Prof. Tan Eng Chye, Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost at the National University of Singapore, shares some tips on choosing the right university for your child.
The university admissions season is in full swing, and this is an exciting time for students in Singapore.
The tertiary education landscape here has expanded significantly, and there are now many varied and interesting pathways for students to choose from, from traditional professional degree courses in medicine or engineering, to music and the liberal arts and science.
Considering which courses and where to apply for, or deciding which offer to accept? Here are some points to consider.
1. Salary isn’t (and won’t be) everything
Every year, the Ministry of Education gathers data through a Graduate Employment Survey (GES) and publishes the employment rates and median starting salaries of fresh graduates of the different degree programmes offered by local universities.
However, do not make decisions based solely on data obtained through the Graduate Employment Survey (GES). GES data provides an indication of starting salaries. Starting salaries are but a guide; they neither set the course nor determine one’s career trajectory or destiny.
In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous or “Vuca” world, one cannot predict the future or where the lucrative jobs will be. You would therefore want your university education to equip you with broad-based life skills, and develop you with the flexibility and resilience needed to pick up new knowledge, adapt to new circumstances, and exploit job opportunities across a variety of sectors throughout your lifetime of careers.
2. The educational journey also matters
Some students (and parents) may look to university rankings as a measure of the strength of a university department. And there are definitely synergies between research and education.
If the university department excels in research, and counts world-leading researchers in the field, it is likely that cutting-edge research will filter through to your learning experience. You will have the opportunity to be taught by highly regarded academics, and there will be plenty of opportunities to conduct research under the who’s-who in the field.
This is particularly valuable if you have a very strong interest in research or academia.
Choosing a university that excels in your area of interest may also open up more specialised opportunities, such as advanced facilities, academic opportunities such as overseas study or research trips, as well as internships and employment opportunities with prestigious organisations in the industry.
3. University is a social place
You should evaluate the entire student experience, and whether it will suit you. Find out if the social setting on campus is what you would want to be part of.
NUS has, for example, the Yale-NUS College and the University Town Residential College programmes, which offer an integrated living and learning experience, amid a collegial and intellectually vibrant setting.
There is no perfect university.
What is key is to make a considered decision with the resources and information that are available to you. Your degree should help start you on the journey to where you want to go. The knowledge, experiences and opportunities in your university life should also prepare you for life beyond your degree. As a student in Singapore, you will have up to the beginning of June to decide on your offers from most of the local universities. Whatever you eventually decide on, make the most of your university experience because, for many, it will be the best time of your life.
By Tan Eng Chye, The Straits Times, 25 April 2016