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     NUS Corporatisation Bill

Continued from FrontPage of Article

Key Clauses of Bill

Role of Government

16.       It will remain the Government¡¯s responsibility to continue to steer the strategic direction of the overall university sector and ensure that our three universities meet strategic national priorities.  This is provided for in Clause 5, and will largely be operationalised through the Policy Agreement that will be signed between MOE and the university, as part of the enhanced accountability framework that is being put in place.

 

17.       Strong governance structures are critical to the success of the university.  As such, the Minister for Education will continue to appoint the university¡¯s Board of Trustees (BOT), as provided for in Clause 6.  We must appoint the right people as Trustees.  They play several critical roles: firstly, to provide leadership and guidance on the strategic directions for the university; secondly, to appoint and appraise the President of the university; and thirdly, to ensure the responsible use of the university¡¯s resources and maximise their returns. 

Enhanced accountability

18.       The enhanced accountability framework for the Autonomous University, as reflected in the new Clause 4, will comprise the following:

(1)       Firstly, a Policy Agreement to be signed between each university and MOE that stipulates the key policy parameters articulated by MOE which the university must abide by in order to receive Government funding.  Some of the policies include tuition fee setting framework and broad admissions criteria, as well as adequate cost control measures to ensure that resources are utilised optimally.  The Policy Agreement is not cast in stone, and will be reviewed and updated from time to time.

 

(2)       Secondly, a Performance Agreement, formulated by the university and agreed upon by MOE, is an ex-ante declaration of what the university sets out to achieve in the areas of teaching, research, service and organisational development.  This Agreement will be reviewed every five years.  In addition, MOE and each university will work out and agree on the number of graduates to be trained by the university in broad clusters on an annual basis.  The performance of the university will be reviewed annually in the four areas of academic teaching and curriculum, research outcomes and training, contribution and service to the wider community, and organisation development matters.  It would include such issues as the breadth of the curriculum that the universities seek to achieve and targets for the percentage of students going on overseas exchanges.

 

(3)       Thirdly, the existing MOE¡¯s Quality Assurance Framework for Universities (QAFU) that includes an on-site external validation of the university¡¯s performance by an MOE-commissioned external review panel.  The validation will be carried out once in every 3 to 5 years.  The Panel members comprise prominent, experienced local and foreign corporate and academic leaders.  This process is already in place.

 

19.       In order to ensure that the Autonomous Universities remain fully accountable for the use of public monies, the new Clause 9 provides for the Ministry to have continued full and free access to all records relating to financial transactions of the university company, and can make such records available to the public. 

 

20.       The Minister for Education¡¯s consent would also have to be sought for the university¡¯s functions cited in Clause 7 of the Bill, such as the disposal of property, winding-up of the university company, as well as the addition, deletion or alteration of the university company¡¯s constituent documents.

 

21.       My Ministry is mindful that we want to give our universities the autonomy they need to excel, and not be encumbered by unnecessary procedures and processes.  I am confident that we will be able to find the right balance between autonomy and accountability.

Transfer provisions

22.       Parts III and IV of the NUS (Corporatisation) Bill provide for the transfer of property, rights, liabilities, employees, and others, from NUS as a statutory board to the corporatised NUS.  This is to ensure a smooth transition from NUS¡¯ statutory board status to its new identity as an autonomous university company.

Dissolution of Academic Staff Provident Fund (ASPF) Scheme

23.       Separately, the First Schedule of the NUS (Corporatisation) Bill provides for the dissolution of its existing Academic Staff Provident Fund (ASPF) and transfer of the balance of the ASPF assets to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board.

 

24.       The ASPF started at a time when the CPF did not exist.  For greater cost effectiveness for the benefit of the ASPF members, the NUS Council made the decision in October 2003 to dissolve the ASPF and merge it with the CPF.  NUS will bear all costs relating to the closure of the ASPF and ensure that no member is disadvantaged.  NUS has also sought feedback from current and past ASPF members. The response has been positive.

 

25.       MOE, NUS, MOM and the CPF Board have worked closely on this matter and the necessary legislative provisions for the dissolution of the ASPF and the subsequent transfer of balance of assets to the CPF are included in the First Schedule of the NUS (Corporatisation) Bill.

Conclusion

26.       Mr Speaker, Sir, our universities have done well.  But it takes more to become great universities.  The 3 University Bills to establish NUS, NTU and SMU as Autonomous Universities will lay the foundation and position our universities well to become leaders among Asia-Pacific universities, and to be up to the best internationally in specific fields.  This will allow our universities to be key strategic assets for Singapore as we stake our claim in the knowledge-based economy.

 

27.       As they enhance the quality of education, MOE and the universities will ensure that university education remains accessible and affordable for Singaporeans.  No Singaporean admitted to university should be denied a university education because of financial constraints. 

 

28.       Sir, I beg to move.

Source: www.gov.sg Media Release 21 Nov 2005

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