Arnoud De Meyer: 'If I were 18 again...'

Singapore Management University president Arnoud De Meyer.
Singapore Management University president Arnoud De Meyer.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Professor Arnoud De Meyer studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate and then obtained a graduate degree in business administration at the University of Ghent in Belgium, before working as an instrumentation engineer for a few years.

He returned to the University of Ghent for a doctorate in management before starting his academic career.

He was associated with the renowned business school Insead for 23 years and was the founding dean of its Asia Campus in Singapore.

He then headed Cambridge University's Judge Business School before becoming the fourth president of SMU in 2010.

Q Why did you choose to study electrical engineering?

A Electrical engineering, because in the early 70s when I started on my university studies, it was the new and exciting field to be in. Also, I loved mathematics and was strong in it.

Q If you were 18 again, would you still pick electrical engineering? Which university would you head to?

A I would study machine learning because it is an exciting new field and has numerous applications.

I feel that students should study for their first degrees in their own country if they have good universities, to build networks and to be anchored. So if I were 18 again, I would still go to university in Belgium.

But for a postgraduate degree, I will head to a university that is at the cutting edge of the field I am interested in.

So if it is machine learning, I would head to the likes of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Stanford in the United States.

Q Would you go out to work before heading for a degree?

A I went to work for a few years as an engineer, before I went to do my doctorate. It is a valuable experience and you gain new skills that you don't in school or university.

It also buys you time to figure out what you are good at.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline ''If I were 18 again...''. Print Edition | Subscribe