Keeping one step ahead


AN Ivy League curriculum at a very affordable Asian price - that is the selling point of Singapore Management University. 

An attractive option for students from the region, SMU is a government-funded, privately managed university offering a broad-based business curriculum modelled after the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, considered the top business school in the world. 

“SMU was set up by the Government to be different – in terms of the teaching methods, faculty and curriculum,” says director of undergraduate admissions Tan Lee Chuan. 

Its two major collaborative partners are Wharton for the business programmes and Carnegie Mellon University for information technology. “We offer an Ivy League curriculum and teaching methods combined with Asian affordability,'' adds Tan. 

SMU offers four degree programmes: Bachelor of Accountancy, Bachelor of Business Management, Bachelor of Science (Economics) and Bachelor of Science (Information Systems Management).  

“At the end of the first year, students who do well can choose to do a double degree which will give them wider career options,” says Tan. 

“Nine percent of our student population are non-Singaporeans; one out of three of them is a Malaysian. Ideally we would like 20% of our students to be from overseas,” he adds. 

There are currently two scholarships available to Malaysian students – the Foreign Endowed Scholarship and the SMU Scholarship.  

Admission to SMU is selective and competitive. “Other than the usual pre-university qualifications, SMU requires the SAT I Reasoning Test. The minimum total score required is 1,200. Students also have to go through an interview.” 

Set up in 2000, SMU is located in Bukit Timah, the site of the original Raffles College. By 2005, it will be moving to a new campus in the city centre. 

“What distinguishes us from other universities is the small class size of about 40 students. It makes teaching here very interactive and one where a professor knows a student by name.” 

Learning is conducted in a seminar-style; rather than lectures, project-based assignments are the rule. “Students are required to be proactive and outspoken as well as team-centric in class,'' says SMU provost Prof Tan Chin Tiong. 

“An SMU degree prepares students to be risk-takers, to be confident leaders, to utilise current technology for effective management,'' adds Prof Tan. 


The National University of Singapore (NUS) is the most established and largest university in Singapore and offers the widest range of undergraduate courses. Tracing its roots back to 1905 with the establishment of the King Edward VII Medical School, NUS has a cosmopolitan student population of 32,000. 

The university's admission officer Andy Wong says that at NUS technology is used effectively to enhance learning. “Video conferencing and a wireless learning environment means that students can learn anytime, anywhere.” 

Undergraduates benefit from a multi-disciplinary learning environment, similar to American universities where the curriculum “emphasises depth through specialisation and breadth by allowing students to pursue modules outside their course of study.” 

پWong says that NUS learns from the best by setting up colleges in the world’s entrepreneurial hot spots. “We see ourselves as a global university, providing education beyond the shores of Singapore.” 

Two NUS colleges, have been established, one in Silicon Valley (in partnership with Stanford University) and the other, in BioValley, Philadelphia (in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania). 

“NUS students will spend one year serving full-time internships with start-up companies while enrolled part-time in academic programmes in Stanford and Pennsylvania.” 


Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has built a reputation among employers as a practice-oriented university. It currently has an enrolment of 16,250 undergraduates, including 3,250 international students. 

The impressive campus, located on a 200ha site in Jurong, was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. It offers several degree programmes in engineering, biological sciences, accountancy, business and communication studies.  

Assoc Prof K.S. Chian says that NTU's engineering degrees are accredited by the IEE (UK), IMechE (UK) as well as the Board of Engineers in Malaysia. Engineering is particularly popular among Malaysians. 

“NTU has collaborations in teaching and research with renowned universities such as Cornell University, MIT, University of Tokyo, Cambridge University, Imperial College and Stanford University.” 

At NTU, the curriculum is constantly evolving. “The engineering subjects we offer now such as Photonics and Bioinformatics were not available 10 years ago,” says Assoc Prof Chian, a lecturer with the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

The university is known for its practice-oriented curriculum. “During some holiday breaks, NTU students are required to stay back for experimental projects – the emphasis at NTU is on hands-on experience.” 

Another strength is its industrial attachment or professional internship programmes which are compulsory for mass communication, accountancy and engineering graduates.

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