Moulding the new NTU graduate
Makeover of undergraduate education is designed to give NTU students the edge in tomorrow’s global economy
Undergraduate education at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will undergo a major makeover to produce a new generation of graduates to meet the demands of the innovation-based economy in 2015 and beyond.
NTU today announced the wide-ranging makeover covering five broad areas that affect all aspects of undergraduate education – the academic experience, student life, career development, teaching excellence and infrastructure changes.
Underpinning the changes are the desired traits of the ideal NTU graduate – the X factors – which are crucial to the development of the new NTU graduate. These five key attributes are an upright character, smart leadership, social conscience, expert scholarship and an enquiring and creative mind.
Curriculum revamp: broad-based and flexible
70-30 minimum guide
Under its revamped curriculum structure, NTU students admitted from Academic Year 2011 will be able to pursue a greater variety of courses beyond their core discipline of study, including a range of new interdisciplinary content termed as Liberal Studies. This is made possible by implementing a new 70-30 curriculum guide, where at most 70 per cent of the curriculum consists of the student’s core discipline, while at least 30 per cent of it is made up of subjects from other disciplines.
In general, engineering students will observe the 70-30 guide (e.g. Bachelor of Engineering in Bioengineering), while students from other degree programmes such as from the Humanities, may see themselves having a 55-45 curriculum set-up (e.g. Bachelor of Arts in Sociology). This new curriculum guide, with up to 14 per cent reduction in total course requirement, will allow students to have more time for group-based learning and self-reflection, plus the flexibility to design a curriculum according to their interests and strengths.
New compulsory core course
Starting with the first-year undergraduates in this coming academic year, they will all undergo a new compulsory core course in Environmental Sustainability. This is in addition to the two existing compulsory courses, Communication Skills and Singapore Studies.
New set of prescribed electives
A new set of broad-based prescribed electives called Liberal Studies will be introduced to enrich students in a wide range of disciplines while complementing the deep knowledge in the field of their choice. Cross-disciplinary in nature, it will provide NTU graduates with the fundamental knowledge base and analytical skills in overlapping fields that will open up more career options for their future.
New degree programmes
New academic programmes and modules will be introduced to cater to new and emerging growth areas. The Renaissance Engineering Programme, a new dual degree engineering programme, aims to groom an exclusive breed of engineering leaders into future CEOs and CTOs. A new Double Degree in Business and Computer Engineering will also be introduced from the new Academic Year.
In 2013, NTU will also introduce the much-anticipated undergraduate medical degree programme with Imperial College London at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. Prior to that, a new undergraduate degree programme in Earth and Environmental Sciences will be offered from 2012 where students of the programme can expect future exciting and varied careers as exploration geologists, environmental geochemists and consultants.
Apart from developing student’s breadth of knowledge through the compulsory courses and prescribed electives, all NTU students also take a component known as Minors or Free Electives. There will be a wider palette of 31 Minors on offer, including new Minors in Energy, Environmental and Urban Studies, and Sports Science.
To graduate with a Minor, students take up five predetermined modules. Students can take up to two Minors if they want to. If they do not wish to have a Minor, students have the added flexibility of taking up any five free electives from more than 800 electives on offer.
Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Education
Speaking on the significance of these changes, Professor Bertil Andersson, NTU President-Designate and Provost says, “The working world of the future will require T-shaped professionals with in-depth knowledge of one discipline and a broad knowledge base in adjacent areas or in general business or entrepreneurial fields. These T-shaped professionals are the 21st century equivalents of well-educated and well-rounded persons of the Renaissance Age. They are numerate and adept at technology, even as they are good managers, entrepreneurs, problem-solvers and communicators.”
“I strongly believe that these changes are vital to produce the new NTU graduates of tomorrow. These will be active citizens of the world who can lead and manage complex issues beyond their expert fields, and define what’s next for our markets and societies,” says Professor Andersson. “The training they receive at NTU will stand them in good stead to create new opportunities and tackle the major challenges facing our collective future, in areas such as energy, the environment, and healthcare. Ultimately, the new NTU undergraduate experience will give our current and future students the critical X-factors and competitive edge in the global talent marketplace.”
These broad sweeping changes are among the key recommendations of NTU’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Education that was convened in August 2007 to review all aspects of undergraduate education at the university. Chaired by Professor Haresh Shah, Emeritus Professor of Stanford University and a member of the NTU Board of Trustees, the Commission had advocated a new blueprint for revamping the University’s curriculum and steering the development of future programmes. Professor Bertil Andersson, the incoming NTU President, will lead the overall implementation of the Commission.
Beyond the curriculum: Enhanced learning and teaching
There will be an expanded range of online learning platforms, such as e-tutorials and virtual labs to cater to the technologically competent young learners. The University will promote 100 per cent ownership of mobile learning devices by students, with more informal learning spaces created across the campus.
“Classrooms of Tomorrow” will be built in phases over several years and are designed to drive group discussion and interaction. Fitted with giant interactive screens and SMART Boards, these classrooms will empower lecturers to virtually modify their teaching, so as to best fit individual students' learning styles.
‘Retooling’ the teaching staff
To help professors and lecturers enhance their teaching, there will be new programmes to promote teaching best practices and student-centred learning. A merit-based Teaching Excellence Fund will also be introduced to provide grants for lecturers to develop and implement teaching innovations. In addition, a “CoLaboratory” or learning laboratory will be set up for faculty to experiment and research on new pedagogical approaches. NTU will also tie up with overseas universities on joint professional development and certification programmes.
Explaining the reasons behind the renewed emphasis on teaching, NTU Provost-Designate Professor Freddy Boey says, "A great university values teaching as much as research. By investing more resources and equipping faculty members with the tools to be more innovative and creative in their teaching pedagogies, we are underlining the value we place on teaching excellence in NTU. Exceptional performance and innovation by our faculty ultimately contributes to our students’ success."
Enhanced student life experience
These physical enhancements will be integrated with the longer term infrastructure developments linked to NTU’s technology-driven ‘Cool Campus’ initiative and Campus Master Plan unveiled last month that aims to enhance the overall student life experience. Apart from facilities such as the new student hub, other initiatives to enhance students’ experience on campus include strengthening the pastoral care and counselling service and ramping up the academic advisory and career guidance services.
More variety and choices for overseas learning
In the highly mobile and connected world of 2020, the millennial generation of employees can expect overseas assignments as a rite of passage. To give NTU students a head-start, the university will increase the variety and choices of overseas experiences. Currently 50 per cent of each NTU cohort has at least one overseas opportunity and NTU plans to raise this to 70 per cent of each cohort.
Professor Er Meng Hwa, Senior Associate Provost in charge of undergraduate study, says, “Overseas training and exposure give our students an added competitive edge in the global race for talent. Increasingly more employers are on the lookout for students with such overseas experience to join their organisations, as their businesses are typically regional or international in nature. Expanding the opportunities for such exposure will enable us to groom many more students to be effective leaders of global teams.”
NTU currently offers several overseas programmes to students and they can choose to immerse themselves in overseas study, internship or research attachments at up to two foreign countries, each for a maximum of six months. The Global Immersion Programme, for instance, is popular among students because it offers the experience of an overseas education while being an undergraduate at a local university.
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Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Publicity, Media & Account Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: 6790 6687
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