BY SANDRA DAVIE SENIOR EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT, Straits Times
REMEMBER the days when one B and two Cs would get a student into the arts and social sciences faculty of the National University of Singapore?
Not any more.
This year, A-level holders needed at least an A and two Bs, despite the faculty taking in the largest number of students at the university – 1,700 in all.
Two years ago, the minimum grade needed was three Bs.
Faculty officials said they are also taking in more top A-level students, who score at least 3As. This year, they made up 15 per cent of applications, up from 7 per cent in the 2000s.
Faculty dean Brenda Yeoh said the faculty is no longer seen as an easier option.
“The students we have choose to come here because they believe in the merits of studying the humanities and social sciences. Not because they cannot get in anywhere else.”
She attributes the higher demand to the wide range of courses on offer and students seeing the value in a broad education.
“Based on admission interviews, students like the wide range of offerings we have. With 17 departments, 20 major subjects, a host of minor programmes and a centre for language studies offering both Asian and European languages, we offer the most comprehensive education in the humanities and social sciences in this part of the world.”
To cater to students’ interests, the school has added more courses in recent years, including film studies, petroleum exploration, health and social sciences and global studies.
The latter is a multi-disciplinary course which covers areas including political science, economics and sociology.
The faculty’s five most popular majors are economics, communications and new media, psychology, sociology and political science.
Professor Yeoh added: “When Yale-NUS was set up, there was initially some worry that the demand for arts and social sciences would go down. That didn’t happen. In fact, demand went up.
“Young people are mindful of the fact that there are no more jobs for life and they have to be prepared to switch careers.
“They want a university education that will give them more career options and a broad training that will enable them to go into different fields, everything from teaching, to working in banks and the media, and in civil service.”
First-year student Maisarah Abdul Jalil, 19, scored all As for her six A-level subjects at Jurong Junior College.
She said: “Like many young people, I am still figuring out where my interests and talents lie. The arts and social sciences faculty gives you the licence to explore.”
National serviceman Sebastian Tan, 19, who chose arts and social sciences over a place in business at another local university, said the winning point for him was the broad-based education in the faculty.
“I hope to sample a whole range of subjects and then major in a hard science like politics or economics with English Literature,” he said.
“The combination of subjects will nurture the most important skills of clear thinking and clear writing – required not only for a good job, but a good life as well,” he added.