$30m NUS initiative to boost students' employability

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is pouring $30 million into initiatives that help its students and graduates to gain career skills and enhance their employability, its president, Tan Chorh Chuan, said yesterday.

These include a life-skills programme for students, the setting up of an institute to look at the science of learning and how it applies to practice, and a school to develop and run various continuing education courses like languages, applied statistics and software engineering. These plans will be rolled out next year.

Speaking at the annual "state of the university" address at NUS' University Cultural Centre, Professor Tan said they make up the first thrust of the university's plans for the coming years, which focus on maximising its students' short-term and long-term potential and aspirations.

The second thrust will focus on deepening the university's research in healthcare and data science.

The university will work with the National University Health System and the Ministry of Health to reposition Singapore's healthcare system.

Prof Tan added that, currently, care delivery is centred around specialists and hospitals. But there is a need to move to a model that focuses on the patient, who needs to be able to access care at home with easy-to-use technology and under the supervision of a healthcare team.

This is crucial as in the future, Singapore will have more elderly people with chronic diseases.

With the SkillsFuture initiative, a national movement to build deep skills and expertise in Singaporeans, more schools are stepping up on their efforts to get students ready for the working world.

But NUS students come from a "strong position", as the university provides a rigorous academic training, Prof Tan said, adding that employers often say NUS' graduates are highly competent with good analytical and problem-solving skills.

"As we work to maintain this strength, we will, however, put a stronger focus on ensuring that students graduating from NUS also have a 'can-do' spirit, can connect with others and are continually learning."

The life-skills programme will come under NUS' career office, the Centre for Future-ready Graduates, and students will discover where their strengths and aptitude lie.

The office will also conduct a learning programme which will see 65 students, faculty members and NUS staff meet in small groups each week to discuss and reflect on their learning.

The university is spending $10 million over three years on this programme.

The new Institute for Application of Learning Science will cost NUS $8 million and aim to translate learning science into practice to inform education policy. It will develop two modules for NUS students - the first on effective learning approaches for those interested in continual learning, and the second on making decisions in complex situations.

A new School of Continuing and Lifelong Education will be set up over the next three years to offer a learning curriculum aligned with industry needs. It will offer part-time certificate and non-certificate courses, mostly conducted online. Both will take in about 5,000 students each year.


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