James Cook University Singapore to get bigger campus at Sims Drive

It can then take in more students, offer more activities

JCU Singapore now operates out of a campus in Ang Mo Kio and another in Upper Thomson Road. It will give up these premises when it moves to the former Manjusri Secondary site. -- PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
James Cook University Singapore has secured the former Majusri Secondary school site (above) in Sims Drive to build its new campus. -- PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The popular James Cook University (JCU) Singapore, which is struggling for space with 3,400 students, has secured a sizeable site in Sims Drive for a new campus.

The former site of Manjusri Secondary School, which is government-owned, is 24,000 sq m, or over three football fields in size.

It will enable the private institution, which operates out of two temporary campuses in Ang Mo Kio and Upper Thomson Road, to double student numbers and offer more sports and co-curricular activities. The lease for the former campus expires next year, while that for the latter expires in 2017.

The aim of the outfit set up by the Queensland-based university is to expand enrolment to 7,500 in three to five years, said Dr Dale Anderson, deputy vice-chancellor of James Cook University who heads the Singapore campus.

Its steady growth has often been contrasted to another Australian university, the University of New South Wales, which was invited to set up a campus here. It set up school here in 2007, aiming to take in 15,000 students but pulled out after three months, citing poor demand from the region.

Students say JCU Singapore's draw is its strong faculty and well-designed courses.

Its 40 full-time faculty members here are all required to have at least a PhD and conduct research, similar to requirements at its Queensland campus.

Like its psychology degrees, its early childhood education degree is accredited by the relevant professional bodies in Australia, so degree holders can teach there.

It is launching environmental science and allied health courses over the next few years.

It had to hold back on new courses because the current campuses lacked space and it did not want to remove sports and recreation facilities, said Dr Anderson.

These new programmes are expected to be popular with Singaporeans, who make up one-third of the student population. International students include a few hundred from European countries.

The new campus is expected to be ready in February and will replicate JCU Singapore's research laboratories and counselling clinic that is open to the public.

JCU Singapore will give up both of its current premises when it moves to Sims Drive.

Refurbishment of the new campus is slated to start this month. It will be a fully wired, high-tech campus that enables video conferencing and flipped classroom teaching - where students watch lectures online and class time is used to go deeper into the topic through discussions and debates.

The school also hopes the new campus' proximity to the Singapore Sports Hub and Central Business District can lead to some benefits. "We can hopefully gain some traction in terms of partnering with business organisations," said Dr Anderson.

JCU's vice-chancellor Sandra Harding said the new and bigger campus will further enhance the university's role as a leading tertiary education provider in the region and add more prominence to the university's tropical agenda.

"Singapore is arguably the most advanced tropical country, and by being in the country, we have been able to work collaboratively with the leading local institutions and government agencies to pursue our objective of creating a brighter future for life in the tropics worldwide," she said.

JCU, which is making a mark for its research in areas such as climate change and marine sciences, aims to become a world leader on tropical issues and has declared that its Singapore campus will play a key role in its plan.


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