SMU enhances its undergraduate curriculum to nurture graduates who can deliver meaningful impact globally

Recommendations of SMU Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Education being launched progressively from current academic year

6 September 2018 (Thursday), Singapore – Singapore Management University (SMU) announced today that it is enhancing its undergraduate curriculum, following a one-year study by its Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Education.  Besides redesigning its undergraduate Core Curriculum into three inter-related pillars of learning – Capabilities, Communities and Civilisations, SMU will integrate internship and community service into its new Core Curriculum as credit-bearing programmes.

As an extension of its current approach to encourage multi-disciplinary learning, SMU will also introduce a new Exploratory Course scheme to encourage students to experiment with classes outside their major or their usual sphere of interest.  The University also plans to pilot a credit-bearing work-study option that will allow students to take on up to six months of internship while concurrently studying on campus.

These enhancements are part of the recommendations made by the SMU Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Education, which SMU Provost, Professor Lily Kong, appointed in April 2017 with the objective of reviewing the University’s undergraduate education to enhance the academic experience and holistic development of SMU undergraduate students.  The Commission, which comprised SMU faculty members and administrative personnel, had sought the views of key stakeholders of the university, including students, alumni, employers; and also studied the practices of other local and overseas universities.

Professor Lily Kong, who chaired the Commission, said, “SMU aspires to deliver transformative education for a new generation of students that empowers them to create meaningful impact at home and abroad.  We have reimagined our Core Curriculum, enhanced our co-curricular opportunities, developed a philosophical basis for our pedagogical approaches with a clear sense of why we approach our pedagogies as we do, and continue to develop learning spaces to support and facilitate the educational experience. These enhancements are designed to generate an educational milieu that is conducive and directed towards nurturing graduates with identities which are distinctively SMU.”

New SMU Core Curriculum

The reimagined Core Curriculum is intended to nurture distinctive identities in SMU graduates as identified by the Commission, that is, graduates who have an independent mind while being dependable in deeds; and graduates who think deeply and broadly and at the same time, act to create value at home and abroad.  (Please see illustration at Annex 1A.)

The new SMU Core Curriculum, which will be implemented from Academic Year 2019-2020, will comprise 12 course units (CU) grouped under three inter-related pillars of learning, namely Capabilities (6 CUs), Communities (4 CUs) and Civilisations (2 CUs).  Collectively, the Core Curriculum will initiate undergraduates into their journey to become well-rounded SMU graduates. (Please see illustration at Annex 1B.)

  • The Capabilities pillar aims to tool up a student with specific competencies and skills which are necessary to dexterously operate in an increasingly complex, digitised and data-driven working environment.  In addition to courses such as ‘Critical Thinking’, ‘Innovation & Creative Thinking’, ‘Business Modelling & Analytics’; the pillar also incorporates an enhanced credit-bearing Internship learning programme.
  • The Communities pillar aims to help students understand the economic, technological, and cultural systems that structure our interactions with our communities.  It also examines more closely Singapore society, as well as Asia, Singapore’s continental context, so that students can better appreciate the communities in which SMU is embedded.  Courses include, for example, ‘Economics & Society’, ‘Artificial Intelligence & Society’, ‘Digital Cultures’ and ‘Urban Cultures’ (launched in August 2018), as well as a selection of foreign languages.  An enhanced credit-bearing Community Service learning programme is also incorporated within.
  • The Civilisations pillar aims to immerse students in fundamental and perennial debates that cut across time and space, and to encourage a critical dialogue between multiple and competing traditions of thought and problem-solving.  This pillar comprises a ‘Ethics & Social Responsibility’ course and a new ‘Big Questions’ course (also launched in August 2018), which immerses students in fundamental and perennial debates that confront humanity at the highest level and cut across time and space, such as Happiness and Suffering; Wealth and Poverty; War and Peace; and Global and Local.  Students will also experience the world through global exposure opportunities.

With the above enhancements, the SMU Core Curriculum will account for 12 CUs for every undergraduate, two of which are activity-based, namely Internship and Community Service, which remain as graduate requirements for all SMU undergraduates.


New Exploratory Course scheme

To promote multi-disciplinary learning and to allow students to pursue their interests and passions, SMU already offers significant flexibility through the double degree and second major programmes.  With six undergraduate degree programmes and more than 40 majors and tracks being offered at SMU, there are about 300 possible major combinations and 15 double degree combinations that students can consider.

Starting from the current academic year, SMU will introduce an Exploratory Course scheme to further encourage students to experiment with classes outside their major or their usual sphere of interest, without being unduly concerned about the impact on their cumulative Grade Point Average (cGPA).  Under the new scheme, students have the option to declare up to two of their passed letter grades to be excluded from the cGPA computation.

New Work-study Option

Recognising the value of longer internship durations, which enable students to better interlace institution-based learning with structured on-the-job training, and also facilitate more substantial and impactful work opportunities within the attachment company, SMU will begin pilot-testing a work-study option for selected programmes.

Students who are on the work-study option will alternate between working at least four days at the host company and studying on campus for up to one day each week, for a period of six months during the academic term.  In this way, students will be able to take up to two courses during the work-study period.  To ensure that the students deepen their disciplinary knowledge through the work-study experience, they will need to fulfil pre-determined deliverables and key milestones during the period, and will be mentored by a faculty advisor.  This option will be piloted through selected programmes, such as the recently-launched Health Economics and Management second major, a collaboration with SingHealth.

Other recommendations by the Commission

Since its inception, interactive seminars have been a hallmark of SMU’s distinctive pedagogy. They provide a supportive environment for faculty-student interaction, and foster open discussions and the exchange of ideas among peers. From 2015, SMU has also strengthened the development of experiential learning, particularly through its innovative SMU-X pedagogy, which is characterised by inter-disciplinary content; project-based learning; tackling of actual problems faced by organisations; and active student-mentoring by faculty members and industry partners.

Moving forward, SMU will continue to hold fast to its distinctive interactive pedagogy, while further developing experiential learning through expanded SMU-X offerings, including SMU-X Overseas courses. SMU will also place emphasis on personalised learning, which will enable faculty members to be more responsive to students’ individual needs.

The University will leverage technology to enhance each of these three key pedagogical approaches.  To this end, it has developed a three-year technology-enhanced learning (TEL) roadmap to drive TEL projects across the university and encourage innovative TEL projects that have a strong impact on teaching and learning, and desired student outcomes.

An Implementation Committee has been appointed and is in the process of developing a holistic evaluation framework to measure desired learning outcomes in SMU students.  The University plans to augment existing assessment methods, develop new ways to chart students' learning and establish a consolidated system to evaluate the delivery of student outcomes.  It is also developing and leveraging tools to collect, analyse and interpret data on students' learning.



[Photo: Asst Prof of Humanities Aidan Wong taking his 'Urban Cultures' course out of the traditional classroom.  'Urban Cultures'; along with 'Big Questions'; 'Film in Southeast Asia'; and 'Science, Environment and Empire' ; have been introduced from this academic term, with very good response from current students'.  These courses will be offered as part of the new SMU Core Curriculum from AY2019-2020.]

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Enclosures (please refer to pdf attachment):

  • Annex 1 – SMU Graduate Identities and SMU Core Curriculum illustrations
  • Annex 2 – Fact sheet on new Exploratory Course scheme
  • Annex 3 – Fact sheet on new Work-Study option


[Featured photo: Prof Lily Kong sharing the new undergraduate curriculum developments with SMU partners at a luncheon on 6 Sep 2018.]


Media contact

Huang Peiling (Ms)

Senior Assistant Director, Corporate Communications

SMU Office of Corporate Communication & Marketing

6828-0964 / 9845-3361 / plhuang [at]