Open University Degree Programme started in 1992 to offer part-time degree programmes to working adults. Over the years, it has built up expertise in providing skills and knowledge upgrading pathways for working adults.

One of its practices is its "funnel approach" to admission, where work experience is taken into account, not just academic grades. Those who fall short can take up foundation modules and, if they do well, progress to degree studies. The practice strikes a good balance between providing opportunities and maintaining standards in the degree courses.

The university's expertise in adult learning is evident in how well courses are packaged for working adults - blending online and face-to-face instruction. Classes are also made up of students of different ages and backgrounds. Full-time degree students are required to take some classes with the working adults in the evenings, so that their education experience will be enriched.

With lifelong learning here to stay, SUSS could show the way.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline A leader in lifelong learning. Subscribe