A ‘Silicon Valley’ buzz in Changi

Former UNSW Asia site next to business parkwill help new varsitybuild industry links

WHEN Singapore’s fourth publicly-funded university goes fully operational in Changi in five years’ time, it should feature a Silicon Valley-type buzz.

Plans are underway to use its permanent location next to Changi Business Park – home to high-tech enterprises and knowledge intensive facilities, as well as industry giants such as IBM and Honeywell – to its advantage.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said the new varsity will cultivate a vibrant ecosystem of industry and academia, to nurture skills much needed in the new economy.

“In the United States, for example, the industries work very well with universities and they sometimes even share facilities. We think this is one area that we can develop because Changi Business Park is a growing area, and if we build a university there, there are opportunities for industry to have linkages,” said Dr Ng.

Stanford University is one that has benefited from collaborations with nearby techno hub Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, the new university is set to open its doors to an initial intake of500 students in 2011, at an interim campus yet to be confirmed. This will grow to an annual intake of 2,500.

Its permanent site at Changi – which incorporates the land once earmarked for the University of New South Wales’ Asian campus – is about 22.6 hectares, big enough for hostels and 600 metres from the Expo MRT station.

Drawing up the masterplan for this campus will be a steering committee chaired by Mr Philip Ng Chee Tat, chief executive officer of Far East Organisation. Mr Ng has been involved in the Board of Trustees of the National University of Singapore and the Board of Governors of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and Republic Polytechnic.

A key task of the committee – which will comprise leaders from academia, industry and the public sector – will be finding the right people to make up the management and Board of Trustees, said Mr Ng.

The committee will also mount a hunt for an interim campus and, importantly, an international search for a university president. “We hope we have somebody named maybe by early next year, certainly by the end of the first half,” said Mr Ng.

Come 2011, the school will focus first on a selection of courses, with more to come later – similiar to how the Singapore Management University started out in 2000. It will offer programmes in Engineering and Applied Science, Business and Information Technology, and Architecture and Design.

Source : Today – 12 Aug 2008

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