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The idea of setting up a third university in Singapore was first mooted by the Singapore government in 1997. Ho Kwon Ping, a Singaporean business entrepreneur, was appointed to chair the SMU task force which determined that the new institution would follow the American university system featuring a more flexible broad-based education. In July 1999, Professor Janice Bellace, then Deputy Dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, commenced a two-year term as SMU’s first president alongside founding Provost Dr Tan Chin Tiong. In 2000, SMU made its first home at the former Raffles College on Evans Road at the edge of the Hwa Chong Institution Campus.

The campus, first opened in 1929, had already been home to several institutions, before SMU. In 2001, SMU upgraded and occupied the main campus facilities, balancing the need to refit and refurbish it with facilities while preserving the heritage of colonial architecture. After five years at Bukit Timah, during which time the University saw the formation of four schools, the library and three centres of excellence as well as the Commencement of the first SMU graduates, SMU moved to its new and permanent city campus in the Bugis-Bras Basah District. Since then, SMU has expanded, with the establishment of the SMU School of Law in 2007 and the restructuring of the School of Economics and Social Sciences into two Schools, the School of Economics and the School of Social Sciences. The Singapore Management University follows a course credit system similar to that used in most American universities.

Each individual course within the University is assigned a certain credit weightage and students are usually required to take a specified number of units to fulfill requirements for graduation. Admission to the undergraduate programmes is on a competitive and selective basis. Shortlisted applicants will be assessed by SMU professors and evaluated on their academic credentials and co-curricular activity records. Some schools like Law and Business require written tests in addition to interviews. SMU admits students from a list of pre-university or high school qualifications that includes Singapore Cambridge A-Level, Polytechnic and International Baccalaureate diploma once a year. Application begins in October and closes on 1 April.

For entry to graduate or master programmes, SMU requires GMAT and TOEFL or IELTS for most of the study major. Some majors also required submission of essays, recommendation letter, and a minimum of 2 years’ work experience. The postgraduate programmes in SMU are managed by the Office of Postgraduate Professional Programmes and Postgraduate Research Programmes Office. SMU offers 43 second majors to undergraduates. Upon successful completion of the degree programme, they receive one degree certificate and a second major will be indicated in the result transcript. Undergraduates who are offered a double degree programme have 15 combinations to choose from.

They can combine any of two disciplines: Accountancy, Business Management, Economics, Law, Information Systems Management or Social Sciences. Graduates will receive two degree certificates upon successful completion of the double degree programme. SMU made its debut on the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings in 2017 at 441-450. 24 worldwide by The Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2017. 338,725 three years after graduation, with a 20 per cent increase in average alumni salary from before the EMBA to their pre-EMBA salary.

49 worldwide, the highest new entrant in the ranking. 13 worldwide according to the University of Texas Dallas ranking. 116 in QS Top Universities 2013 Faculty Areas in Social Sciences and Management with a score of 67. USNEWS ranks SMU’s Economics and Business faculty as 77 globally.