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UAGFSC recommends autonomy for NUS & NTU


Autonomous Universities - Towards peaks of excellence

The University Autonomy, Governance and Funding Steering Committee has released its preliminary recommendations to devolve greater autonomy to our three publicly-funded universities, which will enable them to differentiate themselves and chart their own strategies towards achieving peaks of excellence.
The Steering Committee is chaired by LG(NS) Lim Chuan Poh, Permanent Secretary (Education). A list of the members is provided at Annex.
Key Thrusts of UAGF Recommendations
The Steering Committee recommends that NUS and NTU become autonomous universities by being corporatised as not-for-profit companies, similar to how SMU is currently set up.
As autonomous universities, NUS, NTU and SMU will be given greater flexibility to decide on matters such as their internal governance, budget utilisation, tuition fees and admission requirements. These flexibilities given to our universities will enable them to differentiate themselves and pursue their own strategies to bring about the most optimal outcomes for their stakeholders.
NUS and NTU are already very good universities. As the government continues with its strong support for the universities, there is much that the universities can gain from cultivating a greater sense of ownership among the larger university community.
The contributions and support of this larger community, building on the strong government support, will go a long way towards helping our universities achieve peaks of excellence.
Giving the universities autonomy sends a clear signal that the universities belong to the stakeholders. It will help to engender a mindset change and instil a greater sense of pride among the key university stakeholders, including Council members, senior management, faculty, students and alumni, so that they will be encouraged to play a more active role in charting the future, and shaping the unique culture and identity of their universities.
Even as we seek to devolve greater autonomy to NUS, NTU and SMU, we remain mindful that our universities are vital national institutions and they have a public obligation to fulfil. They contribute to Singapore's progress and development through providing quality education, and knowledge creation. Hence, we need to ensure that our universities’ missions remain firmly aligned with our national strategic objectives.
At the same time, our universities have to remain accountable for the use of public funds. To this end, the Steering Committee proposes that the Minister for Education appoint the university Council members.
In addition, the Steering Committee recommends that an enhanced accountability framework for universities be introduced, comprising the existing Quality Assurance Framework for Universities (QAFU), and the proposed Policy and Performance Agreements between MOE and each university.
The Government remains committed to being the principal source of funding for our universities. This commitment will not be reduced as a result of increased contributions from the other stakeholders. The Steering Committee recommends that the Government continue to match the endowment donations that the universities raise from their stakeholders.
In addition, MOE’s funding will be provided through a fungible block budget to give the universities greater financial autonomy to apply the resource where it creates the most value. Access to university education to qualified Singaporean students will remain “needs-blind” and university education will be kept affordable.
For the financially needy, there will also be a suite of student financing schemes, so that qualified students regardless of their financial background, can pursue university education.
Next Steps
The 5th International Academic Advisory Panel (IAAP), which comprises distinguished academic and industry leaders from around the world, will be meeting in Singapore on 11-14 January 2005 to deliberate and provide inputs on the Steering Committee's preliminary recommendations.
Following the IAAP meeting, we expect the Committee’s recommendations to be further debated at the 2005 Committee of Supply, before the Government announces its final decision on the Committee’s recommendations by May 2005.
In 2000, MOE embarked on a University Governance and Funding (UGF) review, under which NUS and NTU were given some operational autonomy, particularly in terms of staff remuneration and a block budget for recurrent expenditure.
The internal governance structures of the universities were also strengthened, with university Councils encouraged to play a role in giving inputs for strategic planning, ensuring that the university is progressing according to its strategic plans and stipulated objectives, and overseeing the internal quality assurance systems.
Following the Government’s acceptance of the University Admission Committee’s recommendations in 2004, NUS and NTU have also been given the flexibility to determine the profile of up to 10% of their intakes using their own independent admission criteria.
However, as statutory boards, NUS and NTU still have to refer to the Government for approval each time they want to make an important decision, e.g. changing their core admission requirements or investing in capital projects. SMU on the other hand, enjoys significantly more autonomy than NUS and NTU as it is set up as a private not-for-profit corporation. It operates much more like a private university even though it also receives significant Government funding. For example, it is free to determine its own tuition fees and admission criteria.
The Steering Committee was established in April 2004 by Minister for Education, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam. The Steering Committee was tasked to recommend an appropriate model of autonomy for Singapore’s publicly-funded universities that will enable them to respond to the opportunities and challenges of a more competitive university landscape, and to achieve global excellence.
Please see the executive summary and preliminary report of the Steering Committee for further details.

Source: Press Release 6 Jan 2005


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7 January 2005