Keep your eyes peeled for the exciting opening of Singapore’s fourth university, SUTD. Professor Pey Kin Leong tells us what to expect when it opens.
By Joyce Lin
Singapore is buzzing with excitement after it was announced that a fourth university is set to open its doors in April 2012. Focusing on design-related engineering and architecture, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) is collaborating with top universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Zhejiang University.81 students have already signed up to be the first historic intake of the university and many more are expected to join in the future.
The “Big D”
SUTD is set to distinguish itself from other universities with its “Big D” concept, where the “D” stands for design.
However, as Professor Pey Kin Leong, Associate Provost at SUTD clarifies; the “design” element is not related to art or fashion design. Rather, it is a focus on design as a discipline in the field of engineering and architecture.
Students will enjoy a rigorous curriculum designed by MIT and adapted to Singapore’s context, with design underlying all the modules.
“Our students will be exposed to the whole design process from the drawing board to the end product. We want them to be savvy about all aspects of the design process,” Professor Pey explains. “Design at SUTD also represents any technically-grounded design imaginable, including process design, architectural design, product design, software design and systems design,”
In today’s engineering industry where design is playing an increasingly important role, it is crucial for aspiring technical leader and innovators to have a multi-disciplinary background.
SUTD is also collaborating with Zhejiang University to include Eastern-influenced modules. These include Business Culture and Entrepreneurship in China and the Role of Technology and Design on Growth of Modern China.
With this tie-up, SUTD students will receive an all-encompassing global education experience that incorporates both Eastern and Western influences.
Rising to the challenge
Certainly, students can expect a varying and challenging curriculum. Unlike most universities where a direct honours engineering degree programme takes four years to complete, the degree course at SUTD takes only three and a half years because of a more compact and novel program .
According to Professor Pey, who is also part of the team overseeing the planning of the curriculum, undergraduates will be trained in a common curriculum based on the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering and architecture in physical world, system world and digital world for the first three semesters
“The solid foundation you build will prepare you to become a leader in whatever field you choose to pursue,” the professor elucidates. “In the first two semesters, you learn more fundamental skills and in the third semester you will venture into the world of engineering and architecture. Students can expect modules in structural and material engineering as well as learning about the physical world.”
Students are also required to live on campus for the first three semesters to enhance their bonding and teamwork. Dormitories will be made available and huge home rooms of about 250m2 will be provided as a place for each cohort of 50 students for their classes and after-class activities.
Multi-disciplinary curriculum, open culture
After completing three semesters, students can choose one out of four majors, namely: architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design and finally, information systems technology and design.
However, they will continue to work closely with classmates across different majors in joint projects and common subjects.
Students can also interact closely with their professors and enjoy their undivided attention due to the school’s teacher-student ratio at 11:1.
Another aspect of campus life that SUTD students can look forward to is an open culture similar to that of an American college – something dynamic the school hopes to import from MIT’s 150 years of history.
“One of the key visions for SUTD is to have a very open environment. We want students to come in with open minds and not just stick to one path. There are multiple paths to reach a solution when trying to solve a problem,” says Professor Pey. “We will also encourage our students to articulate and share ideas with their classmates and professors.”
One of the ways in which students will get to express their ideas and hone their research skills will be through the campus’ International Design Centre, where they will have opportunities to work as junior researchers under experienced local and MIT professors and researchers.
Ample student support
Students who are apprehensive about whether they can cope need not fret. A three-month integration learning or bridging programme will help them attain the basic level of knowledge needed before they start school. Students can start in January before the semester officially commences in April.
Apart from schoolwork, students will also experience a slice of working life with mandatory four-month internships at either local or foreign companies, as well as at its partnering universities.
Some of the companies that have agreed to offer internships for SUTD students include DSTA, Microsoft, Google, Keppel Corporation and DBS.
Upon graduation, Professor Pey foresees that students will be in great demand by a wide range of industries including aerospace, architecture, software design , research institutions amongst many others.
For students who are hoping to enrol in SUTD, Professor Pey advises, “We are looking for a student who has more than just academic qualifications. CCA achievements and other extracurricular activities – such as volunteer work – will convince us that he or she has what it takes; that extra passion to build a better world.”