Industry-relevant skills, career counselling, structured internships and mentorships are hot topics of discussion these days in publicly-funded universities.

Private school M2 Academy, which opens a campus today in Orchard Gateway to offer University of South Australia degree courses, is also going big on nurturing job-ready graduates.

Students will receive career counselling and be encouraged to set goals during their two or three years at the school. Its career counselling team will draw up a plan to help them meet the goals. Students will also be offered a career-readiness course on work skills such as effective communication and personal branding.

Mr Mark Coggins, founder and chief executive officer of M2 Academy, said: "We believe that education is one of the most important investment decisions that students will ever have to make.

"Our role at M2 Academy is to do everything that we can to ensure that they get a great return on their investment."
Students' investment in fees over two to three years will be between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on the relevance of their prior qualifications.

The first intake of about 500 students will start in September with degree offerings in accounting, tourism and event management, communication and media and mechanical engineering.

The plan is for students to do internships and be mentored by top executives from the industry they are interested in entering.

Mr Coggins, who used to head education company Kaplan in Asia Pacific, said M2 has lined up several companies, including software firm Microsoft, media firm Bloomberg and asset management company Robeco, as partners. They will advise the school on the curriculum and provide case studies.

Next year, an American university and a British one will come on board as partners and offer degrees in areas such as health sciences, finance and IT. M2, which will occupy four floors in Orchard Gateway, plans to have 5,000 students in three to five years.
Student recruitment agents say the entry of a big player like M2 would hopefully liven the private education industry and draw more students from the region.

In recent years, the number of foreign students in private schools has plateaued at around 35,000, with Singaporeans numbering around 100,000. This is in part sparked by the closure of several private schools in the wake of stricter regulations.

Some students eyeing the private school route said M2 caught their eye for its location and focus on grooming job-ready graduates.
Polytechnic diploma holder Jasmine Tan, 20, said: "Students like me who didn't do well enough to get into the local universities feel like they are at a disadvantage. So it is important to have an edge over my peers coming out of the local universities. Hopefully being job-ready will give me that edge."

But shop owner A. Haniffa, 44, whose daughter is looking at entering a private school, said: "Established players like the Singapore Institute of Management are already doing some of the things M2 is talking about. Will M2 be able to show the results?"

Mr Coggins said in response that M2 will conduct graduate employment surveys subsequently and publicise the results. "In the education sector, clever marketing ploys don't last very long and they will backfire on the organisation soon enough."

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