Concept & Values - Making a difference in higher education
19 years ago, actually 21 years ago when SMU was first imagined and then conceived very quickly, and then developed, established and developed very quickly, I think it made a difference to the higher education landscape in Singapore in quite radical ways. At that point in time, the other universities were statutory boards, and run like statutory boards. The compensation scale was that of civil servants. The instruction manual of the public sector applied to the universities, so we were like—well, not we SMU—but the other universities were like government agencies in many ways.
The fact that SMU was established not as a statutory board, made a difference. It signalled a departure. It signalled a certain level of autonomy. It signalled a level of innovation that was expected of the university. And I think SMU lived up to that, definitely in the early years, and I would hope it continues to do so. I’d like to believe so.
From things like introducing a much more American system, with the professorial ladder with the provost and president, as opposed to a vice chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor, and the different salary structures and so forth. It brought a lot that was different to the higher education landscape in Singapore which had been dominated by a British model. I thought it was a really good thing because as a response to what SMU was doing, I think the other universities then felt compelled to innovate, and that competition I thought was a good thing, because it just prompted and motivated all the universities to innovate within their own space, and I dare say that the higher education landscape today in Singapore, is at a very high level, stands tall internationally, partly because of this impetus that SMU brought.