SINGAPORE: SIM University (UniSIM) has been earmarked to become Singapore's sixth autonomous university (AU), and will focus on lifelong learning as well as providing applied degree pathways for working adults if and when the move gets greenlit.
This was announced by Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung at the university's convocation ceremony on Wednesday (Oct 12).
"UniSIM will focus on applied education, targeted at both students and adult learners. Just as SIT (Singapore Institute of Technology) will focus on applied programmes in science, technology and engineering, UniSIM will focus on social sciences and prepare students for socially-related careers," he said.
The announcement is in line with the objectives of the SkillsFuture movement, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE) in a separate press release.
"The granting of AU status to UniSIM underscores the Government’s commitment to support Singaporeans seeking to upgrade and fulfil their aspirations at different stages of life," said MOE.
All autonomous universities come under the purview of the MOE, and this may lead to changes in its governance structure as UniSIM is currently an entity under the SIM Society.
Mr Ong said MOE has discussed the proposal with the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) Governing Council alongside UniSIM’s Board of Trustees and he added that all parties had agreed that it is a positive move. That said, he pointed out that the proposal to establish UniSIM as an AU needs to be presented at a general meeting of SIM members before a final decision is taken.
"I understand that the SIM Governing Council will be taking the necessary steps to do so," Mr Ong added.
Being autonomous means the university can get MOE's support as it ramps up its focus on the social sciences. "We have been looking into upgrading our systems, upgrading our student support," said Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, president of UniSIM. "As you open more pathways, you really need to provide the support needed for our students to be successful."
UniSIM currently has 13,600 students in its part-time and full-time degree programmes. They get the same amount of subsidies similar to their peers in other autonomous universities.
The university said this policy will remain, even if it becomes autonomous. This will enable it to provide opportunities and pathways for more Singaporeans, it said.
Meanwhile, MOE said it will work with UniSIM and SIM on the restructuring process to become an AU and help with the rebranding of UniSIM in the coming months.
UniSIM will only be recognised as the sixth AU after a Bill is passed in Parliament, which is expected to take place next year.