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Speech by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At The SIM University's Inaugural Convocation 2006

Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President Of SIM University At SIM University's Inaugural Convocation 2006, 10.00am On 25 September 2006 At SIM University

Your Excellency, President S R Nathan, Patron of SIM University;
Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chancellor and Chairman of SIM University Board of Trustees;
Ministers of State Gan Kim Yong and Lui Tuck Yew;
Mr Richard Eu, Chairman of SIM Governing Council;
Members of the SIM University Board of Trustees and SIM Governing Council;
Colleagues, Graduates;
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen;


  1. Good morning.

  1. Welcome to SIM University’s Inaugural Convocation.

  1. We are deeply honoured that President Nathan has accepted the invitation to be the Patron of SIM University. Mr President, you have been a strong supporter of SIM ever since you first lectured at an SIM senior executive seminar in 1965! We are grateful that you have kept a keen interest in SIM’s growth and development. To have you honour us as Patron of SIM University is testimony of your commitment to education, lifelong learning and people development. Thank you, Mr President!

  1. This is a significant milestone in our short history as we celebrate the success of our first cohort of graduands receiving the SIM University degree. Congratulations to you, our graduates! We also acknowledge the support and encouragement of your family, friends and employers who have stood by you in your learning journey.

  1. On 14 April 2005, SIM University was officially formed. This was the culmination of more than a decade of envisioning, planning and implementation. The seeds were sown back in 1992 when the Ministry of Education selected SIM to run the Open University Degree Programme. Since 1994, more than 5,000 students have graduated from this programme. The degrees were then awarded by The Open University of the UK (OUUK). Subsequently, SIM was granted accreditated status as an Open University Centre (or SIM-OUC) by OUUK, a recognition of the high standards achieved in the running of the programmes. This development paved the way for the eventual transformation to UniSIM.

  1. When the Ministry of Education granted SIM approval to form UniSIM in 2005, it was an endorsement of the high quality and depth of the tertiary education provided through the SIM-OUC. SIM and UniSIM are deeply grateful to MOE for its unstinting support over the last few decades. Without MOE’s blessing and guidance, UniSIM would not have become Singapore’s fourth university. Having Singapore’s own university for adult learning signals a strong emphasis on this key area, and augurs well for many working Singaporeans and mature adults eager to upgrade and fulfill their academic aspirations.

  1. The founding of UniSIM would not have been possible without the leadership of three persons. Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, previous Chairman of SIM Governing Council, worked closely with Professor Cham Tao Soon, Special Advisor to the Council, and Mr John Yip, then Chief Executive of SIM-OUC, to forge and execute the plan for the establishment of UniSIM. To them and the members of the SIM Governing Council, and others too many to name, we express our heartfelt gratitude. In particular, we wish to thank Professor Cham for his unflagging energy and enthusiasm in pioneering yet another Singapore university during his long and distinguished career as an educator. It is most fitting that he has been appointed Chancellor of UniSIM.

  1. This inaugural convocation would not have been held this year if not for the 75% of the students UniSIM inherited from SIM-OUC last year who opted to graduate with a UniSIM degree. I wish to acknowledge the big part the OUUK played in the learning journey of these graduands, and for graciously agreeing for them to switch to the UniSIM degree. Indeed, UniSIM is the beneficiary of the high quality of university education inherited from the OUUK, and I am pleased that Professor Linda Jones, OUUK’s Pro-Vice Chancellor, has joined us on stage for this ceremony.

  1. With the birth of UniSIM, there is now a complete set of local universities to meet the diverse educational and learning needs of Singaporeans – from fresh school leavers to working executives and adults, from full-time to flexible learning, and from publicly-funded to the private. UniSIM seeks to help enhance the capability and knowledge of adult learners to strengthen our nation’s workforce and overall economic competitiveness. UniSIM’s unique flexible learning programmes and teaching strategies differentiate it from the other local universities in Singapore.

  1. In the past year, UniSIM made strong strides in its development. Within months of its founding, the university launched its new identity and its first admission exercise. We are pleased that in 2006, more than 2,500 new students were admitted into in our programmes over two intakes, bringing our total enrolment to 6,300. More than 60 degree programmes are now offered in our four schools, viz., Arts and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, Business and Human Development and Social Services.

  1. As a budding university, UniSIM is privileged to have initiated partnerships and collaborations with established counterparts, including NTU, NUS and The Open University of Hong Kong. We continued our ongoing partnerships with OUUK, Beijing Normal University for Chinese programmes, and started a new collaboration with Madurai-Kamaraj University for Tamil programmes. These collaborations will allow UniSIM to benefit from the sharing of academic and research resources, and cross-campus learning opportunities for our students. UniSIM will seek out more such partners to give our students the best learning advantage possible not only from Singapore but the region as well.

  1. Beyond collaborations with academic institutions, UniSIM has also forged alliances with industry, including the NTUC, Ong Teng Cheong Institute of Labour Studies, The Singapore Police Force, and a tripartite alliance with the Singapore Culinary Academy and Workforce Development Agency. This allows us to keep close to the ground and offer programmes that our adults will need.

  1. Some of these collaborations have led to the launch of new, customized degree programmes. For instance, in July this year, UniSIM started the first local undergraduate degree in management and security studies with the Singapore Police Force; and the first culinary arts and management degree in Singapore and the region with the Singapore Culinary Academy. We will soon be launching programmes through our School of Human Development & Social Services in such disciplines as counselling and social work.

  1. As we look ahead, SIM University will continue to strengthen its academic and teaching capabilities and resources to be the premier adult learning university in Singapore and the region. Among the many initiatives that will take us down this road, I’d like to mention four.

  1. First, we are committed to ensuring high quality and standards in our programmes. We have reviewed and improved our academic content and processes, and boosted our faculty strength. More will be done to refine our service levels, strengthening the quality assurance processes, and maintaining academic standards that match norms practised by established universities.

  1. Second, in line with our emphasis on flexible learning, UniSIM will, over the next few years, invest substantially in the development of an e-Learning capability which will complement our two other major learning components - our comprehensive course materials and effective tutorial support. These three modes will form UniSIM’s three-pillar system of delivery and learning that will maximize the flexibility for every student, allowing for continued access to learning practically anywhere, anytime, and at any pace. For this purpose, an Educational Technology Unit has been set up. Our ability to leverage technology will help UniSIM stay on the cutting edge of adult education.

  1. Third, we will establish a UniSIM scholarship and study award fund to recognize academic excellence or help those needing financial support for their studies. This expands on the number of scholarships and study awards that are already available. Much more can be done, particularly for those who are academically able but do not have the means to pursue further studies. These are those who, though gainfully employed, do not have enough income left over for tuition fees after providing for personal living expenses, for family, children, owning a home, etc. Without a tertiary qualification, opportunities for higher-level jobs and income are often out of their reach. I hope that the UniSIM awards will spur others to give, and I call on employers, government bodies and benefactors to partner with UniSIM to provide generous avenues of financial support. Let us invest in our people and improve their employability and prospects for advancement.

  1. Fourth, we have set up a Centre for Applied Research to focus on industry-linked R&D. Through this centre, UniSIM will place emphasis on fostering meaningful connections with business and industry, and conduct R&D and consultancy directed at servicing our community and local enterprises that may not have the knowledge resource and capability to support strategic business decision-making. UniSIM also intends to conduct studies on adult learning and on the use of advanced technology to aid our brand of flexible learning, so as to benefit our students and enhance our programme delivery.

  1. Though a private university, UniSIM plays a national role of providing opportunities for our adults with diverse backgrounds, qualifications and experience to acquire new skills and knowledge for professional and personal upgrading. Our initiatives are directed at giving access to relevant quality value-for-money programmes to as many as those who want, and have the ability, to cope with serious study. And to provide choice and flexibility to fit our students’ needs. Our vision is to serve society through excellence in adult education. In reaching out to this vision, UniSIM also aspires to be "the people’s university" of Singapore.

  1. Today, we gather to celebrate the achievements of our pioneer cohort of graduates. Our university exists for determined, resourceful, independent individuals like you. There is so much for you to be proud of. You chose a very challenging route to gaining a degree, overcoming many obstacles to get here. You have had to balance career and family responsibilities on top of your academic pursuit. You have had to make sacrifices and stay disciplined. Some of you have had to deal with crises and disruptions along the way. Nevertheless, you have come through – we hope you have found the journey worthwhile. I encourage you to return to UniSIM for your continuing education, and stay in touch with us. We want you to be as proud of UniSIM as much as we are proud of you. All of us at UniSIM wish you the very best as you step forth today to continue the pursuit of your dreams and aspirations.

  1. Thank you.
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