Universities alliance to tap overseas opportunities

Singapore’s top public universities have teamed up with private education providers, in a new alliance that will help them secure education and training opportunities overseas, starting with training civil servants in China.

The top-rated National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Nanyang Polytechnic have joined with three vocational education and training providers, under the aegis of the external trade promotion agency International Enterprise Singapore – IE Singapore.

Called the Singapore Talent Development Alliance, it was launched by IE Singapore and the universities on 30 January, with China its first port of call.

The aim is to “to help Singapore institutions capture growing opportunities in China’s education and training sector”, said Yew Sung Pei, IE Singapore’s assistant CEO.

Courses aimed at China will range from leadership training to vocational and technical skills training, and will be piloted in Southern Guangdong province. Conversations with “various partners in the province” had already started, Yew said.

He said IE Singapore would support the universities with “the relevant market insights and leads referral, and help respective members address gaps that prevent them from providing courses in China effectively”.

Other countries, such as the UK, were already heavily promoting educational services internationally in this way, Singaporean officials said. But Singapore had a particular advantage of language in China.

China talent development

Under its ambitious Medium and Long-term Talent Development Plan (2010-2020), China intends to increase the educational level and quality of civil servants and local government leaders, entrepreneurs and researchers as well as training managers in healthcare, education and other services.

The alliance comes as China is preparing to unveil “its largest package for educational reform”, according to IE Singapore.

The reform package, “which will involve funding and support for education and training, will accord the private sector more leeway to participate in the [educational] industry. China’s total annual spend on education is projected to reach 4.1 trillion yuan (US$628 billion) by the end of 2013. This is expected to increase further as the country develops.”

“As China enters its next phase of growth, demand on China’s services sector will increase. Restrictions on sectors to foreign investors will increasingly be liberalised, and we believe education and training will be one of such sectors,” Yew said in remarks at the launch of the alliance.

Yew added: “Apart from the potential pool of 10 million government officials, China has set a target to train another 3.5 million technicians and one million senior technicians between 2011 and 2021.

“There is an urgent need for vocational and technical education as China seeks to upgrade skills of rural residents across many sectors, narrowing development gaps between its rural and urban areas.”

Programmes on offer

Among the programmes being offered under the alliance are public administration and governance, management of education and training institutions, urban development and sustainability, banking, healthcare management and the management of public-private partnerships.

“Each year, some 7,000 Chinese government officials are trained in Singapore, in areas of vocational and technical education management and pedagogy, leadership and soft skills management,” Singapore Management University (SMU) said in a statement.

“Singapore’s education and training players have been actively engaging China; however, these exchanges are done individually and on a programme basis,” SMU said. The alliance would address “the growing demand for a wider spectrum of education and training courses in China”.

Associate Professor Annie Koh, SMU’s vice president for business development and external relations, said the university looked forward to preparing Chinese officials and business executives “for the new Chinese era”.