Now Admitting Organisational Excellence 1
Joint online outreach event of OAM with various faculties. Clockwise from top left: Prof Goh Say Song, A/Prof Terence Sim, A/Prof Martin Buist, A/Prof Loy Hui Chieh, A/Prof Cheah Kok Ming.

Now Admitting: Organisational Excellence

Every year, the Office of Admissions (OAM) handles more than 32,000 applications for undergraduate programmes, 4,000 applications for scholarships and 10,000 applications for financial aid. To continuously improve the admissions experience and the supporting administrative processes, OAM employs several approaches in its overall unit work routines.

Revamping Systems and Streamlining Work

After each admission period, OAM conducts an Annual Strategic Plan Review – an exercise that has been taking place since 2012, during which processes and past work are reviewed for further improvement in the next cycle. This laid the foundation for the modernisation of the admissions, scholarship and financial aid systems. The previous admissions, scholarship and financial aid systems were over a decade old, utilised manual input from staff and applicants, and did not have automatic flow of information from one point to another. This made the process prone to errors, and required staff to collate large volumes of applications, reference letters and information from various sources.

In collaboration with NUS Information Technology (IT), OAM launched the modernised admissions and scholarship system with a more user-friendly administrator portal that allows different faculties to simultaneously pull data for the assessment of candidates, while providing a seamless application experience for applicants. A major system improvement is the utilisation of gain points mapped from Singpass to easily retrieve applicants’ information, cutting down on human errors that used to occur during the input process by applicants. Ms. Pauline Tan, Associate Director at OAM noted “The retrieval of personal particulars using MyInfo reduced the processing time of applications as less items require manual verification. The document upload function built into the modernised admissions application system also provides convenience to applicants to submit their supporting documents.” In conjunction with the Office of Data and Intelligence (ODI), the admissions forecast process is also made more data-driven. Subsequent iterations of this significant system on admissions, scholarship and financial aid include further enhancements of the administrator portal and the launch of its financial aid component.

 Now Admitting Organisational ExcellenceJoint online outreach event of OAM with various faculties. Clockwise from top left: Prof Goh Say Song, A/Prof Chng Chee Kiong, Prof Sow Chorng Haur, A/Prof Loy Hui Chieh.


A Culture of Respect and Collaboration

Guiding the changes made were the two key values of ownership and partnership. “While we may be a small admissions office, we recognise that as part of the whole University ecosystem, it is important for us to forge and strengthen partnerships to handle admissions and conduct outreach on a more comprehensive scale,” said Prof Goh Say Song, Dean of Admissions. To that end, all OAM staff have the value of Respect as a key result area, to encourage them to participate in at least one project outside their own section, whether it is within the office or with other NUS units.

One such collaborative cross-university initiative came about through the setting up of working committees with faculties and schools to address the issues and pain points encountered during the admissions process of new academic structures and programmes like the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), College of Design and Engineering (CDE) and NUS College. Closer working relationships also enabled OAM to jointly organise outreach events and talks, many of which are on online platforms, to share about these key developments to principals, counsellors and students.  Ms. Eunice Chew, a senior executive at OAM notes, “As we strive to engage and collaborate cohesively as one NUS, the opportunity to capitalise on each other’s strengths through the acknowledgement of preferences and differences, accentuates NUS as a diverse and inclusive community where we support one another to deliver common goals.”

Now Admitting Organisational Excellence 3Joint online outreach event in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs and student representatives.

Building a culture of respect has also enabled OAM to facilitate bottom-up OE efforts. “A top-down approach will not work to sustain an [OE] culture. You need people to believe that change is going to work,” said Prof Goh. Staff are locally empowered to challenge processes and transform work routines. Some successful examples include the implementation of a self-service IT solution using MS Forms for graduated scholars to update data and submit documents, and simplifying the airfare claim processes through an outsourced arrangement with an NUS-authorised travel agency. 

OAM’s experience demonstrates that when continuous improvement and respect is successfully inculcated as part of the unit’s culture through annual work routines, navigating change becomes easier and more sustainable.

Do you have your own OE Story to tell? We are inviting submissions of OE efforts across NUS! Please click on this link to find out more about the contribution guidelines and to submit your story. 


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