WITH the dust finally settled after the pullout of one Australian university from Singapore last year, another one is making an attempt to set up a campus here.
This time, it is the Curtin University of Technology. It will refurbish the former Institute of Technical Education campus in Jalan Rajah, Balestier, and start undergraduate courses before the end of the year.
The university, whose main campus is in Perth, will offer business degrees when courses start in end-November and eventually expand to include mass communications, nursing, engineering and design modules.
It will be the university's second campus outside Australia, after Sarawak in Malaysia.
Curtin's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jeanette Hacket, told The Straits Times yesterday that the university's priority is to ensure that academic standards are maintained. It will station a pro vice-chancellor from the university to do the job here, she added.
'We have a very strict policy on how our courses are conducted, the recruitment of staff, ensuring they get the training needed, and criteria for selection of students,' she said.
Curtin will be one of the few foreign universities offering degrees in Singapore that will also have its own campus here - a tack which the University of New South Wales (UNSW) had attempted to take.
Unlike that ill-fated venture, Curtin will be financed to the tune of $40 million by global education services company Navitas, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange. The funds will go towards the campus lease, its refurbishment and the start-up cost.
UNSW had pulled out of Singapore last May because of lower-than-expected enrolment and financial risks involved in continuing the venture. It had received $17.3 million in grants and $15 million in loans from the Singapore Government.
But unlike UNSW, Curtin's Singapore campus does not get funding from the Singapore Government. It is funded entirely by Navitas, which manages 16,000 students in 28 colleges in seven countries.
Asked if UNSW's withdrawal was a deterrent to the venture, Mr Rod Jones, executive director of Navitas, said the projects were different. 'UNSW Singapore was a research-intensive university which is expensive to maintain, whereas Curtin will focus on teaching and learning,' he said.
Mr Jones is confident the Curtin campus will attract students from around the region, for instance, India, China, Vietnam and Thailand.
He said: 'There is a shortage of higher education opportunities for students in the region and this provides a good opportunity for them.'
Curtin already has a presence in Singapore, with 900 students studying in its programmes at three institutes: the Singapore Human Resources Institute, Marketing Institute of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Materials Management.
The plan is for these students to relocate to the new Balestier campus.