Ask anyone on the streets of Singapore what they know about NUS, and they’ll probably recount the school’s top Asian university status in Times’ Higher Education World University Ranking for the 3rd year running—or how it’s the oldest local university. But, how many, NUS students and alumni aside, know of its beginnings as The Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School? Or that the school is well over a century old?
Curious, Digital Senior did some digging and presents to you a list of higher institutions that have grown alongside your parents (and grandparents) to become the schools you know today.
*Disclaimer: lots of merging and changing going on here. Lots.
1) National University of Singapore
The grand dame of all institutes of higher education here, NUS was launched on 28 September, 1905[i], as “The Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School”. The school’s first batch of students, each conferred a diploma of Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery, would go on to graduate in 1910.
In 1913, the school was renamed to the grand-sounding “King Edward VII Medical School” and, in 1920, the “King Edward VII College of Medicine”.
Fast forwarding to 1928, Raffles College would be launched to commemorate the centenary of the founding of modern Singapore. The college focused on the arts and sciences, its students graduating with arts or sciences diplomas after a three-year course.
Both colleges merged in 1949 to become the University of Malaya[ii]. The Singapore division became autonomous in 1962 and merged with Nanyang University (Nantah), the start of the NUS we know today!
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NUS Museum, a university museum focused on Asian culture and art, also has a long history—its roots stretch all the way to 1955, when the University Art Museum was established in the then University of Malaya[iii].
While NUS is best known for the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (and its dinosaur skeletons), you can also visit the NUS Baba House at 157 Neil Road! Entry to the restored Peranakan ancestral home is free for locals and PRs.
2) PSB Academy
When walking around Marina Square, you might realize that many of the mall’s signs provide directions to, or mention, PSB Academy. The school’s city campus, where the Golden Village cinema used to be, is modern and charming – it has a grassy “town hall” in the middle of its ground floor for events and discussions!
It might come as quite a surprise, then, to know that the school first took roots in 1964[iv] – after the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) set up a Productivity Unit to upgrade the skills and knowledge of the workforce (much like what’s ongoing today).
After this Productivity Unit was reorganised in 1967 and then replaced in 1972, to become the National Productivity Board (NPB)[v], programmes were launched to impart work improvement and quality control, amongst other practices. In other words, PSB academy was amongst Singapore’s earliest productivity champions that helped to make the Singapore miracle as the country transformed from third world to first in one generation. You’ll find that PSB Academy today, however, has far more programmes on offer, in subjects ranging from sports science to ethical hacking.
When exactly did the “PSB” in PSB Academy’s name come about, though?
In 1996, after the formation of the Productivity and Standards Board! The institute then known as IPT-PSB, had the “IPT” dropped after corporatization in 2001 to become the PSB Academy we see today. The more you know, ayy!
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PSB’s former Delta campus grounds was originally the premises of Bukit Ho Swee primary school and secondary school! The secondary school was opened in 1967, so that’s truly plenty of history for all you history buffs out there to explore.
3) Singapore Institute of Management (SIM)
Singapore’s oldest private higher education institution, SIM was founded on November 28, 1964[vi]. Originally a not-for-profit management institute, the school relied on seed funding from EDB and donations from its founding members, as well as the Ford Foundation. Short courses were initially conducted at EDB’s then-headquarters at the former Fullerton Building, followed by a shophouse at South Bridge Road.
SIM’s offerings were diploma courses in areas such as business and management studies, three of which they pioneered. In the 1980s, they ventured into collaborations with overseas partners to bring in degree programmes, and also offered in-house training and consultancy services to local businesses and MNCs.
Today, SIM has four arms after UniSIM’s restructuring into the Singapore University of Social Sciences: SIM Global Education, SIM International Academy (for IGCSE and International A-level programmes), SIM Professional Development and Platform E (Entrepreneurship centre and ecosystem).
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SIM’s oldest overseas partner is the University of London (UoL), with the partnership existing since 1986!
4) BMC International College
BMC International College, which has 3 branches located across Singapore offering a range of courses, from accounting to psychology and counselling today, first started off as a private school way back in 1966! The school, back then, first started off as the Redhill Tutorial Institution (红山辅导学院) prior to its renaming and expansion. The college might be a smaller player compared to the others on the list, but it sure has loads of history waiting to be uncovered!
5) Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS)
A not-for-profit institution, MDIS started off as the Supervisory and Management Training Association of Singapore (SAMTAS) in the year 1956 as a professional training association.
This was during a very different time when the full importance of management science had yet to be realized and job mobility, a less practised concept – making SAMTAS a trailblazer in its own right[vii]. In 1963, the association pioneered Training within Industries (TWI) courses in Singapore. SAMTAS held seminars and offered courses that culminated in certificates, some being the Certificate in Industrial Management course and the Certificate in Supervisory Management course.
The move to make SAMTAS an official institute happened in 1984, when it was then renamed to MDIS. Today, MDIS has campuses in Malaysia and Uzbekistan and is the first private school here to have a dedicated nursing school.
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Today, you’ll still find SAMTAS – in the form of SAMTAS Hall at MDIS’s Stirling Road Campus!
There you have it: the next time you pass by one of these schools that do not belie their age, take a moment to remember their heritage and history!
Have any interesting facts or trivia to share with us about your school? Drop us a comment below!
[i] Beyond Degrees: The Making of the National University of Singapore by Edwin Lee and Tai Yong Tan
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