Abbott: New chapter in strong S'pore-Aussie ties

Flow of students now both ways, he says at opening of JCU's new campus

JAMES Cook University (JCU) Singapore officially opened its new campus yesterday in a ceremony attended by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The private school - an offshoot of JCU based in Queensland, Australia - was previously housed in two separate campuses in Upper Thomson and Ang Mo Kio. It started operating in Singapore in 2003.

The new campus is now on a 24,000 sq m site - the size of more than three footballs fields - in Sims Drive.

It is on the former premises of Manjusri Secondary School and can now accommodate more than 5,000 students.

"This is quite a special day for higher education here in Singapore, and it's another chapter in the story of Australia and Singapore's long and strong friendship," said Mr Abbott, who is here on a two-day official visit.

He said more than 130,000 Singaporeans have graduated from Australian universities since the 1950s and that the relationship is now mutual under the New Colombo Plan. The plan offers Australian undergraduates scholarships and business opportunities in the region.

"The tide of students flows both ways," he said. "We are returning the compliment that Singapore has paid to us by learning as much in your country as you have, over the decades, learnt in ours."

JCU's new campus boasts state-of-the-art facilities such as a financial trading room where students get access to real-time stock market data and classrooms equipped with smart Apple TVs.

There is also a psychology clinic which offers counselling services for members of the public struggling with problems such as depression or dementia.

About a third of its 3,700 students are local, while the rest come from across the region.

"The main thing we can get here is a diversity in culture," said second-year business student Sajan Varghese, 32.

"We have people from almost all the countries in the region, and I think this provides a global perspective."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Abbott: New chapter in strong S'pore-Aussie ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe