NUS bringing together arts, science faculties to form new college

Proposal comes amid push for graduates to possess core skills while remaining versatile

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science will combine to form a proposed College of Humanities and Sciences. PHOTO: ST FILE

The National University of Singapore (NUS) will be bringing together two of its faculties - one of them its largest - to form a new interdisciplinary college next year.

It has been proposed that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences - which has the largest enrolment in NUS, with 6,404 undergraduates in the last academic year - be brought together with the Faculty of Science to form the College of Humanities and Sciences, The Straits Times has learnt.

Both faculties are located at the university's Kent Ridge campus.

The two faculties will still exist, with plans for their current deans - Professor Robbie Goh of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Professor Sun Yeneng of the Faculty of Science - to become co-deans of the new college, ST understands.

An NUS spokesman confirmed that "the proposal is still in the consultation stage".

The internal consultations, based on a working draft for the proposed new college that was circulated among faculty members, began soon after NUS president Tan Eng Chye wrote a commentary in The Straits Times this month about the need for universities to move from subject specialisation to interdisciplinary teaching and research.

According to the working draft seen by ST, the college's students will have access to facilities and humanities, social sciences, science and mathematics courses offered by both faculties.

This move towards more interdisciplinary learning comes along with the Education Ministry's push in recent years for graduates to have core skills and knowledge, while remaining versatile and adaptable to future conditions.

In June, then Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that graduates need more broad-based expertise to meet an ever-changing landscape moving forward, and called for a "bigger transformative push" to this end.

If approved, the new college could begin accepting students as soon as the next academic year which begins next August.

Professor Tan said the proposed college will equip students with market-relevant skills to thrive in the future economy.

"The rapid pace of change in many industries means that the old model of intense academic specialisation will no longer work for our young adults.

"Rather, graduates in the workforce will need breadth of knowledge, depth, as well as the ability to integrate multiple disciplines to solve complex problems," he said.

He added that NUS has been pioneering interdisciplinary teaching and learning over the last 20 years, and its academics are also excelling in interdisciplinary research.

NUS will offer 10 cross-disciplinary degree programmes from August next year to leverage synergies between complementary disciplines. Some possible pairings of complementary disciplines include economics and data science, computing and project management, as well as engineering and business.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of the academic and student development divisions at SIM Global Education, noted that the new college will see "two very different domains of expertise put together".

"One is hard, natural science, while another is the arts and humanities," he said. "In confronting real-life problems, apart from scientific inquiry, you need a humanistic aspect to consider societal implications."

Correction note: An earlier version of the story used the word "merged" to describe the new arrangement. However, NUS would like to clarify that the two faculties will remain separate and will merely be brought together.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2020, with the headline NUS bringing together arts, science faculties to form new college. Subscribe