Is SUTD for you?
Not sure if you should go to SUTD for your university education? Afraid that it is not as established as the rest of the three public universities in Singapore? Don’t forget that SMU also started off among some public skepticism, but now many students are applying for SMU with much enthusiasm. Will SUTD be the next SMU in Singapore?
A special curriculum
While Digital Senior cannot predict the future, there are a lot to be said about the present. SUTD, just like SMU, does not aim to be a comprehensive university. It aims to be good at specific areas of studies. If you look closely into its curriculum design, you will realize that it is very different from what you will get from other places. It has been intentionally created to nurture technical leaders and innovators who will improve the world through technology and design.
What kind of classes can you take?
During the first three terms, students are required to attend common modules specially designed as foundation for more advanced courses later. There would not be much flexibility in choosing courses at this stage, because those core modules are deemed important for all students. After completing one’s common modules, the students began studying one of four “pillars”. These are: architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design, and information systems technology and design.
Students can take five core courses within their pillar, after which they can go into more focused areas. Those studying architecture and sustainable design, for example, can pick specializations such as marketing and financial services.
Meanwhile, students can still take courses from other pillars, allowing them to learn across disciplines. Hence the flexibility of education comes in at later stage. You can view a complete list of courses and their descriptions here.
So is SUTD suitable for you?
As you can see, SUTD offers a rather unique curriculum design. Being unique can be a good thing only if you are sure that you will enjoy such teaching pedagogue.
You won’t thrive in the university if you are not collaborative. Technology development and arts design are never lone processes. You have to work in a team and perfect your thinking through clashes of ideas. Out of the eight terms in total, students are grouped into a cohort of 50 in the first three terms for cohort-based learning. Basically you will be attending the same class with that 50 plus people. As time goes by, the strength of your bonding makes you more comfortable at doing group projects and you will be encouraged to speak up and lead. Developing strong friendship is perhaps an added benefit of such community-based learning.
Roll up your sleeves!
The curriculum is extremely hands-on in nature. Students have to get their hands dirty, sometimes literally. As design is a strong focus of the university, students are required to build their own models in class. Plenty of resources are available to support such hands-on activities, ranging from the state-of-the-art laboratory to well-equipped arts studios. You can easily find things available only in an arts school, yet you can also stumble upon engineering stuff in the same building on campus. If you enjoy making something concrete instead of just reading textbooks and doing tutorial questions, SUTD can be a perfect match for you.
Fusion: More than the sum of its parts
Lastly, you will see a good fusion between technology, design and business in SUTD. None of the three concepts alone can accurately describe what the university is doing. It is really the synergy between the three that makes SUTD a cradle for technology leaders of the future. The curriculum has been planned in such a way that you have to learn traditional science and mathematics subjects during your first year. You will be introduced to the concept of Big-D that shows you the prevalent applications of designs in various fields. As you progress, you will learn arts and business modules that make you a more holistic thinker. During your final year, you will do a Capstone project where you showcase your talent using whatever you have learnt during the last four years.
Strong continuity in curriculum
As you may have noticed, there is strong continuity in the curriculum design. The other three universities generally adopt a more flexible approach to education, allowing students to take modules with great freedom while keeping the core modules as compulsory. Unless in some special programs, most students in the other universities can take free electives as much as up to half of their entire academic credit. In SUTD, there are significantly more core modules and students have less flexibility in choosing certain classes just for exploration or fun. For students who are committed to the value of the university, that is a great thing.
How sure are you of your interest?
However, if you are somehow interested in technology and design, SUTD may not be your only choice. NTU and NUS also have their arts and architecture faculties; some of the specializations can be similar to what SUTD offers. Going for such faculties gives you much more leeway if you change your mind and want to do something different from, though still related to, technology and design.
Hence because SUTD is very focused on a few areas, you need to make sure that your academic and career interest fit into those areas. If that happens, you will grow very fast in SUTD. If you are interested in SUTD but not 100 percent committed, ask yourself why you are interested. Find out the fundamental reason and see if SUTD can provide the best ground where you can flourish.
SUTD is definitely on its way to be a great university in its own right, if you look at the resources the university has. Your job now is to discover if you have the “fit” for unique curriculum of the university.