Singapore's public policy in guiding universities
I see this in particular contrast to Hong Kong U, in contrast to Hong Kong. There I was on the University Grants Council, committee council, for nine years. I went off that about a year ago. And that’s the body that receives all the funding from the government and then allocates it to the university. It's like an ongoing QAFU, although they have a separate QAFU, but it’s like an ongoing international advisory panel. Half are... members of the... university presidents from other universities, including from China. Hong Kong has eight universities. Most of them having been polytechnics elevated, called universities. Australia, prior to let’s say the mid-eighties I think it was, had maybe twelve universities, then overnight we had thirty-nine. That is, the government declared a large number of the teachers colleges and polytechnics—universities. And there’s a big debate, still goes on, about that. In Australia, the difficulty is there’s this egalitarian notion of university funding, so that every university is the same. If you want to become a world-standing university, it’s a much harder struggle in Australia because the government does not fund for that to occur. Hong Kong is exactly the same. I did a review for the government on whether we should merge Chinese University of Hong Kong and Science and Technology [Hong Kong University of Science and Technology] and in the end, I think we should have. But in the end, it was impossible. Because if we had, there would have been two world-class universities that you could build, twin peaks. But there was such a fuss from all the foothills that it didn’t happen. And the same happens in Australia. The sign of the problem is the ease with which a polytechnic or teachers college is simply declared to be a university. Singapore strikes me as having a very different approach. The way I characterise it is, I come here and I see the Government saying to the polytechnics, there are two things we want to tell you—these are my words; these are not the Government’s words—there are two things we want to tell you: one is we’re going to fund you, one is you are never going to become a university. If we’re going to build a university, it won’t be a polytechnic becoming a university. But secondly, we‘re going to fund you as though you are a university. You are going to get levels of funding that you won’t believe as a polytechnic. And that’s been my experience. Which means that when you get a new university, such as SMU, it is a greenfield exercise, it comes up, and now SUTD. [Singapore University of Technology and Design].