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Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Finance, At UniSIM Convocation 2012

02 Oct 2012

Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chancellor and Chairman, SIM University
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning.

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at this very special occasion – the convocation for the graduating class of 2012.

2. First of all, congratulations to the class of 2012! The drive and aspirations of each graduating class in our tertiary institutions is always inspiring. But in UniSIM there is something more, something more to a convocation ceremony. Because it takes real commitment to have pursued and completed a part time degree programmes whilst having to balance work and family commitments. It involves grit, determination and talent. Each of you have shown that you have it, and it’s now a new phase of a journey.

3. Your achievement in the pursuit of higher skills and knowledge did not begin here, and will not end here. But you epitomise “Success in Motion”, the theme of this year’s convocation. You epitomise “Success in Motion” as you take on the challenges and opportunity in each phase of your lives.

UniSIM’s new role in providing an applied degree pathway
4. Today is also special as it marks a milestone in UniSIM’s own journey towards becoming fully-fledged Singapore University. UniSIM has been a wonderful story of transformation, from the time it started out in 1992 by providing the UK Open University’s Degree Programmes, to its being granted degree-awarding status since 2005 for part-time programmes for adult learners. UniSIM became the main flag-bearer of the Continued Education and Training (CET) degree pathway, offering more than 40 Bachelor degree programmes, with an enrolment of over 12,000 students. Now, as a fully-fledged university, UniSIM will provide its own unique brand of full-time degrees, besides the part-time degrees that have given it a strong reputation.

5. UniSIM remains the only private institution to-date that MOE has assessed to be qualified of university status and awarding degrees. It has indeed produced graduates who are well recognised in the market, as I am sure all of you will be.

6. A 2011 survey showed that UniSIM graduates have enjoyed a boost in their career mobility and progression after graduating. 3 out of every 5 UniSIM graduates experienced a pay raise upon graduation. On the whole, they enjoyed an average pay rise of some 20 per cent. About one-third moved to a different job within two years, often within a new industry. And among those who stayed on with their existing employers, as many as half were given greater responsibilities or took on new portfolios.

7. Each of you are inspiring examples of upgrading. Take for example, from your class of 2012, Firdaus bin Abdul Samad, a graduand of UniSIM’s Bachelor of Science in Business. Before enrolling in UniSIM in 2008, he held a Diploma in Electrical Engineering and worked as an engineering assistant and a technical sales engineer for a few years. Since then, he has been promoted twice at his current employer Schneider Electric Logistics Asia Pacific and is entrusted with managerial responsibilities in logistics for six countries in Southeast Asia. I am sure that there are many examples like Firdaus amongst you all.

Developing its new role
8. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced in his National Day Rally speech, more publicly funded university places are going to be created for Singaporeans. By 2020, we will have a full-time university cohort participation rate (CPR) of 40 per cent. In other words, 40 per cent of each age cohort will be able to obtain public funding for full-time university education. Together with an expected increase in those receiving part-time degrees, which will be up to 10% of each age cohort, this will mean that in total up to half of each cohort of Singaporeans will be able to receive a government subsidised degree education.

9. The increase these publicly funded university places would be implemented chiefly through SIT and UniSIM. The two new universities will spearhead applied degree pathways, which will create a close nexus with industry and produce work-ready graduates.

10. UniSIM will I am sure ride on its strengths. First, it has close linkages with industry, and the work experiences of both its students and faculty who themselves have current involvements in industry is a real strength. It will provide a coherent work-integrated full time and part-time programmes, with a good balance of theoretical and real-world education. That is the first feature – strong linkages with industry and building on the work experiences of both students and faculty.

11. The second feature that UniSIM intends to adopt and build on is its “open admissions” criteria. It will admit both fresh school leavers as well as working adults, and taking into account work experience and talent in its admissions policy, beyond the academic grades. Students, young or mature, can hence benefit from a heterogeneous class with a spectrum of work experiences, and even benefit from networking opportunities amongst the students and with faculty for their future employment.

Placing Emphasis on Applied Features in Full Time Programmes
12. UniSIM plans to integrate “applied” features within its new, full time programmes. Some of these distinctive features include a substantial work attachment programme, an applied research project and an emphasis on developing specialist knowledge and skills.

13. Students would also be encouraged to acquire specialist knowledge in more than one discipline. A student in the logistics and supply chain management degree programme for example would be expected to read courses in fields such as business analytics, IT or organisational psychology. This will help students to expand and deepen their skills sets and prepare them for a workplace where the reality is a growing premium for versatility. The reality is a growing demand for specialist skills as well as for versatility.

14. To ensure a tighter link between the work or internship experience and course content, UniSIM intends to set up a dedicated office to source and match substantive work attachment opportunities and prospective student research projects.

15. Beyond work attachments, industry experience can also be imparted into the full time programmes through modules that are conducted by public and private sector industry partners and by recognising in-company training towards graduation credits. UniSIM would be able to build on its existing partnerships in this regard.

16. Take for example, its current collaboration with ST Aerospace and MAJ Aviation. The scope of collaboration is fairly comprehensive. It includes programme advisory, development and presentation of courses, research, offer of training facilities within the companies, and scholarships. In the public sector, the UniSIM-Singapore Police Force collaboration has seen the development of a specific programme tailored to the needs of the Home Team and security agencies – the Bachelor of Science in Management and Security Studies.

17. UniSIM will build on these industry collaborations as well as expand them to create many others. Together they will give a distinct character and value to the UniSIM degree.

18. As UniSIM develops its full time programmes, it will continue to play a special role for working adults. That, too, is part of its distinctive character - performing a role for upgrading for working adults in a range of disciplines and f ields. UniSIM’s CET role has been and will continue to be a key avenue for Singaporeans to develop themselves professionally and seize opportunities in new growth areas.

19. I congratulate each of you for taking a leap of faith, and for persevering to upgrade yourselves. I wish you all the best, as you draw upon your training and your shared experiences to make the most of exciting new opportunities that lie ahead. I know you are ready to embrace the future.

20. Once again, Congratulations to the Class of 2012.