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The Beginning

It was in 1997 that the Singapore government first mooted the idea of a third university for Singapore. Then Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan believed that the new university should be different from the two established institutions - the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The government wanted SMU to be an experiment in diversity.

The experiment began with the choice of the Chairman of the new institution, Mr Ho Kwon Ping, a renowned and successful business entrepreneur. He was joined by an SMU task force of academics, including Professor Tan Chin Tiong, who determined that SMU should be an American-style university offering a broad-based education, in contrast to Singapore's tradition of the more specialised British model.

Last updated on 11 Sep 2017 .

Wharton-SMU collaboration

The Wharton-SMU Relationship

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania was chosen to serve as a model for SMU, after an extensive review of many undergraduate business schools.

The Wharton-SMU agreement was signed in February 1999, followed in June by the Wharton-SMU Research Centre collaboration.

In July 1999, Professor Janice Bellace, then Deputy Dean of the Wharton School, commenced a two-year term as SMU's first president. Dr Tony Tan remarked at that time about the SMU-Wharton relationship: "We hope to be able to tap the expertise and support of Wharton's faculty and extensive alumni network of public and private sector leaders, while offering Wharton a 'beach-head in Asia'."

Bukit Timah Campus

In 2000, SMU made its first home at a single, two-storey building on Evans Road at the edge of the Bukit Timah Campus.

Often referred to as “the cradle of tertiary education in Singapore”, the campus officially opened as Raffles College in 1929. The campus was home to several institutions, educating many who became political and business leaders of Singapore and Malaysia.

In 2001, SMU occupied and upgraded the main campus facilities, with state-of-the-art technology, while preserving the heritage of its graceful colonial architecture. From 2001 to 2004, Professor Ronald Frank served as SMU's second president. He was succeeded by Professor Howard Hunter (2004–2010) followed by Professor Arnoud De Meyer.

SMU's interim campus at Bukit Timah

SMU's interim campus at Bukit Timah

"From its conception, SMU was designed to provide a different model of university education here in Singapore. We wanted to start with a clean slate instead of just adding another public university in the mould of the exiting ones. From this starting point emerged a confluence of factors that make SMU special."

Dr Tony Tan
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Singapore
SMU Commencement 2014

Bras Basah Campus

In five formative years, the Bukit Timah location established four schools, five undergraduate and two graduate degree programmes, the library and three centres of excellence.

SMU made a symbolic move to its new and permanent city campus in the Bugis-Bras Basah District in July 2005. The area has a long association with Singapore education and is also a centre of commercial, art and cultural activity.

The campus location is strategic in every sense and serves to benefit students, the business community and the public, as SMU pursues its mission to be a world-class business educator and global leader in its field.

SMU's campus green in the city

Campus Green and the School of Information Systems, on SMU's permanent city centre campus

Kwa Geok Choo Law Library at SMU's School of Law

The Kwa Geok Choo Law Library

A New Chapter: Vision 2025

SMU continues to make significant progress with developments and innovation towards its vision of a multi­disciplinary university, making meaningful impact on the world.

The new SMU School of Law building was launched in 2017, strategically located at the junction of Armenian Street and Canning Rise. The 23,000-square-metre building has state-of-the-art facilities used both to enrich SMU law students’ learning experience and involve the legal fraternity ― important stakeholders of the University. A key feature of the new building is the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library, named in memory of the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wife of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

SMU will embark on a number of of campus development projects in 2018.

The buildings on Prinsep Street, which offer accommodation for SMU students from overseas, are being renovated and upgraded. In addition to their current purpose, they will also be used by overseas and Singaporean students engaged in 'living and learning' projects', especially in entrepreneurship, to test and assess this promising educational model.

SMU also plans to build a new SMU-X building to replace the building currently leased on Stamford Road. The new building will utilise state-of-the-art technology in design and construction and potentially be the first zero-emission building in central Singapore.