What Went Wrong: The Recent Merging of School of Design and Environment

5 min read

I guess you could infer from my hiatus that I had some issues managing my time that well. Given its workload and my need to maintain my personal 12am – 6am sleep schedule, I found myself stuck in this dilemma of asking what needed to be prioritised- given the meticulous assignments and their looming deadlines. As a result, I just did not have time writing as frequently. Nonetheless, this entry will briefly capture my past six weeks whereas the subsequent entries would be based on analysing the works that I have completed during this time.

To be very blunt, I was quite frustrated at the school’s need for a more general curriculum, diluting this idea of a pure architecture course with other generalised modules. One of them included an engineering module, as a result of the recent mergers from Yale-NUS and USP as well as the newly formed College of Design and Engineering (where I am in).

It surprised me when I was suddenly preallocated engineering modules to replace a few of our originally architecture modules a week before school. This was a similar case in the Yale-NUS merger with USP which sparked this uproar in a form of a petition against the top-down approach by its board members. The petition argues that this merger has been “part of NUS standard operating procedure for years” following the recent merging of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and Faculty of Science (FoS) to form College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS). 

Arguing that the new generalised curriculum provides students with the opportunity to explore other areas of interest, is this what the students need in a tertiary level education? Given the interdisciplinary nature of the design industry, it makes sense for the Dean-Designate for CDE, Prof. Aaron Thean, to emphasise on this need for a “convergence of different fields“.

I chose NUS Architecture because of its renowned rigour and traditional approach towards teaching architecture. As a freshman in the course, it would make sense to introduce architecture, a foreign subject to students from the Junior Colleges or Secondary Schools in Singapore, in a multitude of ways through various modules that are mostly related to architecture. 



Here’s how the original system has changed:

Original CurriculumNew Curriculum
Design Studio (8MCs)Design Studio (4MCs)
Structural Principles (4MCs)Design Thinking (4MCs)
Engineering: Design & Make (4MCs)

Of course, you could argue that the newly-introduced modules are helpful in architecture in some vague way. But why be a jack of all trades and a master of none? 

For Design Studio, the change in credits does not mean anything to the curriculum. A same 2 weeks cycle for submission was retained, along with its rigour and expectations that have disregarded the fact that the module was worth half the MCs as last year.



The whole point of sharing this situation is not to lament and harp on how rigorous architecture is in NUS. Of course it is rigourous. Its intensity was one of the key reasons why I chose NUS. But I would like to express how the decisions from a higher level management can have major complications down the line, affecting us students. Students like myself who are geared up and passionate about studying architecture can easily be found disappointed or jaded when it comes to the idea of being suddenly preallocated other modules that are unrelated to the course we are pursuing. Understanding the workload that is expected for a student to handle is a key issue that went unnoticed as well.

In conclusion, changing the curriculum of students is undoubtedly part of adapting to situations such as a growing nation or a need for students to be equipped with certain skills. This change has to come in stages and not a surprise to students after they have been matriculated. And of course, this change has to adapt to the voices of the students as well. Announce this new curriculum or any changes before the transition phase even begins. No one likes someone else telling them what to do and hence, the management has to come bearing the news of a merger as as friend rather than a stranger to avoid a similar situation faced today.



Join me and 14,590 others  and support this petition at: 
NUS – Reverse the Mergers and #NoMoreTopDown

Check out similar articles regarding the opinions from other affected students here:
Is Creating the College of Design and Engineering Worth the Effort?


Thank you for reading this blog entry and your support thus far. It has been amazing to receive wonderful comments about the previous posts and it has been a shame that I have not been able to update as regularly as I would want to. Nonetheless, stay tuned for the next 3 entries where I will share the works that I have done in architecture school thus far!

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