SIT to be first uni in north-east; new campus will be up by 2023

(From left) MP Sun Xueling, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, PM Lee Hsien Loong, Prof Tan Thiam Soon and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung looking at the model of the future SIT campus at the ground-breaking ceremony on Sept 10, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) is starting a new chapter in its journey with a new campus in Punggol. To be built by 2023, it will be integrated with the industry and the communities in the north-east region of Singapore, and will be the first university there.

The move will further strengthen SIT's unique industry-focused, applied-learning model.

When completed, the 91,000 sq m campus on two plots of land, about the size of 17 football fields, will be able to accommodate 12,000 students, far more than the 8,000 students in the university's current distributed campuses in the five polytechnics and Dover Road.

The university will be co-located with JTC's business park buildings in the Punggol Digital District - a centre for digital and cyber-security industries - enabling students, faculty and industry professionals to work together on projects.

For example, new ideas conceived in SIT could be test-bedded in the companies there, enabling products to go onto the market faster. Also, companies can tap SIT's applied learning and research capabilities, as well as its talent pool in areas such as cyber security, engineering, food technology, assistive technology, allied health and hospitality.

The public will be able to access many of the spaces on the ground level, including the park that conserves the forest in Punggol Road, the market village and the foodcourt facing the waterfront.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was at the ground-breaking ceremony of the campus yesterday, said what sets SIT apart from the other five autonomous universities is the greater emphasis on practice-oriented learning.

He referred to SIT's origins in the Polytechnic-Foreign Specialised Institutions scheme 14 years ago, where polytechnics partnered with a small group of overseas universities to offer niche degree programmes for their graduates.

After running the programme for about four years, the Education Ministry decided to set up SIT in 2009 to bring all the degree programmes under one institution.

Today, as an autonomous university, SIT runs 42 degree programmes and awards degrees in its own name.

Its enrolment has grown from 500 students in 2010 to 8,000 now.

PM Lee noted the healthy 90 per cent job rate for the university graduates, and said: "SIT's model balances meeting students' degree aspirations while ensuring they are sought after by the industry."

He said the new campus in the Punggol Digital District will strengthen the strong nexus that SIT already has with the industry. "We hope to support an ecosystem for digital and tech companies here, to trial new concepts to work, study and live, before scaling them up nationally. By being co-located here, SIT faculty and students can come together with industry professionals to collaborate on projects, and support test-bedding opportunities."

He also referred to SIT's many efforts to connect with the communities there, including running science camps for schools, and added: "You will be a big part of the Punggol community in the future, and I hope you can embrace this identity and have your students do their part for the people here."

SIT president Tan Thiam Soon said SIT is fortunate to have the strong support of the Government to build a campus at a time when technology is beginning to have a huge impact on how students learn.

"It is a rare opportunity to re-imagine what a university campus, a university environment of the future, will be, and work towards realising it," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2019, with the headline SIT to be first uni in north-east; new campus will be up by 2023. Subscribe