Concepts and Value
One of the attractions to me, as I said earlier, was that I felt the values were commensurate. Although Durham is different from SMU, values wise I felt there was a really strong connection, and in some respects, the things that I value were slightly greater emphasized here than they were at my previous institution. So, the values side of things hasn't surprised me because, in effect, I think it's been reinforced in the last four months or so.
What surprised me? I suppose two things have surprised me. One thing is the Ministry of Education, there is a sense of a national project, that SMU is part of the national project. Again, for me, that was a big attraction. I think what surprised me is the real sense of connectedness between the University and a range of Singapore stakeholders, both government and industry, and a real sense of ambition for the University and a wish to support us and help us in a way that I have not experienced before. A real warmness to the University and a real willingness to help and have conversations, and to understand us and to even change policy or change the way that they are interfacing with us to help us. So that has been a real kind of novel experience for me in that I have experienced an environment in which government and industry has tended to be quite distanced from universities, and you had to work very, very hard to get their attention. But here that has not been a problem.
I suppose the other issue that surprised me is that the University has developed around its undergraduate programs and has a very, very strong undergraduate offering, has been developing a postgraduate offer, but actually the two are not as connected as I thought they would be. Essentially, the University operates the postgraduate quite separately to the undergraduate. Now there are reasons for that in relation to government funding. But I think in terms of curriculum, in terms of term structure, in terms of course unit structure, in terms of student experience, there are actually crossovers that we need to enhance. And so that surprised me, that the University is almost run as two universities, one for undergraduates and one for postgraduates. It has not been as integrated as perhaps I have experienced in other universities, not simply those that I've worked in but many universities that I have visited.