NUS: Preliminary consultations begin on proposed College of Humanities and Sciences

The proposed College of Humanities and Sciences will expand NUS’ focus on broad-based and interdisciplinary education (NUS file photo)

This article is from NUS News.

The University is carrying out preliminary consultations with faculty members of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science on its plans to set up a proposed College of Humanities and Sciences. This comes as NUS intensifies its focus on broad-based and interdisciplinary education.

The internal consultations, based on a working draft that was circulated to FASS and FOS faculty, began soon after NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye wrote about the need for universities to move from subject specialisation to interdisciplinary teaching and research in a commentary published in The Straits Times on 10 Sep.

The proposal is a work in progress and expected to evolve, as internal and external consultations by the university leadership and the deaneries of FASS and FOS take place over the next few months.

The new College, if approved, could begin accepting students as soon as Academic Year 2021/2022.

Students admitted to the CHS will belong to both FASS and FOS. They will have access to faculty, facilities, majors and minors offered in both Faculties. They will be able to choose from the following four-year honours degree programmes: the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Sciences, or the Bachelor of Science.

The College’s proposed curricula structure will allow for greater flexibility and the cross-pollination of disciplines across the humanities, social sciences, science and mathematics.

“The rapid pace of change in many industries means that the old model of intense academic specialisation will no longer work for our young adults. Rather, graduates into the workforce will need breadth of knowledge, depth, as well as the ability to integrate multiple disciplines to solve complex problems. They will also need to adopt a spirit of lifelong learning to ride the waves of change and disruption. The proposed NUS College of Humanities and Sciences will equip our students with market-relevant skills to thrive in the future economy,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Specially-designed Common Curriculum

Students in the proposed College will first be equipped with a strong, broad foundation in reading, writing, critical thinking and numeracy. The CHS Common Curriculum will impart intellectual breadth in the initial semesters, and is likely to include courses such as integrated humanities, Asian studies and scientific inquiry. Courses such as design thinking, data analytics, computational thinking and artificial intelligence will equip students for the digital economy.

With a strong and broad foundation, it is envisaged that students will be able to hone competencies at a deeper level while always keeping in mind the broader context of their specialisations.

Students in this proposed College will be able to pursue any major, second major, major-minor and specialisation pathway offered by FASS or FOS. They can choose to specialise – and build mastery in their chosen field – or build expertise in multiple subjects, thus gaining interdisciplinary insights.

One key element of the interdisciplinary education at this proposed College will be problem-based pedagogies – with teaching focused on solving problems rather than the pure impartation of content. This will be reinforced with experiential learning via internships and project work.

Integrated teaching and learning

The new College, if approved, will be the next step in NUS’ multi-year effort to transition towards offering students a more flexible and integrated education.

The NUS University Scholars Programme, set up in 2001, specialises in interdisciplinary teaching in small groups, while the NUS University Town College Programme incorporates broad-based learning in residential college programmes. There will also be cross-disciplinary programmes available to first and second-year students in the next academic year.

“NUS has been pioneering interdisciplinary teaching and learning over the last 20 years. Our academics are also excelling in interdisciplinary research across many fronts. We are confident that students in this proposed College of Humanities and Sciences will benefit greatly from the multiple and integrated perspectives to be brought into their flexible learning journey,” said Prof Tan.

The proposal to establish the new College is in the preliminary consultation stage. More details will be shared when the initiative receives approval.