Good Morning Everyone, today we will be presenting our research. As three engineering students conducting social science research, let me just say, this was the most fun we had. But to begin, let me ask all, how many of you have questioned your chances of successful employment or even questioned the course you are taking in NUS? You can use the reactions button to indicate.
That’s fascinating now. Well as engineering students, all three of us have done this at one point in time, just over the last year. We often even compare ourselves to peers from other universities like SUTD. As such, taking that as inspiration, we decided to conduct research on the perceived employability of undergraduate students between us here in NUS vs our peers at SUTD.
SUTD is a new and upcoming university in Singapore that was established with the help of MIT. This is one university in Singapore that has adopted an American Higher Education System. But, what does this mean tho? For starters, they offer a set of purely general education modules from all faculties for all their students in the freshmen year.
This is to foster a trial and error approach and one that allows students to experiment and find the right course for them truly. As such they only choose their major in their sophomore year of study (i.e their second year). SUTD has managed to surpass us in their employability numbers, even during the covid 19 pandemic, increasing by 6%.
While at NUS, they had only increased by 3%. In NUS, we adopt a different, more traditional approach to higher education. Though our system can be considered a hybrid, we follow the traditional approach to HE where students select their course of study prior to entry. We can be considered a hybrid as we do offer GE modules as well, however, the aim is different. Rather than foster a trial and error approach to nurture passion, our GEs are there to generate more well-rounded graduates by instilling skills such as qualitative analysis in GEA.
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For instance, looking at a key accredited course in SUTD and NUS, Engineerings, Shouldn’t engineers from both schools depart with exactly the same knowledge? I.e the employability should be more comparable with similar starting pays as well. But in reality, this is not the case with SUTD earning significantly higher than NUS.
This query led us to a few other questions such as,
- Given that the content covered in core modules is the same, why do students from SUTD have higher employability numbers?
- Given that NUS’s established brand image, why are SUTD graduates more sought for by the industry?
- Do course curriculum and module structure play a part?
- Having observed tangible change in employability numbers, how do they affect the perceived employability of the students?
For this research, we define course curriculum to comprise the modules available to the students, both core and general education. In addition, the course curriculum will also include the structure of degree requirements, i.e this will offer a basis for comparing different types of university structures.
Perceived employability is defined in this research as the perceptions and beliefs about one’s chances of succeeding in obtaining a full-time internship and a successful call-back offer to a full-time job.
But to justify why we chose course curriculum as a key influencing factor for perceived employability, let us consider the HE in China and the 985 Project.
The 985 project classification was an initiative taken by the Chinese communist party in 1998 to establish (in their words) “world-class universities”. These include improved curriculum structure, improved quality of education by the wider availability of courses, and improved depth of understanding as compared to traditional Chinese HE which is classified as Non-985 universities.
In empirical research conducted on these 2 different university types, it was found that the type of university had an immediate effect on the perceived employability of undergraduates in China.
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