What Exactly is a “Specialist University”, and Why It Pays Off to Graduate from One?

By the SMU Social Media Team

You’ve probably heard of specialist programmes. Or even specialist degrees. But what about a specialist university?

With paper qualifications being almost a basic prerequisite when seeking employment, and options for higher education increasing, equipping yourself with a niche toolbox of knowledge is perhaps the best route to becoming a leader of the corporate and entrepreneurial pack.

Singapore Management University, which was established in 2000, is one of the few game-changers in the arena of higher education, having evolved into a specialised university in Management, Social Sciences, Technology and their intersections. Notably, in the latest 2018 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, amongst QS’ classification of ‘specialist universities’, SMU was ranked 11th alongside older, established specialist universities such as the London School of Economics and Political Science, Sciences Po Paris, University of Gallen, and Hitotsubashi University.

In addition to having one of the world’s leading Asian business schools, SMU provides a transformative education of specialised social sciences disciplines that produces graduates capable of solving complex problems and making a difference to humanity.

What does this mean for prospective students? Well, a lot has been said about academically brilliant grads who have the study smarts but may fall short in experience and workplace skills when it comes to standing out in a highly competitive, global workforce. Which is why SMU’s curriculum is designed to anticipate the real needs of the future—be it the ever-changing digital landscape of every industry; the evolving social needs and responsibilities; or the ability to be articulate and self-assured in a wide variety of professional scenarios.

One of the key areas of focus of SMU’s curriculum is in creating experiences that make learning relevant to the real world. And this emphasis on self-learning and collaboration with industries is epitomised in the SMU-X Initiative, an experiential learning framework where students take on projects with companies and community organisations and create actionable solutions for these organisations.

“Other traditional university curricula also have projects but the main difference between SMU-X and traditional university curricula is that in SMU-X projects, students get to work on a real problem (not a case) and provide solutions to real clients,” shares SMU-X Academic Director, Associate Professor Gary Pan.

Furthermore, the university’s multidisciplinary and flexible curriculum allows for students to choose from over 300 second major combinations and 15 double degree programmes, and to customise an educational journey that reflects their goals and dreams—and not just about getting a degree.

As much as SMU is a “specialist institution”, the education one receives hardly pigeonholes him/her into limited career tracks. In fact, it is geared towards a broad-based curriculum that emphasises both breadth and depth, so as to produce versatile, creative and entrepreneurial leaders for the knowledge-based economy.

As Linette Lim, SMU’s Director of Admissions Strategy and Outreach, explains, “A broad-based curriculum is very critical to help you adapt to the economy of the future. Many employers are attracted to graduates with a broad-based education because they will have knowledge and skills in multiple fields that can be applied to the workplace.”

And the proof of SMU’s success story as a specialist university lies in the employability of SMU grads: a whopping 93.9 per cent of SMU students who graduated in 2017 landed a job within six months after their final exams. And their mean gross monthly salary? An all-time high of $3,910.

Besides being bolstered by a holistic education, being a graduate from a specialist university bears a certain cachet: You now have a competitive advantage of being a flexible leader who has experienced how to learn and solve real-world problems in today’s face-paced economy. In short, you are associated with an institution that will soon become a model for the university of the future.


Ready to immerse yourself in a specialist university experience? Take the next step with SMU’s Undergraduate Programme.


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