How does SUTD compare with the world’s best engineering schools?

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognised SUTD as “the foremost emerging leader in engineering education”. Three fundamental reasons were identified – our design-and-maker-based learning approach, interdisciplinary and collaborative culture, and the breadth of non-traditional engineering experiences that we offer to our students.

4D Design Approach
Our future-oriented pedagogy makes design-and-maker-based learning the core basis of our curriculum – students engage in design projects throughout their years of study at SUTD. By the time they graduate, each student would have participated in 20 to 30 substantial design projects.

We term our multi-layered approach to design, “4D Design Approach”. Students start with 1D design activities, where they apply and explore concepts learned within a specific course. For example, students might tackle real-world industry problems in the Data and Business Analytics course. Next, students take it up a notch, by integrating and applying concepts from two or more courses in 2D design projects.

Example of a 1D project – our Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD) students are tasked to create their very own electronic game from scratch.

3D design activities deepen and build on our students’ expertise by allowing them to repeatedly revisit and advance a single project over a longer period of time. For example, our Engineering Product Development (EPD) students might build a windmill, and then continuously make improvements to it based on what they learn in other modules. Finally, student-led 4D design activities allow exploration and application of design principles through participation in competitions, community projects, cultural studies, undergraduate research and even entrepreneurial activities.

Maker-based Active Learning
To complement our 4D design approach, our curriculum is designed to nurture an intrinsic maker culture. Instead of lecture-based classes, SUTD often adopts an experiential, “flipped classroom” approach – where students do their learning beforehand, and then spend classroom time applying and exploring those concepts.

Open-ended, hands-on learning is also a major element that helps students integrate and reinforce the knowledge they’ve acquired. These activities simulate immersive, real-world work situations, and require students to deliver a working prototype as a tangible output from their courses. Quick and easy access to SUTD’s state-of-the-art maker spaces, such as the Fabrication Lab, further nurture our students’ maker spirit. Project showcase exhibitions are also regularly held at the end of each term for students to display their prototypes and to exchange ideas.

Spanning 3,000 sqm over two levels, with ten sections of facilities and equipment, Fab Lab is a place where students turn their ideas into reality.

This unique design-and-maker-based philosophy has inspired many successful alumni entrepreneurs. For instance, SUTD alumni Ken Chua and Christabella Irwanto started (these)abilities, which designs inclusive products to “Disable Disabilities”. An example is the Keyguard 2.0, which makes any keyboard accessible. The duo have also designed inclusive bottle packaging for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and worked with Grab to simplify the ride-hailing process for hearing- and visually-impaired users.

Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Culture
In the real world, problems don’t fit neatly within one discipline, and so tackling them requires a mix of expertise. Knowing this, SUTD is not structured around traditional disciplines based on a single area, but is instead organised around five interdisciplinary majors. These are Architecture and Sustainable Design, Design and Artificial Intelligence, Engineering Product Development, Engineering Systems and Design, and Information Systems Technology and Design. Students get a multi-disciplinary start through a common first year, before specialising in one of the majors.

SUTD’s ecosystem is designed to facilitate collaboration and a healthy exchange of knowledge and ideas. This is enhanced by the low 1:11 staff-to-student ratio, which allows for effective small-group learning and discussions.

Internally, faculty teaching teams and student project teams often have an interdisciplinary make-up, and consist of people from different disciplines. The “uncommon interactions” that arise from such workgroups often help foster new inter-disciplinary spheres of research for the university.

RE:Paper is a collaboration between our Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD) and Engineering Product Development (EPD) students, with the objective of exploring architecture using paper tubes, a common waste material. 

Students are also connected externally – via industry research, internship opportunities, foreign exchange programmes and trips – to industry players and engineering thought leaders. For example, the $6-million-dollar New Urban Kampung research programme, in partnership with HDB and MND, involves students and faculty members from disciplines such as urban psychology, sociology, engineering and architecture, where the participating members collaborate with HDB to develop prototypes such as mobile smart furniture and interest-based infrastructures. Or, the Sustainable Urban Mobility Research Laboratory, which develops data-driven models and tools to reduce the environmental impact of passenger and urban freight transport. Other projects include working with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Future of Urban Mobility (SMART FM), UPS Singapore and Rytle to develop last-mile urban logistics management strategies to address e-commerce growth.

Broad-based, Holistic Education
SUTD also offers a breadth of experiences not traditionally associated with an engineering education. For instance, over a fifth (22%) of the curriculum is dedicated to humanities and social sciences modules, and students are also given research opportunities, industry internships, and undergraduate teaching opportunities.

SUTD also values non-curricular, student-led experiences. In fact, every Wednesday and Friday afternoon, along with a whole month at the beginning of the year, is left free for students to pursue their own interests. This may include student-led club activities, research projects, and even teaching opportunities. There are now over 90 student clubs and societies at SUTD, since the university’s first student intake in 2010.

Check out our Fifth Rows here.

Students are also encouraged to spend time abroad on study exchanges or organised summer programmes. Hence, two “summer” terms at the start of Years 2 and 3 are dedicated for students to engage in internships, overseas exchanges, summer programmes or other “broadening experiences.” An example is the Asian Leadership Programme, where students spend 13 weeks at Zhejiang University and regional companies in Zhejiang under a bespoke leadership programme. Some of our other summer programme partners include Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and TU Berlin.

Find out what our students did last summer (before the pandemic) at Stanford for their Global Leadership Programme.

In addition, all SUTD students would have completed at least a 16-week internship with one of over 1,000 industry partners before graduation.

Student Noorbakht shares her internship experience at Amazon Web Services.

Engineering School of the Future
MIT’s in-depth study shows that SUTD’s undergraduate engineering pedagogy stands apart from its global peers. Our curriculum integrates many features that thought leaders describe as “distinguishing elements of the best engineering programmes in the decades to come”. This includes offering a design-centric, multidisciplinary education that is infused with hands-on problem-solving, and which emphasises self-directed learning and student choice.

“To be identified as an engineering school of the future and a global leader in engineering education is a major achievement for SUTD,” said SUTD President, Professor Chong Tow Chong. “This is a great acknowledgement of the curriculum and pedagogy that we have put in place to nurture tomorrow’s technically-grounded leaders and innovators. It also gives us the impetus to keep pushing the boundaries to meet the changing expectations and needs of students, parents, industry and society.”

SUTD President, Professor Chong Tow Chong, shares what makes SUTD’s students stand out from their peers.

Grow into a design innovator and future leader by pursuing a global state-of-the-art engineering education at SUTD.

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