By Lee U-Wen
ONE of the founding academic members of the Singapore Management University (SMU), deputy president Tan Chin Tiong, has been seconded to head the new Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).
SIT - dubbed the Singapore Institute of Applied Technology when the Education Ministry announced in May that it would be set up - will help capable polytechnic graduates upgrade and earn industry-relevant degrees from recognised foreign universities.
There is no official word on when classes will start, but the plan is to provide about 2,000 full-time university places a year, helping to contribute to Singapore's target university cohort participation rate of 30 per cent by 2015.
Asked to comment on the secondment, SMU president Howard Hunter said that 'no one is better qualified to lead this distinctively different and innovative new institution' than Prof Tan.
'His leadership has been critical in building this very fine institution at which we work today. SMU has redefined the university landscape in Singapore and Chin Tiong's visionary leadership is one of the reasons for SMU's success. I expect he will do the same for the new institute.'
Prof Hunter also said that Prof Tan plans to return to SMU to teach at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business once his secondment is over.
Meanwhile, in a written reply in Parliament on Tuesday, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said that tie-ups with SIT's foreign partner universities have yet to be finalised.
'SIT is currently in advanced stages of discussions with several reputable overseas universities from the US, UK, Australia and Europe,' he said in response to a question from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Member of Parliament Josephine Teo, who chairs the government parliamentary committee for education.
Dr Ng said that some disciplines have already been identified that will build on the local polytechnics' strengths in science and technology, as well as support high-growth industries including applied sciences and engineering, digital media, health sciences and hospitality.
'The entire suite of course provisions for degrees in various disciplines will require time to be rolled out and will be spaced out until 2015,' he said. 'This is because each programme by foreign partners would need to be assessed by SIT to ensure that a rigorous and relevant curriculum has been developed by the overseas university who will also send some of their faculty to Singapore to conduct these programmes.'
The degree programmes will be conducted at the campuses of the five local polytechnics to take advantage of existing facilities such as engineering laboratories. Each poly has also committed to providing a dedicated space where SIT teaching and activities can take place.
This article was first published in The Business Times.