Skip to content Skip to navigation

State of University Address 2017


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

Creating Positive Change, Making Meaningful Impact

SMU, since its establishment in 2000, has made significant progress. The University also received a strong endorsement from the Government when they had agreed to establish SMU as a city university. It is now timely that the University continues to build its reputation in Singapore and beyond, by making meaningful impact through its teaching, research and service to country and society.

The University needs to make meaningful impact: (1) on its students, transforming them through the SMU educational experience that prepares them for the future; (2) through research that can be applied and will generate higher value jobs for Singapore; and (3) through promoting thought leadership and lending its expertise on editorial boards, and national international committees to help influence and shape policies and improve the quality of lives.


Meaningful Impact, Towards SMU Vision 2025:

Progress report of some key achievements:

(1)  SMU as a Game Changer in Undergraduate Education

(a)  The undergraduate cohort for Academic Year 2017 saw an improvement and acceptances were the highest in three years, resulting in a total intake of 2,018 freshmen. The overall yield increased from 43% to 46% with significant improvement in the yield of top quality students. All these were achieved despite the shrinking pre-university cohort size. SMU has also continued to admit students based on a holistic evaluation of their achievements, talents and skills beyond academic results including critical thinking and communication skills.

(b)  SMU launched several new scholarship programmes, namely the SMU Global Impact Scholarship, Yip Pin Xiu Scholarship and the SMU Merit Scholarship.  The SMU Global Impact Scholarship which aims to nurture a new generation of Singaporean leaders with the global perspective skills and commitment to solve complex problems and make strong societal impact, was oversubscribed by 25 times.  Several changes were also introduced to support the new scholarships; these were well received and resulted in an increase in yield from 42% to 45%.

(c)  For Academic Year 2017, more than 30 SMU-X modules will be made available to 2,000 students. SMU-X also entered into a partnership with The Ascott Limited to co-create lyf@SMU – a trend-setting co-study, co-work, co-living environment. SMU-X has also been extended to postgraduate programmes and to overseas collaborations.


(2)  Game Changer in Lifelong Learning

(d)  SMU’s postgraduate professional programmes saw a healthy growth in 2016 with more than 2,500 applicants, an increase of 48% in application numbers as compared to the previous year. Of the applicants, 55% were given offers and 83% accepted the offers, with a matriculation number of 1,123 students (or 97%).

(e)  For PhD programmes, the overall number of doctoral students stands at 317, with 175 Academic PhD and 142 Professional Doctoral students. To encourage more Singaporean students to do PhD programmes over the next few years, SMU has introduced the part-time PhD in Information Systems via the Applied Information Systems track and the Fast-track Master by Research-PhD Programmes by the School of Economics and the School of Social Sciences.

(f)   Executive Development (ExD) has enjoyed close to 70% corporate customer retention revenue, and accepted about 40% of international participants which adds to the diversity and enriches the class experience.

(g)  Effective 1 April 2017, CPS, FTI, FITA and ACE were integrated under SMU Academy to allow for more seamless interfacing with external agencies and the public. SMU Academy was officially launched by Education Minister Mr Ong Ye Kung. The target is to train 2,800 participants but after only 5 months the Academy has already trained 2,577 participants.

(h)  Under the President Incentive for Blended Learning (PIBL), the number of approved blended learning projects in the second and latest grant call has tripled with 15 new proposals in 2017. The Centre for Teaching Excellence has supported faculty members in redesigning 19 SMU courses to incorporate face-to-face and online learning. By the end of Academic Year 2017, 63 faculty and 4,100 students would have benefitted from innovations through the PIBL grant.


(3)  Game Changer – Out-of-Classroom-Learning

(i)    SMU students have to date contributed more than 2.5 million hours of community service. The graduating class of 2017, on average, contributed 138 hours of community service each. At the end of 2016, students from all four years had worked on 403 local projects and 148 community service projects organised in 15 countries. Close to 70% of the group-based projects are in their 3rd or more years; the rest are in their 5th or more years. Project Namaste to Nepal is in its 10th year. All of these speak well of the sustainability of SMU’s community service projects.


(4)  SMU as a Catalyst in Cutting-Edge, Large-Scale Multi-disciplinary Research

(a)  SMU in Financial Year 2016 secured $30 million worth of research grants and donations. There has been broad representation of grant wins across the schools.

(b)  Progress update on several of SMU’s major projects: (i) Centre for Research on the Economics of Ageing (CREA) is conducting a longitudinal survey of cohort aged 50-70, involving 11,500 households and has been receiving 8,000 responses on average per month. To date, CREA has accumulated 24 months of data; (ii) Fujitsu-SMU Urban Computing & Engineering Corp Lab has successfully established partnerships with LTA, Jurong Port, Suntec and Y3. They are currently working on an LTA mobile app with recommendations and guidance for taxi drivers; (iii) The Singapore Index of Inflation Expectations is the first-of-its-kind survey in the region. It has formed part of the knowledge base of investment-related decision-making; (iv) Other notable research output has been given by the School of Law’s Centre for Cross-Border Commercial Law in Asia and the Applied Research Centre for Intellectual Assets and the Law in Asia.

(c)  In applied research, SMU has taken the lead among Asian institutions in winning the most number of prizes, a total of eight awards over the last three years in the European Foundation for Management Development Case Wiring Competition.

(d)  The University has created a new research track for research staff with its own job levels and processes, and currently has 120 researchers.

(e)  SMU has earned the re-accreditation by the European Foundation for Management Development for another five years.


(5)  SMU as a Global Exemplar

(a)  The University is creating International Advisory Councils to help build SMU’s visibility and international reputation in the region, demonstrate its thought leadership and support its overseas alumni. In Academic Year 2017, SMU will create councils in Manila in October, Bangkok in November, Ho Chi Minh City in December, and Jakarta and Hong Kong next year.

(b)  In raising SMU’s global profile and visibility, the University organised the 4th annual edition of the SMU China Forum series in October 2016, and also co-organised the SMU-Chongqing University Global Forum in March 2017. In addition, the University held the fourth Singapore-India Business Dialogue in partnership with the Indian School of Business in 2016.

(c)  In campus expansion, the University opened its School of Law Building, and the renovated Campus Green which integrates SMU into the larger community through the hosting of Vivace for SMU freshmen, the Singapore Night Festival with National Heritage Board, and the SMU Arts Festival. SMU Campus Green is also part of the Singapore Presidents’ Trail, a heritage trail which covers seven places and includes a story dedicated to a president and his contributions to the country.

(d)  The expansion of SMU will continue in 2018 with the planning of a new SMU-X building.


(6)  SMU’s alumni base has grown to more than 22,000 strong. The Office of Alumni Relations has successfully launched nine new alumni interest groups, making a total of 34 groups. Whilst SMU alumni contribute as alumni leaders, mentors and donors, the University offers them short-term and postgraduate courses through SMU Academy, and organises talks to help them in their professional development.


(7)   The Professionalism of the University

(a)  Many of the recommendations for better data policies and framework have been implemented and several already completed.

(b)  Productivity improvements through the Office of Business Improvement have borne fruit through the success completion of 6 six sigma green belt projects up till April 2017, and 8 black belt projects currently in progress to help departments resolve complex problems and issues that require collaboration between departments.


(8)  Financial strength: In Financial Year 2017 up to 31 August, SMU received gifts valued at $37.3 million. With Ministry of Education’s matching estimated at $39.6 million, SMU has garnered a total of $76.9 million in research grants and donations.


(9)  Looking Ahead, SMU Vision 2025

(a)  SMU will be undergoing a review and revision of its undergraduate programmes through the Blue Ribbon Commission.  The Commission will work towards sharpening SMU’s distinctive value proposition for undergraduates, review and revamp the content of the core and non-academic curriculum, and further develop SMU’s distinctive approach to learning.

(b)  The University will continue to develop interdisciplinary programmes, tracks and majors.


(10)   Game Changer for Lifelong Learning

(a)  2017-2018 will be a year of quality enhancement and consolidation of postgraduate programmes, which will include a review and revision of programme portfolio and the content.

(b)  SMU will launch a pilot on integrated living and learning in the student residences at Prinsep Street.

(c)  The dual approach of Executive Development and the SMU Academy is expected to give rise to significant growth in activities.


(11)   Catalyst for Research

(a)  SMU will implement some of the recommendations of the evaluation of its Institutes, Centres and Labs, in particular, in streamlining some of their administrative processes. The University also plans to have a review of all its efforts in the area of social innovation and societal leadership, including the Lien Centre, the Institute for Societal Leadership, the Tri-sector Collaboration Initiative in the School of Social Sciences and the Shirin Fozdar Programme.

(b)  The University will evaluate how it can get the highest return out of its doctoral programmes for its research and reputation building.


(12)   Global Exemplar

(a)  Efforts to raise SMU’s profile through thought leadership will continue in an intensive way. Several thought leadership events include the Societal Leadership Summit – Celebrating ASEAN 50 with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Former President Susilo Bambang Yughoyono and Former President Fidel Ramos; the 6th Asia-Europe Foundation Rectors’ Conference and Student’s Forum; and several eminent speakers for the Presidential Distinguished Lecturer Series.

(b)  The SMU-X Building is slated to become an icon for new building techniques. It will be the first building in the centre of the city that will use Mass Engineered Timber, and with a good design and the use of solar panels, the building will become a Net Zero Energy Building.

(c)  The University will continue to integrate better with the city and become a supportive partner in the BBB precinct. In the design of new buildings, special attention will be paid to the links throughout the campus.


Accelerating the Professionalism of the University

Being a Great University requires that the management and acquisition of resources are undertaken in a professional manner. As such, the four specific goals are as follows:

(d)  There will be a re-appraisal of the SMU brand in light of the University’s multi-product identity.

(e)  To continue to enhance our budget processes, there will be a task force on the improvement of SMU’s Responsibility Centre Accounting System so as to make it an incentive to better manage resources, stimulate good management and entrepreneurship.

(f)   Offices will be asked to rethink “bottom up” about what they need to do and to budget for so as to reflect what would be the real value to be delivered and how it could be done in the best way.  

(g)  The long term sustainability of SMU depends on it being financially sound, with sufficiently large endowment and reserves. Thus, the University will embark on a Capital Campaign.


SMU’s Future

SMU has a great capacity to innovate, to imbue its students with a sense of purpose and to have a meaningful impact on society in Singapore and beyond. The University can achieve this by driving productivity and growth and supporting innovation, work, industry and corporates; by attracting talent to Singapore, and focusing on multi-disciplinary research that will improve the quality of people’s lives. SMU is plugged into and support the larger community in many ways. In addition, the University’s integrated approach to learning, research and practice is its differentiating factor which creates valuable knowledge and opportunities. Through these, SMU equips students with the skills to succeed, and transform their lives so they can in turn, go forth and make their meaningful impact.   

Last updated on 31 Oct 2017.