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Q What do you think of Dr Tony Tan's suggestion to the National University of Singapore that it offers a liberal arts programme, which requires students to study varied fields from the humanities and the hard sciences before they go on to specialise?

It's a timely idea but not for everyone. We must recognise that industry, parents and students still subscribe to the value of professional degrees. If a child were to tell his father that he wants to go and do a liberal arts degree, he'll scratch his head and say: 'Well, what is this? What do you work as when you finish with it?' And then industry will ask: 'What are you trained in?'

It adds diversity to the system, just like SIT and SUTD, which fill different gaps. There's a group of people who want to have the broad liberal arts educational experience.

But some other students may say, look, don't waste my time, I want to be a lawyer or a doctor or accountant. I'm going to spend six years studying deeply so that I can be a very good accountant or very good lawyer, and then, after that, I can think in broad terms.

Q Recently, the Government announced that those entering SUTD will have to pay higher fees. The other three universities then announced fee hikes. Will the Government continue to subsidise tuition fees generously?

We will still have huge subsidies for university education - 75 per cent for general courses. This works out to $80,000 to $100,000 for students taking up general degrees.

The second policy that stays is that no student who is deserving of university education will be denied it because he cannot afford it.

As our universities move up the ranking, they're hiring top-notch faculty staff who cost more.

With SUTD, which has the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as one of its partners, you have a different model, which adds diversity to the system. But it will have more lecturers per student and state-of-the- art facilities, so obviously the cost goes up. Students who enter a top university will benefit from the education, have more successful careers and and better starting pay. Hence, they are the prime beneficiaries and should pay higher fees.

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