Education

Seminar-style education at Tembusu College

Reading seminar-style modules at Tembusu College is a key part of the college experience. All of our seminars are capped at 15 students, and there are no quizzes or exams, only discussion, written work, and special projects taking a variety of forms. Classes are held in the 'Learn Lobe', situated next to Tembusu's residential tower. In our Junior and Senior Seminars, and our Ideas & Exposition Modules, we foster a collegial atmosphere in which students learn from each other as well as faculty members. All of our offerings are interdisciplinary in nature, and students from every department in the university sit around the same table. The emphasis is on curiosity, critical thinking, exploring beyond your boundaries, and actively participating in your own education.

The University Town College Programme (UTCP)

Tembusu College is a certificate-granting institution. Most first-year students are automatically enrolled in the University Town College Programme (UTCP), which means they take five modules at Tembusu College over two years. Two of these are Ideas and Exposition Modules, which focus on the development of academic writing skills as well as communication and critical thinking. Students also read one Junior Seminar and two Senior Seminars, which are discussion-based classes focused on the exploration of a multi-faceted topic.

Find out which modules are on offer at Tembusu College by browsing our 'Junior Seminar', 'Senior Seminars', and 'Ideas and Exposition' pages.

Students who successfully complete the UTCP will be granted a certificate in addition to their NUS degree. This will also be reflected on their transcript.

Third Year Experience and Fourth Year

Students who have graduated from the UTCP or who qualify through alternative arrangements may apply to be part of the 'Third Year Experience'. This involves participation in a series of workshops designed to foster self-awareness and personal development, as well as engagement in self-initiated projects or activities they are passionate about. Limited spaces are available. A very small number of students who have successfully completed the Third Year Experience will have the chance to stay for a fourth year.

Fit with Faculty-based degree programmes at NUS

Classes taken at Tembusu are not 'extra' or over and above students' graduation requirements. Most degree programmes at NUS require students to read five modules outside their home department as General Education (GE). The UTCP replaces four of the five modules of the GE curriculum.  This means that four UTCP modules will be read in place of the GE modules and the fifth UTCP module is taken as an Unrestricted Elective (UE).

The university requires all undergraduates (with the exception of Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing) to complete the GER1000 Quantitative Reasoning (QR) module. This is the fifth GE module, and serves to complete the GE requirement for UTCP students. This module will be pre-allocated to you in your first or second semester

This has two main advantages: firstly, it gives students the opportunity to fulfill four university-level requirements and an unrestricted elective in the form of seminar-style learning closely integrated with residential life; secondly, it provides students with a certificate upon completion of the five-module programme. In other words, a college education adds substantial value to one's university degree programme at no extra cost in time or tuition. 

Note that some NUS degree programmes are not compatible with the UTCP. For students with no General Education requirements – such as those from non-modular faculties (Law, Medicine, and Dentistry), students who enter the College in their second or third year, and students with structural constraints in their degree programmes – adjusted learning plans that are less intensive than the UTCP will be created. Students from every faculty at NUS are encouraged to apply to the college.


The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.