Lasalle turns 30

Lasalle turns 30

As Lasalle College of the Arts marks its 30th anniversary this year, it is looking to the future by introducing eight new courses and increasing the focus on research.

The eight new courses - two undergraduate and six masters programmes - will be introduced over the next four years. They will cover topics such as Asian film studies, art history and curating, medical illustration and interior architecture.

President Steve Dixon says the new degree programmes were developed in close consultation with outside bodies.

"We're doing a lot of work with the National Arts Council, Design Singapore, the Media Development Authority and other government departments, we're doing a lot of consultation to see what's needed for Singapore. We have also done our own research into the business viability of the programmes," he says.

As Lasalle hits the big 3-0, alumni and staff believe that it has carved out a niche in the arts education landscape here.

Its proprietary courses are underpinned by a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, and the institution has inked partnerships with internationally recognised schools such as Goldsmiths, which is part of the University of London.

Three decades of schooling have produced illustrious alumni. Three out of five of this year's Young Artist Award recipients - dance artist Lee Mun Wai, theatre practitioner Ian Loy and film-maker Jow Zhi Wei - are Lasalle alumni.

Other illustrious alumni members include singer Kit Chan, performance artist Lee Wen and theatre practitioner Natalie Hennedige.

Lasalle has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1984, when Brother Joseph McNally, who died in 2002, founded the St Patrick's Arts Centre at St Patrick's School in Marine Parade, offering diplomas in painting, ceramics, sculpture and music.

A year later, the school was renamed Lasalle College of the Arts and it expanded to a second campus in Telok Kurau.

Three years later, in 1987, its first cohort of 27 students graduated with diplomas in the creative arts.

Now, the college has about 2,700 students, who are housed in a state-of-the-art, 35,000 sq m campus in McNally Street, next to Sim Lim Square. Earlier this year, it opened a second 5,000 sq m campus in Winstedt Road, about 2km away.

Mr Dixon, the university's sixth president, has angled the prow of the institution towards a more research-focused direction.

"There's always been some key research done at Lasalle, but I broadened that. We're looking to create new knowledge through practice-based research, but also to publish," he said.

He introduced three new funding schemes, which were implemented in January last year. They provide funding of up to $50,000 a project, or $25,000 per annum for staff who wish to undertake research activities or pursue higher education.

As Lasalle is a private, not-for-profit institution, its income comes from programme fees, Ministry of Education subsidies which total about $17,000 for each Singaporean citizen in a diploma programme, and other sources such as bank interest. For the financial year 2012/13, this added up to over $47 million.

The college is also keen to continue working with overseas universities, to strengthen its international standing and to bring multi-cultural influences into the school.

Currently, 39 per cent of the student body is international, and the much-lauded partnership with Goldsmiths produced its first batch of graduates last year.

Ms Barbra Gan, vice-president, strategic developments, says that although the first partnership agreement with Goldsmiths lasts for five years, it is likely to be extended to 10 years.

Lasalle is also looking to expand its physical space. Earlier this year, it opened its Winstedt campus, which houses studios, workshops and photography laboratories.

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