Remarks by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) at Launch Of Lyf@Smu

Published Date: 23 February 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Professor Arnoud De Meyer, President of the Singapore Management University (SMU)

Mr Lim Ming Yan, President and Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CapitaLand Limited

Mr Lee Chee Koon, CEO of The Ascott Limited

SMU faculty, staff and students

Ladies and gentlemen

1. I want to thank the student guides for bringing me around Lyf@SMU. I also want to thank Ascott and CapitaLand for supporting this initiative by contributing both the effort and resources in setting up this fantastic place. It is a win-win partnership. For the students and SMU, the benefits are obvious. For the company, this is a way for them to understand how millennials live, play and work together. Hopefully through this, they can develop a concept that can be brought beyond Singapore.

2. Let me recount the significance of this place. I have always remembered this place as the old MPH building. Down the road is Capitol Theatre and this was the hip part of town. I did not study here but I used to come to Capitol Theatre to watch movies, which cost $2.50 or $3.50 at that time. We would walk down to the MPH building and this was where we hung out. For the couples, this was where they hung out too. I think this would not change.

3. Today, when we look at Capitol Theatre, it has been restored but it has kept some of its old charm. It is still a theatre, and the sculptures of winged horses and the mosaicked domed ceiling with its 12 zodiac signs are still there. The place has progressed with the times, with its retail stores and restaurants, but it has managed to retain the old charm.

4. Likewise, the MPH building has been redeveloped. If we compare the Capitol Theatre and this building, the latter has definitely moved with the times but we must retain the old spirit of MPH and its surroundings. It is a place where students are free and full of hope, aspirations and romance, with expanding minds. This is important and it is all up to the millennials to preserve this spirit.

5. I want to end by congratulating SMU. Yesterday, we released the results of the Joint Autonomous Universities Graduate Employment Survey (JAUGES). Of all the Autonomous Universities (AUs), SMU scored the highest in terms of employment rate and graduate pay.

6. On the way here, I was asking President/SMU Professor Arnoud, and Provost/SMU Professor Lily Kong for the reasons behind the better employment rate and higher pay. There must be something about the way SMU teaches and the subject combinations that make SMU stand out. I want to clarify that if we break it down into schools, the highest is medical school and NIE with 100 per cent placement rate. Nonetheless, SMU as a university with so many different faculties and courses, has done really well for the students. I hope SMU keeps it up.

7. When I look at the JAUGES results, it is encouraging because the pay is going up and the graduate employment rate is high. This is different from many other parts of the world with massive graduate unemployment. When I spoke with the students earlier, they are very hopeful about stepping into the job market. On the other hand, I also notice some drop in full-time employment. Part of the reason is that many more students choose to do part-time jobs and set up their own businesses at the same time. Some choose to do freelance work. Currently, in our collection of data, we consider freelance work as part-time work. At some point, we will change that, and freelance work deserves its own category. However, there is also a small proportion who are trying to find work but unable to find one. Maybe, one to two percentage point, which is not high. We do not want such a problem to become more serious over time.

8. The answer I was hoping for was the way SMU teaches. We have to change the way we teach, such as teaching in unorthodox places like this. We have to bring the industry in to teach alongside faculties, because the industry is in the best position to teach students. When the industry which is familiar with the real world, partners academics who know the theories, more can be done. This is the spirit behind SMU-X. This is also the spirit behind Lyf@SMU which will support SMU-X.

9. Good luck and well done. I hope SMU will grow bigger and better. Thank you very much.

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