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September 23, 2019

National University of Singapore: A University stands and shines top in Asia

A charming air hostess with sweet and smiling face asked me what I would like to have as breakfast, chicken curry with rice or prawn fried rice. I was on the comfortable seat of Myanmar Airways International Aircraft 8M 231 flying from Yangon to Singapore on Monday 12 January 2015. The weather was fine on a day of soft cool winter.
The airline was founded by the government before independence in 1946 as Union of Burma Airways (UBA). It initially operated domestic services only. International services were added in 1950. The name was changed to Burma Airways in December 1972, and then to Myanma Airways on 1 April 1989, following the renaming of the country from Burma to Myanmar. International services were transferred to Myanmar Airways International, which was set up in 1993.
I have noticed that MAI is changing fast and also rising rapidly in her overall services offered to the passengers.
I and my better-half landed at Singapore Changi Airport at 10: 30 am local time. The weather was partly cloudy.
Changi Airport has three passenger terminals with a total annual handling capacity of 66 million passengers. Terminal 1 opened in 1981, followed by Terminal 2 in 1990 and Terminal 3 in 2008. The Budget Terminal was opened on 26 March 2006 and closed on 25 September 2012. It will make way for Terminal 4 which will be ready by 2017. Changi Airport Terminal 5 is set to be ready in mid-2020s which will be able to handle 50 million passenger movements per annum.

NUS University Culture (Photo from Wikipedia)
NUS University Culture (Photo from Wikipedia)

Our purpose of visiting Singapore is to have fun with our grand kids coming from Campbelltown of New South Wales in Australia during their school holidays. Travelling a long way to Australia is quite expensive for pensioners like us, and that we arranged to meet them in Singapore. We stayed at the condominium of our daughter who is working in Singapore.
On the following day of our arrival, I had visited the expo fair ground and written an article entitled [Significant features of “Singapore Expo” and “John Little Mega Expo Sale” in Singapore: January 2015]. The article was already printed on The Global New Light of Myanmar English daily newspapers.
Over the past few months back in my beloved country Myanmar, the talk of the major cities and towns is “Educational Reform” and many people from all walks of life are uttering the buzz word with the great expectation for the creation of “Good Education System”.
During the quiet dinner at home one evening, my daughter told me and my better-half briefly about Singapore politics, economics, social, environment, institutions and annual events which included that of the NUS which is ranked as the top university in Asia.
Coincidentally, I have had the opportunity in visiting the prestigious National University of Singapore in January 2015. My purpose was merely to see the NUS in person. Luckily, I met a friend at the cafeteria who is working at the university. I was casually explained an overall picture of the institution, but my curiosity went deep. The NUS is an object that arouses interest, as by being novel or extraordinary. I asked the web portal of the NUS and jotted down in my small note book. I have already decided to write an article for the Global New Light of Myanmar English dailies in my country.
The moment I arrived back home of my daughter, I browsed the Google search machine and NUS website immediately.
It was established in 1980 as a national university, public and autonomous type of institution. Its endowment was US$1.79 billion. The statistics of 1980 showed that it had 2,196 academic staff and 27,216 undergraduates.
The National University of Singapore is a comprehensive research university and the flagship tertiary institution of the country which has a global approach to education and research. Founded in 1905, it is the oldest higher learning institute in Singapore, as well as the largest university in the country in terms of student enrolment and curriculum offered. It was ranked as the best university in Asia by QS University Rankings in 2014.
QS World University Rankings are annual university rankings published by British Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). The publisher originally released its rankings in publication with Times Higher Education (THE) from 2004 to 2009 as the THE-QS World University Rankings. However, such collaboration was terminated in 2010, with the resumption of publishing by QS using the pre-existing methodology. It was only in the aftermath of new cooperation between Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters releasing Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Today, the QS rankings comprise both world and regional league tables which are independent of and different from each other owing to differences in the criteria and weightings used to generate them. The publication is one of the three most influential and widely observed international university rankings, alongside the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
The university’s main campus is located in southwest Singapore at Kent Ridge, with an area of approximately (0.71 sq mi).
The Bukit Timah campus houses the Faculty of Law, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and research institutes.
The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore is located at the Outram campus.
There are (16) faculties and schools namely: 1 Arts and Social Sciences; 2 Business School; 3 Computing; 4 Dentistry; 5 Design and Environment; 6 Engineering; 7 Law; 8 Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine; 9 Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore; 10 Science; 11 Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; 12 Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum; 13 NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering; 14 Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music; 15 Research institutes and centers; 16 Major research facilities.

NUS School of Computing (Photo from Wikipedia)
NUS School of Computing (Photo from Wikipedia)

There are three residential colleges such as 1. NUS University Town; 2. Cinnamon College; and 3. Tembusu College.
There are two Research centers namely; Research institutes and centers; and Major research facilities.
Vision, Mission & Strategy of NUS has been outlined as follows.
In its vision, the university sets a goal to be a leading global university centered in Asia, influencing the future. NUS intends be a globally-oriented university, in the distinguished league of the world’s leading universities. A key joint in global knowledge networks, NUS tries to have distinctive expertise and insights relating to Asia.
Moreover, NUS aspires to be a bold and dynamic community, with a “no walls” culture and a spirit of enterprise which strives for positive influence and impact through the education, research and service.
Meaning of School without Walls
Some schools have started something that they cannot control.  Students are gradually assuming more responsibility and ownership for what they learn and how they learn it.  This is a good thing, but like splitting an atom inside of a cardboard box, there is no hope of containing its power and potential.  Yet, by and large, the schools stubbornly cling to a traditional school system, attempting to control student learning in the confines of a specific space, time and method.
Here are three reasons that, as educators, that they must open the “cardboard box,” extending student learning beyond the classrooms, schools and communities.
As it has a wide scope, every member of the university enjoys diverse opportunities for intellectual, personal and professional growth. Learning and working at NUS would foster quick, well-rounded minds, well-equipped to succeed in this fast-changing world.
In its mission, the university intends to transform the way people think and do things through education, research and service. The NUS mission comprises three mutually reinforcing thrusts:
1.    Transformative education that nurtures thinking individuals who are alive to opportunities to make a difference, are valued members and leaders of society, and global citizens effective in diverse settings.
2.    High-impact research that advances the boundaries of knowledge and contributes to the betterment of society.
3.    Dedicated service, as a national university, that adds to social, economic and national development.
Regarding the strategy, the NUS outlines eight key components:
1.    Nurture, recruit and retain best quality people, the single most important determinant of the quality of education and research.
2.  Attract the best students, who are academically strong, and who have passion, commitment, leadership potential and come from diverse backgrounds.
3.    Provide a high quality educational experience that stretches students, is globally-oriented, and develops skills and values to enable them to reach their full potential.
4.    Focus on high impact research that advances knowledge and its application, and which is of high international quality and impact.
5.    Inject a spirit of enterprise into education and research, and develop impactful synergies in education, in research, and between education and research, within a dynamic “no-walls” environment.
6.    Nurture committed alumni to be key members of the NUS community, who will actively support NUS towards its Vision and Mission.
7.    Develop global profile and reach as a leader among universities.
8.    Adopt and adapt best practice governance and management, for optimal administration, management of resources, and faculty, staff and student services.
Interesting History of NUS
In September 1904, Tan Jiak Kim led a group of representatives of the Chinese and other non-European communities, and petitioned the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson, to establish a medical school in Singapore. Tan, who was the first president of the Straits Chinese British Association, managed to raise 87,077 Straits dollars, of which the largest amount of $12,000 came from him.
The Straits dollar was the currency of the Straits Settlements from 1898 until 1939. At the same time, it was also used in the Federated Malay States, the Un-federated Malay States, Sarawak, Brunei, and British North Borneo. On 3 July 1905, the medical school was founded, and was known as the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School.
In 1912, the medical school received an endowment of $120,000 from the King Edward VII Memorial Fund, started by Lim Boon Keng. Subsequently on 18 November 1913, the name of the school was changed to the King Edward VII Medical School. In 1921, it was again changed to the King Edward VII College of Medicine to reflect its academic status.
In 1928, Raffles College was established to promote arts and social sciences at tertiary level for Malayan students.
Establishment of the university
Two decades later, Raffles College was merged with the King Edward VII College of Medicine to form the University of Malaya on 8 October 1949. The two institutions were merged to provide for the higher education needs of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore.
The growth of University of Malaya was very rapid during the first decade of its establishment and resulted in the setting up of two autonomous divisions in 1959, one located in Singapore and the other in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1960, the governments of the then Federation of Malaya and Singapore indicated their desire to change the status of the divisions into that of a national university. Legislation was passed in 1961 establishing the former Kuala Lumpur division as the University of Malaya while the Singapore division was renamed the University of Singapore on 1 January 1962.
Present form of NUS
The National University of Singapore was formed with the merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University in 1980. This was done in part due to the government’s desire to pool the two institutions’ resources into a single, stronger entity, and promote English as Singapore’s only main language. The original crest of Nanyang University with three intertwined rings was incorporated into the new coat-of-arms of NUS.
Residential Colleges
NUS University Town
The NUS University Town (UTown) opened in August 2011. Located across the NUS Kent Ridge campus; this is where some 2,400 undergraduate students, 1,700 graduate students and 1,000 researchers will work, live, and learn in close proximity. There are four residential colleges, Cinnamon and Tembusu Colleges, College of Alice and Peter Tan, and Residential College 4 – initially named Cinnamon, Tembusu, Angsana and Khaya, an Education Resource Centre and a Graduate Residence.
Cinnamon College
Cinnamon College houses the University Scholars Program. The USP residential college will house 600 students and contain the administrative and faculty offices for USP and teaching classrooms.
USP students will take modules at the college and follow the current USP curriculum. They will be required to take eight multidisciplinary modules specially designed for USP students, including the Writing and Critical Thinking module and University Scholars Seminars. Students will have various options to fulfill their USP advanced curriculum requirements that include individual research with faculty mentors, and industrial and entrepreneurial attachments.
Tembusu College
Tembusu College is one of the first two Residential Colleges in University Town, a new extension to the main NUS campus at Kent Ridge. Tembusu houses mainly undergraduates in addition to resident faculty, distinguished visiting scholars, and a few graduate fellows. Freshmen (matriculating first-year students) enrolling in any NUS faculty or program apply to the College at the same time they apply to NUS. Entry is competitive (an essay-based application followed by an interview) as only 200–230 students can be enrolled in any given year. Some students from non-modular faculties (whose course requirements may be reduced or waived) and students from overseas exchange programs add to the residential mix. Students from any NUS faculty are eligible to apply.
The College offers five multi-disciplinary modules fulfilling the “University-Level Requirements” (2 General Education modules, 2 Breadth modules, and 1 Singapore Studies module) which most NUS undergraduates must read to graduate. Students read the rest of their modules in their home faculties. A University Town Residential Program Certificate is issued to eligible students along with the regular degree scroll. Students from non-modular faculties (i.e. Law, Medicine, and Dentistry) also belong to the College, but with course-work tailored to their specific programs.
Outstanding Alumni
The “Alumni” of National University of Singapore is quite interesting and note worthy. Alumni mean a group of people who have graduated from a school or university. Alumni are usually used to refer to a group of graduates of either one or both genders, while ‘alumnus’ traditionally refers to a single male graduate, with the feminine term being ‘alumna’.
Since its inception in 1905, the National University of Singapore and its predecessor institutions have produced many illustrious individuals. This list includes (4) Singaporean Prime Ministers and presidents, (2) Malaysian Prime Ministers, and many politicians, judiciaries, business executives, educators and local celebrities.
NUS counts among its graduates, heads of states Abdul Razak Hussein, Benjamin Sheares, Goh Chok Tong, Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir Mohamad and S.R. Nathan. A number of its graduates are also notable politicians. Rais Yatim is Minister of Information (1984–1986) and Foreign Minister (1986–1987) of Malaysia. Dr. Ng Eng Hen is a Singaporean politician. A member of the governing People’s Action Party, he has been Minister for Defense, as well as the Leader of the House in the Parliament of Singapore, since 2011.
Business leaders such as CEO of the Singapore Exchange and Singapore Tourism Board Chew Choon Seng, CEO of the Hyflux group Olivia Lum, CEO of the Temasek Holdings Ho Ching and CEO of SPRING Singapore Philip Yeo.
In international politics, the school has produced the Director General of World Health Organization Margaret Chan, former President of United Nations Security Council, Kishore Mahbubani and S Jayakumar and Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee, Ng Ser Miang.
The FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) is always there with regard to the ranking of educational institution.
How good is the National University of Singapore compared to other top universities?
The 2010-11 Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked NUS at the sloth of 34th in the world. Do you think NUS is that good/bad?
It depends on what you mean by good; and what do you mean by bad.
As I am not well versed in this realm of educational institutions, and therefore, I did some casual research work. I have done some inquiries and in combination with some personal experiences as a Myanmar diplomat served in four neighboring countries for (16) years. I came up with the following list of questions that students most probably try to find the answer for, before making their life-changing decision on where to study in this world.

(1)    Which country does the student wants to study?
(2)    What is the quality of the university?
(3)    Is the right study program available in a language that the student speaks fluently?
(4)    How much does it cost?

This article is a plain and simple presentation about the National University of Singapore to the esteemed readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar, including the students, teachers, university faculty members, persons in the sphere of educational institutions in Myanmar.

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