Welcome remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Singapore Institute of Technology's Groundbreaking Ceremony on 10 September 2019 at Punggol Coast Road.
Mr Ng Yat Chung, Chairman, Board of Trustees of SIT, Professor Tan Thiam Soon, President of SIT, distinguished guests, professors, students, ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning to all of you. I am very pleased to join all of you this morning for the ground-breaking of the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)’s new campus here in Punggol. It is a significant milestone for SIT, because not only are we breaking ground for your new campus. We are also celebrating ten years since SIT was incorporated as a university in September 2009.
When I announced this new campus at the 2015 National Day Rally, I quoted a Chinese saying – 十年树木，百年树人 (ten years to grow a tree; one hundred years to nurture a person) Certainly, in the last ten years, SIT has grown up to be a strong and healthy tree. Many people have taken part with SIT in this journey – university partners, industry partners, donors, community leaders, and staff and students past and present. I am glad that many of you are here to today to celebrate this occasion with us.
Progress of SIT
SIT has its roots in the Polytechnic-Foreign Specialised Institutions scheme, which MOE had introduced in 2005. Under the scheme, the polytechnics partnered a small group of overseas universities to offer their degree programmes in Singapore. We aimed to cater to the growing numbers of good students who were choosing the polytechnic route. Having obtained diplomas, they now aspired to upgrade their skills and earn a specialised degree in their chosen area of expertise. After about four years, we decided to formalise the poly-FSI scheme and to set up SIT. This gave us the scale to pursue more overseas university collaborations, and to widen our range of offerings.
The SIT model built upon the strength of our polytechnic system and diploma education. Based on their diplomas, SIT students were granted advanced standing by the university partners, and thus could complete their degrees faster, in two to three years.
Initially, we were concerned how the students and industry would view SIT programmes. Whether they would see these as being equal to the programmes that the university partners operated in their home countries. So we were very selective with our first batch of overseas university partners, including the Culinary Institute of America, DigiPen Institute of Technology, Newcastle University, and the Technical University of Munich. After the programmes started, word got around that the failure rate of SIT students in their first year was very high. Students interpreted this to mean that the overseas universities were indeed upholding their high standards. So when the first batch of SIT students graduated, they had no difficulty finding jobs. This further reinforced confidence. Today, failure rates have come down, but employment results are still good. 9 in 10 of SIT graduates are employed six months after graduation, based on the latest Graduate Employment Survey.
By 2014, five years ago, we were confident enough to make SIT an Autonomous University, awarding degrees in its own name. Today, SIT is a unique model in our university landscape. It offers an applied university pathway. It works closely with industry. SIT students spend 6 to 12 months on work attachment through the Integrated Work Study Programme. SIT programmes include Sustainable Infrastructure Engineering, Intelligent Transport Engineering, Allied Health programmes. These niche offerings meet the industries’ need for high skilled operational talent.
I am very happy that our polytechnic graduates now have this route open to them. It offers a focused, applied, high quality education, directly relevant, and opening clear paths for further development. It will enable many students to find good jobs and fulfil their aspirations.
SIT has up to now operated as a distributed campus, with one SIT building in every polytechnic. This enabled SIT to get off the ground quickly, and make full use of the polytechnics’ existing facilities, like laboratories and lecture theatres. Co-location had other advantages too, because the SIT staff could also build a closer relationship with the polytechnics, keep abreast of developments, and implement programmes relevant to the needs of polytechnic graduates. It also reinforced the idea that SIT and the polytechnics were together, and SIT’s success was also the polytechnics’ success.
New Punggol Campus
Now the SIT has operated for a decade and become a university in its own right. It is only natural to take the next move and to build a single, consolidated campus. This new campus, in the heart of the Punggol Digital District (PDD), will strengthen the close nexus that SIT already has with industry. We hope to support an ecosystem for digital and tech companies here, to trial new concepts to work, study and live, before scaling them up nationally. By being co-located here, SIT faculty and students collaborate with industry professionals on projects and test-bedding opportunities. These collaborations have already started. SP Group will install 10,000 sq m of photo-voltaic panels on the roofs of the campus buildings, to build a multi-energy urban micro-grid and supply the campus with clean energy.
SIT should also nurture deeper roots here in Punggol, where your new home will be. I am happy to hear that SIT has made efforts to open up to the Punggol community. It is running science camps twice a year for primary students in Punggol. It is putting up art by students from Punggol schools on your construction hoardings. And they are setting up Skillscraft, a community makerspace in the Punggol 21 Community Club, in collaboration with People’s Association. You will be a big part of the Punggol community, and I hope your students will embrace this identity and do their part for the people here.
We are at an important point in SIT’s journey today. We look around us; we see construction about to begin. But in five years, this area will be transformed into the SIT campus and Punggol Digital District. It is an exciting prospect for our students, faculty, industry and also for residents. I look forward to the SIT Campus being completed and wish SIT every success in your journey ahead. All the best to you. Thank you.
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