NUS to roll out career skills initiatives

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

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

Speaking at the annual "state of the university" address at NUS' University Cultural Centre, Prof Tan said these make up the first thrust of the university's plans for the future, and focus on maximising students' potential and aspirations. The second thrust will focus on deepening the university's research in healthcare and data science.

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

Prof Tan said healthcare delivery is centred around specialists and hospitals now but there is a need to move to a model that puts a greater focus on patients, with features such as letting them 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 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, such that employers often say NUS' graduates are highly competent with good analytical and problem-solving skills, Prof Tan said.

"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 the Centre for Future-ready Graduates. The office will also conduct a learning programme that 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, set up at a cost of $8 million, aims to translate learning science into practice to inform education policy.

It will develop two modules for NUS students - the first will be on effective learning approaches for those interested in continual learning, and the second on making decisions in complex situations.

And a new $12 million School of Continuing and Lifelong Education will be set up over the next three years to offer a curriculum aligned with industry needs, and offer part-time certificate and non-certificate courses, mostly conducted online. Both will take in about 5,000 students each year.

The school is open to all Singaporeans, not just NUS graduates. The online courses will be accessible to students around the world.

Roping in public and private sectors

The National University of Singapore has set itself two goals: to ensure its students are career-ready and employable, and to work with private and public sector partners to deepen Singapore's research in the healthcare and smart nation sectors. Here are some of the initiatives it will be launching to achieve this.

A life-skills programme that will focus on developing self-understanding in students, and help sharpen their communication, networking, and collaboration skills. Programmes to let students reflect on their own learning and nurture them to become leaders who coach and mentor other students.

A new Institute for Application of Learning Science will aim to translate learning science into practice, and build better models for higher education.

A School of Continuing and Lifelong Education will develop education courses in various disciplines such as engineering, languages, and food science and technology. Courses will be delivered online, with face-to-face discussions, and offer a mix of non-certificate and certificate programmes. The school will also work with industry players, professional bodies and foreign universities to design programmes in specific areas.

The university will work with the National University Health Systems and Ministry of Health to create a more patient-focused healthcare system, which will allow patients to access care at home, using easy-to-use technology, under the supervision of a healthcare team.

NUS is building a national cyber-security research and development laboratory, and establishing a cyber-security consortium. It is also setting up a data science institute to consolidate expertise in data analytics and optimisation.

leepearl@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on October 28, 2015.
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