SMU Vision 2025 was first unveiled in 2014 and now enters its second phase. In her second annual State of the University Address on 4 September 2020, SMU President Professor Lily Kong reiterated the vision for SMU — becoming a world-renowned global city university, tackling the world’s complexities, and impacting humanity positively.
“At mid-term review, it is clear that we will benefit from adopting a more focused approach,” she said. “We must be clear about our aspirations, our priorities, our strategies and our enablers.”
As such, she delineated the three priority areas of a strategic plan to realise SMU Vision 2025. These are namely: digital transformation, sustainable living, and growth in Asia.
SMU aims to spearhead cutting-edge ideas for the private and public sector in the field of digital transformation. In the area of sustainable living, the university will work towards becoming a thought leader and solution partner, and contribute to shaping legal, regulatory and financing frameworks. As for growth in Asia, Prof Kong noted that SMU is ideally suited to be “the go-to university” for education and research on not just Asia’s economies, but also the region’s socio-political conditions and how it manages the impact of growth.
These three priority areas were distilled from 18 months of discussion with key stakeholders, including SMU leaders, faculty, staff and friends of the university. “It became apparent that these priority areas address the future needs of Singapore, the regional economy and community,” Prof Kong explained.
Strategies of play
To realise SMU Vision 2025’s goals, SMU’s strategies will continue to focus on transformative education, cutting-edge research and becoming an engaged city university.
With regards transformative education, the university aims to develop in SMU undergraduate and postgraduate students the core attributes of a global outlook, work-ready training, an entrepreneurial spirit, a social conscience, and a commitment to lifelong learning.
As such, SMU will continue to hone its emphasis on multi- and inter-disciplinary programmes, strategic sector collaborations, a strong research-education nexus, as well as pedagogical innovations. The priority areas of digital transformation, sustainable living, and growth in Asia will help to guide the development of its programmes and partnerships. For instance, new majors such as Financial Forensics and Digital Business will expose students to the demands and opportunities of digital transformation.
The three priority areas will also guide the university’s support for cutting-edge research. To strengthen its research expertise in these areas, SMU plans to “marshal research centres and institutes” and “leverage collaborations with strategic university and industry partners, and participation in key networks”, said Prof Kong.
For instance, the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, under the auspices of the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics, is working on setting up a centre that will develop financial and regulatory frameworks and pathways for sustainability-driven investments and business opportunities. This project is a collaboration with Imperial College London, and is also being supported by several external stakeholders.
With regard to the “engaged city university” strategy, SMU leverages its location in the heart of the city to serve as a key hub for sharing expertise in the three priority areas, and to foster exchanges and partnerships with relevant ecosystems.
For example, related to the priority of growth in Asia, “we intend to further raise our profile in the city, industry and entrepreneurial ecosystems”, said Prof Kong. “One way to do this is to hold high-profile international forums in our priority areas. Our inaugural City Dialogues set the tone for this last year… If not for COVID-19, we would have held our second City Dialogues already in April this year.”
To realise SMU Vision 2025, the articulation of priorities and strategies must also be accompanied by the identification of key enablers. Prof Kong elaborated on four specific areas that must be addressed in order to help SMU succeed: industry, innovation, internationalisation, and integration.
To strengthen industry engagement and collaboration, for instance, a dedicated Office of Industry Engagement will be set up by next year. In the area of innovation, a university-level body will also be launched to co-ordinate all of SMU’s innovation and entrepreneurship activities.
As for internationalisation, Bangkok and Jakarta have been selected as the first two locations for upcoming SMU overseas centres, which will help raise the university’s international profile and the building of relations with global communities. And finally, with regards to integration, One-SMU approaches will be applied to multiple activities and offerings.
Prof Kong further noted that these enablers must be coupled with the fundamentals of attracting high-quality students, faculty, and staff; developing a robust financial base to support growth ambitions; and ensuring stronger research support infrastructure, as well as the right balance of physical and digital infrastructure. The latter “is particularly challenging in light of the changed and changing balance of work and study conducted on and off campus”, she acknowledged.
In summary, “we have our aspirations and know where to aim. We have our priorities and know where to play. We have our strategies, guiding us on how to play. And we have our enablers, assuring us that we play to win”, Prof Kong said. While such a framework provides focus, it also encompasses freedom for new ideas, she stressed.
Indeed, an Office of Programme Management will be set up to help ensure the university remains dynamic and responsive to changing contexts as it works towards SMU Vision 2025, and various platforms will also be rolled out so that new ideas can “further animate and strengthen our collective vision”, said Prof Kong. “By the time we celebrate SMU’s 25th Anniversary, our Silver Jubilee, I am confident that we will have realised SMU Vision 2025.”