IN SIX years' time, Singapore can provide university places for 30 per cent of pupils in any Primary 1 year.
Education Minister Ng Eng Hen gave this assurance yesterday when concerns were raised about the Government's decision to reduce the number of undergraduates in the yet-to-be-named fourth university.
It was announced in May that the university, due to open in 2011, will have a student population of 4,000 instead of the initial target of 12,000.
The smaller intake worries Mrs Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked whether the target of 30 per cent would still be met.
In his reply, Dr Ng said the gap would be met by the degree tie-ups between the polytechnics here and foreign institutions.
These tie-ups are planned, managed and implemented by the new Singapore Institute of Applied Technology, which the Government will develop with $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.
He also said the smaller student population was prompted by the partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. MIT will design rigorous and intensive courses for students which will focus on science, technology, information systems and architecture.
'As such, students need to have the requisite academic standards to benefit from these programmes. We expect the admission standard for the new university to be high,' said Dr Ng.
All eligible Singaporean students who apply will be admitted, he added.
Mrs Teo also wanted to know what would be MIT's involvement as a partner.
The minister said Singapore would leverage on the US institution's research capabilities.
MIT will kick-start the development of the new university's research capabilities and help the university draw up the principles and methods of teaching.
MIT academics will also teach and do research at the new university. And its newly recruited faculty will spend up to a year at MIT. While there, they will work with the MIT faculty on research and development projects and take part in its campus activities.
There will also be student exchanges to 'contribute to the close links between the two institutions', Dr Ng said.
The fourth university will also partner a top Chinese university but no announcement has yet been made on it.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.