For every student, donning a cap and gown to graduate is a special moment. For one group, this year’s celebrations at the Grand Theatre were particularly memorable as it was the first time they had been to Wolverhampton - and they travelled 6,700 miles to be there.
Nineteen students graduated from the BA (Hons) in Sport Management programme with the University’s School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure in Singapore, and seven students travelled to the UK for the graduation. The course was delivered in Singapore with lecturers visiting three times over a year to provide block teaching.
The programme is run in collaboration with the Asia Pacific School of Sports and Business (APSSB) as part of the University’s commitment to trans-national education (TNE).
In September the group travelled to the UK to take part in the ceremony, stepping up to collect their scrolls from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline Gipps.
The experience of a graduation ceremony in Britain made quite an impression on the students. Hakim Sakariah, who has a job working in a Polytechnic in Singapore, said: “It was very different to what we have in Singapore. It was very traditional and the theatre made it very grand.”
Cheeseng Loh added: “It was great. We chose to come here to graduate because it is a once in a lifetime experience to do a degree programme and so I wanted to come and find out more about the UK.”
Graduations are always a special occasion for family members too, as they witness their children and partners reap the rewards of their hard work. Shimin Suar’s parents joined her at the ceremony, and mum Susan said it was a “proud moment” for them.
Like some of the students from the UK, Sofia Ahmad was the first person in her family to go to university. Sofia, who already has a job working in a leisure centre, explained: “It was awesome – I enjoyed everything about it. My family were in awe because I am the first one in the family to get a degree so it was emotional for them.”
The students were very positive about the course they had studied, which aims to produce capable, creative future leaders for the Singaporean sports management sector. Graduates of this 12-month top-up degree gain an in-depth knowledge of the social, cultural, political and economic environments in which the Singaporean sports industry exists, whilst also having the opportunity to develop further sport specialism through their choice of research project. One of the projects was to organise a netball tournament, providing valuable experience of organising a large event.
Cheeseng Loh says: “It was a mixed match of netball, and it was overwhelming – we had too many teams! We sorted everything and organised it on our own so we chipped in expertise in our area.”
As all of the students on the course are in employment, study is undertaken during evenings and weekends in intensive blocks: it’s quite a challenge for students to do this whilst being at work during the day. The course is delivered by full-time staff from the University, who visit Singapore for blocks of time during the year.
The course is specially tailored to the Singaporean market, and John Pymm, Dean of the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, says it has been carefully designed to meet the needs of the booming sports industry in the country.
He says: “The development of sport is a top priority for the Singapore Government and this is reflected in the very high calibre of applicants the course receives, many of whom have represented their country in national teams. We are also grateful for the enthusiastic support of the CEO of APSSB, Mr Ronnie Lee.”
Mr Lee accompanied the students to the ceremony, and it was the third time he had attended a graduation in Wolverhampton. He believes it gets better every year.
Having worked with the students for three years, it is a rewarding moment for him.
He says: “It is always exciting when we see students walking up on to the stage to collect their degrees – it is a joy. We are proud of our students but graduation is only the beginning. The important thing is that they do not look back and think, ‘I have done it’ - they should look forward and see what they can do with the degree.”
Ronnie says interest in the course is building and this reflects the growth in the sports industry in Singapore. APSSB was the first School to bring the Sports Management programme to the country, and including this September’s cohort, 36 people have now completed the degree. Previously much of the work in the sports industry was voluntary, but this has shifted in the last five years with investment from the government in Singapore, including S$1.8 billion for a new sports hub featuring stadia and swimming pools.
And with the growth in sports, Ronnie says they will need the right people with the right qualifications to drive forward the industry.
Jo Gittens is the University of Wolverhampton’s Director, International. She is enthusiastic about trans-national education and the benefits for the students. She says: “The University works closely with a small number of carefully-selected partners such as APSSB, where we can be confident that they will be able to support the learning experience to the same level as if they were being taught in Wolverhampton.
“We are delighted that the BA (Hons) Sport Management has been so successful in Singapore and is able to bridge both cultural diversity and geographic distance. We will continue to build on our very considerable successes in Singapore, South-East Asia and beyond.”
As the students head back to Singapore to start exciting and challenging careers in the sports industry, they can look back on the day they collected their degrees in Wolverhampton with pride.
As Waikit Chan says: “I thought it was awesome and a wonderful experience.”