State of University Address 2013

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In his fourth State of the University Address delivered on 30 August 2013, SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer shared about the good progress made by the University and how SMU has completed its first success story in the series of many more to come.

Prof De Meyer also urged SMU’s diverse community to aspire for greater excellence, and to inspire each other and themselves to do extraordinary things. He spoke of the need for SMU to continue to differentiate and evolve its distinction so it can lead in its areas of strength, and be the preferred University and brand in Singapore and beyond.

 

Summary of Main Points in President Arnoud De Meyer’s Address

SMU made a greater impact in working towards its strategic goals over 2012/2013 and the following are some of its key achievements:

(1) Innovative Undergraduate Education

  1. Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat at the 2013 Commencement Ceremony spoke of how SMU has broken new grounds and added to the diversity in Singapore’s educational landscape in very meaningful ways. Through interactive pedagogy and other programme innovations, SMU has turned out responsible and articulate graduates.
  1. In continually enhancing our curriculum, we introduced three new offerings for the new Academic Year: a second major in Analytics made available to all undergraduates and students can specialise in one of five tracks; three new Accounting tracks that provide specialisation pathways into the areas of excellence highlighted by CDAS; and a Maritime Economics concentration which is a first-of-its-kind in Asia which was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.  
  1. What is also unique to SMU is our strong approach to providing a truly holistic learning experience. All our Schools have significant out-of-classroom learning and the percentage may vary depending on their core requirements.
  1. In May 2013, SMU became the first university to launch a formal programme, SMU LifeLessons that looks at values-based education through its many out-of-classroom platforms. The Programme will be completely rolled out by 2015.
  1. In line with the University’s strong emphasis on global exposure to help broaden students’ view of the world, and develop their cross-cultural knowledge and competencies, some 84% of the 2013 graduating cohort experienced some form of global exposure through student exchange programmes, study missions, internships and community service projects.
  2. SMU’s strong belief that no deserving student should be denied access to education, safety and support has brought about the creation of a new university-wide function to advance Diversity and Inclusion on campus. SMU is the first educational institution in Singapore to initiate such a function. In addition, a new undergraduate core module that will look at diversity, global citizenship and cultural intelligence is being planned.

(2) Recognition for Postgraduate Education and Research

  1. SMU’s Master of Science in Wealth Management has been ranked second in the world by the Financial Times in its Master in Finance Post-experience Ranking 2013, behind London Business School. This makes SMU the highest ranked institution in Asia.
  1. Postgraduate students can now gain greater value and be better prepared for their career through the recently introduced Professional Development series and the Career Development series. There has also been a steady upward growth in postgraduate student enrolment by 14% and an increase of S$3.5m in revenue, of which the margins could be used to provide resources to advance research in the future.
  1. Significant progress has been made in each of SMU’s three Areas of Excellence (AoE) – Finance and Financial Markets; Analytics for Business, Consumer and Social Insight; and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
  1. In addition, research excellence in our Schools have borne fruit and they have been globally ranked:

    • Our School of Accountancy is ranked by Brigham Young University, number 44 in all topics and methods for accountancy research and number 20 in Financial Accounting with archival methods.
    • Our Lee Kong Chian School of Business is ranked 54th worldwide and 3rd in Asia for research contributions from 2008-2012 by University of Texas, Dallas.
    • Our School of Economics ranks 57th in the world and 1st in Asia by the Tilburg University Top 100 Worldwide Economics School Research Ranking based on contributions from 2009 - 2012. In Econometrics, School of Economics is ranked 4th in the world for the same period.
    • We are also training the next generation of researchers for academia and industry through our PhD programmes.  New programmes launched in the past year include the PhD in Business (Marketing) as well as the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Programme which is in line with SMU’s goal towards building and enhancing multi-disciplinary research.
  1. A critical lifeline to support research is the availability of funds to carry out good work. In Financial Year 2012, we secured more than S$14m in research funding from agencies such as the Media Development Authority, Microsoft Research, the Workforce Development Agency of Singapore and Spring Singapore. Additional national competitive funding has also been secured for several multi-disciplinary research projects.
  1. SMU’s Case Writing registered some 4,000 downloads worldwide and the Case Writing team has started developing talent in Singapore and across Asia.
  1. The Centre for Management Practice has identified and started developing five initiatives for faculty development. These include the Corporate Immersion Programme; The Certificate of Management Education; Case Teaching Workshops; Attracting Global Academics and Practitioners to develop a pipeline of senior academics to mentor SMU’s young faculty; and Translational Research Development.

(3) Expanding SMU’s Global Footprint

  1. SMU’s focus on China, India and ASEAN are part of our strategy to develop linkages, expertise and knowledge on Asia so that we are a partner of choice for universities, institutions and the business industry.
  1. In April 2013, I led an 11-member delegation of deans, senior faculty and staff to visit China’s top universities in Shanghai, Bejing and Chengdu where we inked 13 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for education and research collaborations, and more opportunities for student and faculty exchange. Discussions on several research projects with these universities have since begun.
  1. SMU’s India Initiatives was launched in October 2012, in conjunction with the inaugural Singapore-India Business Dialogue. In addition to the four partnerships already sealed with top Indian institutions across Bangalore, Kanpur, New Delhi and Mumbai, SMU’s Provost and Deputy President (Academic Affairs) Professor Rajendra K. Srivastava signed three new MoUs.
  1. Other global partnerships include that of the first double degree offered by SMU, through Lee Kong Chian School of Business with Washington University’s Olin Business School in St Louis. In Singapore, we have signed an MoU with SUTD to extend to their students parts of our International Trading Institute Programme and our Masters in Management Programme.

(4) Thought Leadership and Reputation Building

  1. In the last year, we organised several international conferences and hosted at SMU several members of the who’s who of academics and world politics. In addition to two Economics Nobel Laureates, Professor Paul Krugman and Professor Thomas Sargent, we hosted Nobel Peace Laureate Mr F.W. de Klerk, Indonesian Trade Minister Pak Gita Wirjawan, Shanghai Jiao Tong President Zhang Jie and Harvard’s Professor Tarun Khanna.
  1. In November 2012, we had the rare privilege of hosting on campus, former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who delivered a keynote speech for and about Asia.

(5) Corporate Visibility and Students Taking Global Stage

  1. The SMU website won the Higher Education category for the Acquia Partner Site of the Year 2012. The teams from the Office of Integrated Information Technology Services and Corporate Marketing were recognised for their creativity and efforts in providing functionality, integration, visual design and overall experience.
  1. Our University received the accolade of being one of the “Best Companies for Mums”, in recognition of our flexible work arrangements and our HR policies for work-life harmony.
  1. SMU became the first university in Singapore to achieve the accredited certification to the ISO 500001 Energy Management System standard, having made significant savings despite the doubling of its student population.
  1. Also bringing international recognition to the University are our students who have made us proud with their many achievements in local and global competitions.

(6) Financial Strength and Operational Excellence

  1. Supporting our various efforts and initiatives are our donors, for without their generosity, we would not be able to grow and progress at such a healthy rate. For the last financial year, we received S$20m in gifts, which amounts to S$46 with MOE matching.
  2. Our drivers of operations excellence – Business Process Improvement Programme and the Management Development Programme – have made good progress.

Long Term Challenges and Opportunities

SMU is now reaching an inflection point and for our University to progress ahead, to get onto the next wave to reach greater heights, we would need to consider several factors including the following:

  1. SMU’s Distinctive Undergraduate and Postgraduate Education: The competitive environment for undergraduate education has changed and SMU would need to evaluate how it can continue to differentiate, own its attributes and its unique selling propositions. We need to lead in our areas of strength, to be the preferred University and brand in Singapore and beyond.
  1. Advancing Research @SMU: As a research-intensive university, SMU will have to obtain more competitive research grants from national and international institutions. Together with SMU faculty, the University’s Areas of Excellence will be further developed and new areas identified.
  1. Ambition to Become a Comprehensive University: The public and potential students see SMU as a comprehensive but specialised Social Sciences University. We certainly have ambitions of living up to that perception. That requires that we address questions on a range of factors including the portfolio of programmes and schools we need, the nature of our international footprint, the balance between undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, the nature of our research efforts and the composition of our faculty.
  1. Space for Learning and Living: Our School of Law will soon have its own building and the groundbreaking ceremony is being planned for January 2014. Located at the corner of Armenian Street and Fort Canning Tunnel, the building is scheduled to be completed in two years’ time. We will need more space for research and teaching, and in particular for students’ activities and out-of-classroom learning that make up their holistic educational experience. I have previously mentioned some ideas for an SMU Village to further enhance the learning and leading experience for our students. We want to nurture for the global arena, leaders who will embody attributes such as intercultural sensitivity, resilience and the ability to embrace uncertainty.

 

Last updated on 14 Feb 2014.

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