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New Colleges for the National University of Singapore

— The residential college movement is an international movement, and forward-looking institutions in a number of countries are all beginning to see that many of the world’s best universities are organized into collegiate systems.

A story today in ChannelNews Asia, drawing on a university press release, reports that the National University of Singapore will soon be establishing six new residential colleges, “each headed by a Master and supported by a team of faculty fellows, graduate tutors and staff.” The project was inaugurated this week by Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong. The colleges will be built at a site called University Town, and will be “a key development for NUS and for tertiary education in Singapore.”

The sprawling 19-hectare site at the former Warren Golf Club on Dover Road will accommodate Singapore’s first residential colleges, offering students a holistic and unique learning experience.

The prime minister Lee said: “Currently, NUS has several halls of residence which fulfill some of the functions of residential colleges. The halls are student dormitories that allow students to enjoy the benefits of living on campus.

“They serve student life well with a range of social and sporting activities and help to develop a sense of community, but are not organised for residential learning in an integrated and multi-disciplinary setting.

“The University Town will take this one step further with the establishment of residential colleges. Along with two graduate residences, six residential colleges will be set up, with each headed by a Master and supported by a team of faculty fellows, graduate tutors and staff.

“Each college will have the flexibility to chart its future direction and evolve its own distinctive characteristics. But the emphasis across all colleges will be on multi-disciplinary learning, with intensive small-group sessions to encourage maximum interaction and discussion.

“At the same time, they will offer opportunities for social, cultural and recreational activities to deliver a more rounded learning experience.”

NUS Professor Lily Kong said: “The residential halls that we have at the moment … have done a fabulous job in terms of encouraging and developing a sense of student identity and community and commitment to NUS and their halls of residence. We want to continue. All we are trying to do here is to add another dimension which currently doesn’t exist – the learning component in the colleges.”

Through this work, NUS will join the Chinese University of Hong Kong as a leading exponent of the collegiate way of living in Asia. May these two great universities serve as examples for many other institutions in their region and around the world.

Further details · 31 January 2008: This story was also picked up today by the English edition of the People’s Daily in China, which provides a few additional details:

Singapore will learn from the Oxford and Cambridge system to build residential colleges in the National University of Singapore (NUS), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at its groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

The 423-million U.S. dollars University Town, to be completed in 2010, will include Singapore’s first six residential colleges with living quarters and tutorial rooms for gifted students and tutors, along with two graduate residences.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lee said the NUS has several halls of residence now, but they are not organized for residential learning in an integrated and multi-disciplinary setting.

He said the residential college system “is the way to prepare our students to venture out, create new opportunities for themselves, and build a new future for Singapore.”

He also announced that the colleges will be used as the Youth Olympics Village if Singapore wins the bid to hold the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. The finalists are Singapore and Moscow. The winning city will be announced on Feb. 21.

Singapore has been making efforts to reform its tertiary education in the recent years, including measures to attract foreign students and a plan to build its fourth university.

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