The Singapore Institute of Technology's (SIT) new degree offerings in health sciences have boosted its applications this year.
In all, 13,000 A-level and polytechnic diploma holders have applied for the 2,400 places in 42 degree courses on offer this year.
The total number of applications is 35 per cent higher than that last year. Of the total, 2,500 are vying for the 285 places in the five new health science degree courses - physiotherapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic radiography, radiation therapy and nursing.
A new joint degree course in food technology with Massey University of New Zealand has also drawn keen interest.
SIT director of admissions Kelly Koh said the health science degrees are in areas where there is a huge demand for specialists, given the rapidly ageing population of Singapore. "The graduates from these fields will have good job prospects, as there is a critical need for people in these areas."
He added that of the 13,000 applicants, 5,500 have been shortlisted for the aptitude-based admission process that SIT uses.
"Through interviews and portfolio assessments, we look for attributes and qualities, beyond academic performance, to assess if a student is suited for a particular field."
Students go through two interviews and employers are invited to sit on the interview panel to select those for courses such as the hospitality degree programme.
Shortlisted applicants for the health science courses will be put through multiple mini-interviews. They will be given scenarios and asked how they will respond to such situations.
This is similar to the processes used by the medical schools at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.
Mr Koh said: "We are on the lookout for students with qualities such as compassion, empathy and the ability to communicate with people."
Students taking up health sciences - like students enrolled in other courses - will spend eight to 10 months on attachment in various healthcare settings to hone their skills through practice.
The practice-oriented approach will be enhanced by the fact that many of the course lecturers are practitioners drawn from hospitals. They will hold joint appointments at the hospitals and the university.
Polytechnic graduates and A-level holders eyeing health science degree courses - such as in physiotherapy and occupational therapy - noted that they would have had to go abroad previously.
Now, such courses are available at a local university.
Ms Deborah Lim, 24, an A-level holder who wants to switch from sports management - she works in a gym - to physiotherapy, said she was inspired by her aunt, who is in the field.
"I find it a very interesting field and had thought of going to Australia or Britain... but my parents could not afford it," she said.
"Now, if given a place at SIT, I will be able to study for the degree at a fraction of the price."
This article was first published on May 3, 2016.
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