SINGAPORE – Despite concerns about a bleak labour market amid economic uncertainties, about seven in 10 Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students in 2019 secured jobs before graduation, a preliminary survey of more than 5,000 graduates showed.

This is similar to what graduates experienced in previous years.

More than seven in 10 found employment prior to graduation, according to a 2018 poll by the university, while two in three secured jobs before collecting their degrees in 2017.

In 2016, the figure was almost seven in 10.

The National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University do not conduct preliminary polls of its graduates and employment, but contribute to an annual joint graduate employment survey by the six autonomous universities here.

On Tuesday (July 23), 272 NTU graduates out of a cohort of more than 9,000 received their degrees at the university’s first convocation ceremony in 2019.

Another 19 ceremonies will be held through to next Wednesday, where 6,097 will receive bachelor’s degrees and 3,356 will receive higher degrees.

Some of the graduates are choosing to further their studies instead.

Valedictorian Edward Yee, 24, secured the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and will be heading to the University of Oxford in September to pursue a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.


Valedictorian Edward Yee secured the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and will be heading to the University of Oxford in September to pursue a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Yee, who struggled with dyslexia throughout his schooling life, graduated with honours in his double degree programme in business and accountancy on Tuesday.

When he was a primary school pupil, he found memorising information so challenging, he dreaded to receive his school report card because he knew he did badly.

He was diagnosed in Primary 5 with the learning disability.

But his grades improved as he picked up conceptual learning, which involves organising information in a logical mental structure.

Mr Yee said he never saw his dyslexia as a disability.

“It is a strength and something that has shaped who I am,” he explained.

During his time at university, he co-founded start-up Givfunds. It provides low-cost loans to South Asian social enterprises.

He was inspired to start GivFunds after backpacking around Asia at the end of his first year in 2016.

During the trip, he met many social entrepreneurs who were willing to open their homes to him, and share their meals as well, but did not have sufficient resources to help everyone they wanted to.

He said: “It was during university that I found my purpose, which was to be an enabler for change makers. I can’t do what they do, so the next best thing is to help them.”

Mr Yee, who addressed his fellow graduates at the ceremony on Tuesday, made the call for all of them to make a difference.

“Take time to reflect on the choice you have in your hands, the chance to make a difference in the years to come,” he said.

At the ceremony, President Halimah Yacob, who is the NTU chancellor, conferred honorary doctorates on Mrs Margaret Lien, 77, and Sir Keith O’Nions, 74, in honour of their contributions to NTU and the community in Singapore.


Mrs Margaret Lien receiving her honorary doctorate from President Halimah Yacob. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

More than 33,000 NTU students have benefited from attending courses at the Margaret Lien Centre of Professional Success at NTU, set up in 2013 to prepare students for professional life by developing sound moral values and personal skills.

During her time on the board of the Lien Foundation, from which she retired in 2009 to become Governor Emeritus, she also oversaw many projects with NTU.

These include the Lien Foundation-NTU Environmental Endeavour, which seeks to improve the living conditions of Asia’s developing communities through technology-based developmental work.

Sir Keith was a key player in establishing the partnership between NTU and Imperial College London (ICL) to form the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine when he was president and rector of ICL.


Sir Keith O’Nions receiving his honorary doctorate from President Halimah Yacob. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

“Getting two great institutions to work together isn’t easy,” Sir Keith, who was also a member of the NTU Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2018, told The Straits Times.

“It required a lot of people, not just me… to be very committed and work together well.”

The school’s first doctors graduated in 2018 with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degrees awarded jointly by NTU Singapore and Imperial.

Of the honorary doctorate he received, which he said is his 14th, Sir Keith said: “You never expect to get these, and you should never get involved with universities because you might get some recognition.

“But when it happens it’s a great privilege.”