SUTD students challenged to turn problems into opportunities through interdisciplinary studies

A view of the SUTD campus on Aug 21, 2019. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Students of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have been challenged by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to make "Singapore a better nation by design" through their interdisciplinary studies that can turn national and global challenges into opportunities.

Speaking at the university's 10th anniversary gala dinner on Wednesday (Oct 23), Mr Heng said SUTD students, whose curriculum integrates systems and design thinking, are well-placed to help Singapore deal with challenges such as climate change, growing the economy, and harnessing diversity and building an inclusive society.

He said: "Looking back, SUTD has achieved much in a short span of 10 years. Looking forward, what more can SUTD achieve 10 years from now? Your motto is to make 'A Better World by Design'.

"So I would like to challenge you to make Singapore a better nation by design. Many significant changes are coming our way. How do we turn these changes into opportunities?"

He said education has been a major social leveller for Singaporeans, and over just a few decades, the country has made "rapid progress" in education.

He highlighted a report that was released by the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday, which showed that Singaporeans today are generally better educated, more able to find jobs and earn more, and live longer.

Mr Heng said this progress in education has been achieved by maximising the value spent in the field and making every dollar count.

He added: "As we invested more in education and expanded the university sector, we added diversity to our offerings - to provide more pathways for our students, to better cater to their strengths and passions."

It is for this reason, he said, that SUTD was established a decade ago. SUTD became Singapore's fourth public university then and took in its first students in 2012.

Its curriculum infuses design into all courses, with specialisations in four areas: architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design, and information systems technology and design.

Mr Heng said this ability to blend together technological advancement and design has made SUTD graduates highly sought after by employers today.

At the event on Wednesday at Shangri-La Hotel, SUTD announced that it would be offering students from low-income families new tuition grants and bursary awards from the academic year starting May next year.

The school said the charity Quantedge Foundation has contributed $3 million to seed-fund a grant, while Mr Von Lee, chairman and founder of Expand Construction, gave SUTD $1 million towards a Von Lee Yong Miang-SUTD Bursary Award.

Mr Heng also held up the university's approach of working together with its industry partners which have created opportunities for its students.

The minister said SUTD now has more than 800 industry partnerships, which he noted is more than double its pioneer batch.

At its first graduation ceremony in 2015, 10 SUTD graduates received master's degrees, while 298 were awarded bachelor's qualifications.

Mr Heng, who was the guest of honour at the ceremony then, gave the graduates three life lessons: to dream big, to dare to overcome challenges, and to define themselves not solely by achievements but by their character and what is "on the inside".

On Wednesday, he repeated the lessons in his speech and said he hoped SUTD would continue to produce graduates who are successful and who would take advantage of Singapore's latest citizen engagement exercise, Singapore Together, to improve the quality of life here.

"There will be many more partnership opportunities under the Singapore Together movement for us to work together on issues our people care about, such as improving environmental sustainability, enabling Singaporeans to seize the opportunities that technology can bring, and fostering a caring and inclusive society," he said.

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