SINGAPORE: The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has launched Singapore's first undergraduate research programme.
The SUTD Honours and Research Programme, or SHARP, is a 3.5-year programme which can be done on top of existing coursework for a degree.
Students will be given a S$15,000 grant to develop research projects in areas which can range from aviation to artificial intelligence.
They will also get to attend a research internship overseas at institutes like Zhejiang University and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Under the programme, students will take advanced classes during their first year to deepen their foundation and knowledge in key subjects.
They will also work closely with a mentor in fully-funded research projects.
This undergraduate programme is the first of its kind in local universities. Research-based courses are typically carried out at postgraduate levels.
Students in SHARP will be guided to develop research ideas, which can be further explored in postgraduate studies if they wish to pursue that track.
SUTD believes this programme can help students develop essential skills to tackle issues in a fast-changing economy.
"Research will allow our students to have critical thinking. They will know how to frame and approach problems as well as come up with solutions that make sense," said SUTD president Professor Chong Tow Chong.
But the requirements are stringent; applicants must score at least two A's in a Mathematics and a Science subject at H2 level or the equivalent, to be eligible.
Undergraduates must also maintain a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.5 to stay in the programme.
Only 20 applicants out of the university's 500-strong freshmen enrollment will be accepted for now, but SUTD hopes to double this intake in the future.
Freshmen enrolling this May will also enjoy the option of an extended grade-free system throughout their first year.
Previously, this was only applicable to subjects in the first term.
Prof Chong explained that the change will free up time for students to pursue other activities, as well as to pace themselves for academic rigor in the university.
"We have students who are from the junior colleges, from polytechnics, from International Baccalaureate institutions and from overseas. When they come together, the first thing we have to do is to make sure they work well, they bond well.
"If during the first term they are already worried about their GPA, then I don't think you can achieve those things," he said.
This option is similar to what the National University of Singapore introduced in 2016, where freshmen can exclude the grades of up to eight of 10 modules.
SUTD has also relaxed its criteria for undergraduate students who wish to pursue a minor. Instead of taking restrictive electives students can now have the option of taking five related electives that will lead them to a minor.