“NUS to launch ‘green’ degree” (Straits Times, 12 Oct 2010)

“NUS to launch ‘green’ degree,” by Leow Si Wan. The Straits Times, 12 Oct 2010.Environmental Studies course starts next year; talks to set up research institute in Suzhou

IN A sign that environmental issues are gaining importance here, a new undergraduate programme in environmental studies will be launched by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in the latter half of next year.

Fifty to 100 students will get to enrol in this four-year direct honours programme – the first new undergraduate course to be introduced by NUS in five years – and graduate with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree.

The programme, which aims to produce what are called ‘green-collar workers’, will comprise two years of a broad-based curriculum with modules in subjects such as law, chemistry and geography, before offering specialisations in the final two years. The two available options are currently Environmental Biology and Environmental Geography.

Speaking to about 360 NUS staff, students and other invited guests at the school’s annual State of the University address held yesterday, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said the new programme is an example of how the 105-year-old institution is creating ‘highly multi-disciplinary courses’ to make its education offerings more flexible.

Besides the new course, Professor Tan also announced that the university is ‘in advanced discussions’ to set up an NUS research institute in Suzhou Industrial Park.

The institute, which will pursue research in areas such as finance, water and environmental sustainability, will also support NUS and Singapore start-ups in the Chinese market and offer some training opportunities for Chinese students.

Staying relevant and responsive to a competitive landscape was a key theme in Prof Tan’s speech.

Drawing from analogies about how Manaus in Brazil – the original centre of the rubber boom – failed to compete against rubber plantations in South-east Asia, Prof Tan added that NUS’ strategy has to be ‘distinctly anti-potoo’. The potoo is a bird found in north Brazil known to stay absolutely still as a response to the external environment.

‘The best way for us to respond to the educational challenges of the future is to drive ourselves forward, to stay well ahead of the curve,’ he said.

Over the past 10 years, he added, the university had carried out ‘transformative measures’ to broaden its education, initiated curricular reforms and forged global education programmes.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, deputy president (academic affairs) and provost of NUS, also provided updates on University Town (UTown) in his address. He said the building of these residential colleges and accompanying facilities, such as an educational resource centre, was on track.

Meanwhile, industry players are looking forward to NUS’ new degree programme.

The executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, Mr Howard Shaw, said: ‘There is a growing demand for what we call green-collar workers, who are specialists in the environment field and who are responsible for putting policies into practice throughout business operations.

‘NUS’ new programme will definitely help to meet this demand.'”

siwan@sph.com.sg

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