Leading the learners

Stansfield reaches to be a 'giant' in the educational field

ONE private education group in Singapore is set to go from being a "confused" brand to a "giant" one, according to its chairman.

The Stansfield Group is the parent com- pany of the Singapore Institute of Commerce (SIC) and the Stansfield College, its two biggest schools.Since acquiring the SIC in 1999, however, there has been a lack of "clarity" about its identity, said Mr Kannappan Chettiar, the group's chairman and chief learning officer. "I would be happy to resolve this... and become one giant instead of two average players," he told TODAY.

The company is doing market surveys to pick a name for the combined entity, which will be unveiled in the next few months. So, could it be Stansfield College of Commerce? "Well, Singapore is a brand name you'd want to have, and the mainland Chinese like the word 'institute'. They think it's more prestigious. So, I don't know yet," he said. It might be the only thing about his com- pany he is unsure of right now. In an interview with TODAY, Mr Chettiar -a winner at last year's Singapore Indian En- trepreneur Awards - revealed some of his plans to keep his company ahead in the com- petitive private education industry. China is an important part of that. With a presence already in India, Stansfield intends to offer its students a chance to study for a degree in three different countries, after it opens a campus in China this year. By 2010, it will have 19 centres in India and at least seven in China. With more campuses to follow in both countries, Mr Chettiar wants his students to have as much of a "borderless education" and global outlook as those eat the National University of Singapore (NUS) or the Nanyang Technological University ( (NTU).

"I would say it's never been done be- fore- the same programme in three coun- tries. The perspective is different. Environ- ment is a very important part of education," he said. Crucially, the move, for which the target. is 2008, would help lower the cost of edu- cation for its students, as it is more expen- sive to study and live in Singapore. Other than full-time foreign students, Stansfield is now bringing in students from its partner universities, quite unlike the industry practice of private students here studying overseas for a semester. It is not surprising the 42-year-old sees Stansfield as an alternative university here.

"The difference between NUS and us is its research base. Most of its costs go to faculty who are paid to do research. So, our value proposition is that we've got to be more dynamic in front of the class," he said Private schools, he believes, have to identify needs that are not being catered to in order to survive. For one, he wants SIC to have a bigger law school-it now has 400 students-than the one at NUS. "The NUS law quota is a skewed meas ure by the Government. Those days, maybe, law students mainly wanted to practice... but CEOS, GMs, doctors and so on need to know the law," he said. "When a doctor goes to a lawyer, he doesn't know why he's being sued. People want to take control of their lives."