Singapore Institute of Management

Singapore Infopedia

by Hamzah, Omar Yaacob


The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) was founded on 28 November 19641 to train first-class managers for the Singapore economy.2 Today, SIM comprises three distinct arms: SIM Global Education, SIM Professional Development and SIM University.3

Background and establishment
As Singapore gained self-government in 1959, the government looked towards industrial development to grow the economy in the absence of any natural resources.4 The Economic Development Board (EDB) was founded on 17 August 1961 to drive the industrialisation programme.5 Two months later, N. D. Holt, then president of the Supervisory and Management Training Association of Singapore, announced that his association aimed to establish a local management institute.6 A year later, as a precursor to the management institute, EDB formed the Technical Consultancy Division within its Manpower Development Unit. EDB subsequently conducted a joint two-week programme on advanced management with the University of Malaya and the then University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore, or NUS) in 1963. The course proved to be popular and was oversubscribed.7

In February 1964, Edward Wrapp, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, confirmed at the end of his Ford Foundation-sponsored study trip to Singapore that there was an acute shortage of managers that threatened to delay the industrialisation programme. He thus recommended the opening of a management institute within three months that would provide a crash course for training managers.8

SIM was established nine months later in November 1964. Richard Eu Keng Mun, then the managing director of Lee Wah Bank Limited, was appointed the institute’s chairman, while former university economics lecturer Bill Lim took on the role of executive director. The institute was registered under the Societies Ordinance as a not-for-profit private institution, relying on seed funding from EDB that amounted to $100,000. It was also backed by generous donations such as a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. At its inauguration in 1966, SIM obtained S$347,600 in donations pledged by its 158 founding corporate and individual members.9

Expansion of course offerings
Following its establishment, SIM conducted an average of 50 courses and seminars a year throughout the rest of the 1960s.10 These programmes aimed to train executives in modern management theory and application, allowing them to better compete with their counterparts in the developed world.11 In 1965, Lim travelled to seven countries – Belgium, Canada, England, India, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United States – to learn from similar institutes overseas and establish ties with them. A working relationship was started with Harvard Business School, which resulted in residential advanced management courses conducted at Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, by visiting Harvard faculty members. That same year, the institute became formally affiliated with the British Institute of Management. By 1966, SIM had an enrolment of over 700 students.12

In 1973, SIM launched its first diploma course in management studies. It was offered as a two-year part-time course in collaboration with the University of Singapore, Nanyang University, Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The course proved to be popular, and the number of places were subsequently increased to meet growing demand. In the late 1970s, diploma courses in marketing management and personnel management were added.13

The 1980s saw a further expansion of diploma courses offered by SIM.14 In 1981, sensing shifting market needs, SIM introduced a diploma in business studies that was taught in Mandarin to cater to the managerial needs of the Chinese-speaking business community.15 Due to overwhelming demand, a certificate in business studies course conducted in Mandarin was introduced the following year as an alternative for those who did not qualify for the diploma programme.16

Road to university status
From the late 1980s onwards, SIM started to establish partnerships with numerous foreign universities in order to bring overseas degree courses to Singapore. The first such partnership arrangement was with the University of London (UOL), which started in 1986 and continues to this day.17 While external degree programmes had existed locally prior to this partnership, previous arrangements relied on long-distance learning methods whereby students were often left to their own devices. At SIM, however, classes were taught by the faculty from UOL. This proved to be an effective model and was replicated in a similar partnership arrangement with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1988.18

In 1992, SIM went a step further when it entered into an agreement with the Open University of the United Kingdom to offer degree courses through collaboration. Non-graduate teachers were given priority for places in these courses so as to enable them to upgrade their teaching qualifications. Launched on 20 July 1993, the Open University Degree Programme (OUDP) had an initial intake of 1,000 students who were given the flexibility of part-time study. In order to suit local needs, SIM took on a greater role in course planning within the OUDP. In 2002, the programme became an autonomous unit within SIM, known as the Open University Centre.19

The OUDP set the stage for SIM’s foray into university education. In 2005, SIM University (otherwise known as UniSIM) was established, becoming Singapore’s first fully private university to award its own degrees.20 Its first intake of 1,500 students, which included polytechnic graduates and working adults, started classes in January 2006. The university was focused on offering part-time degree programmes to working adults, and sought to give those who had missed out on degree opportunities a way of upgrading themselves. Through mandatory modules on communication and negotiation skills, the degree courses were structured to ensure workplace relevance.21 UniSIM was also the first university in Singapore to offer degree courses in early childhood and gerontology.22

In August 2012, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced during the National Day Rally that UniSIM would become Singapore’s sixth publicly funded university in a bid to increase university enrolment.23 Fulltime UniSIM bachelor programmes in accountancy, finance and marketing commenced in 2014. Slated to open in January 2017,24 UniSIM’s law school will be Singapore’s third law school and will focus on teaching family and criminal law.25

Advising industry
SIM has sought to disseminate management advice to the private sector through the Singapore Manager Journal, which was launched in 1967. Now known as the Singapore Management Review, the journal covers topics such as management best practices and industry-related issues.26 In later years, SIM also began to offer in-house training and consultancy services such as the SPRING-SIM Business Advisors Programme that was rolled out in 2011. The programme matches independent business advisers with small and medium-size businesses seeking consultancy services.27

SIM moved out of its original premises within the EDB headquarters in the Fullerton Building at the end of 1964 into a shophouse at 196A South Bridge Road. With expansion underway, SIM relocated in 1971 to bigger premises at Olivetti House in Oxley Rise. However, this rented space was inadequate given the growing number of course offerings. The following year, SIM bought its own premises at the Thong Teck Building along Scotts Road.28

In 1988, SIM shifted to a bigger campus at 41 Namly Avenue in Bukit Timah. Known as the SIM Management House, it comprises a 10,000-square-metre circular building with lecture theatres and seminar rooms for professional and personal development courses.29

A second campus was completed in 1998 to cater to SIM’s growing student population. Known as SIM HQ, this campus in Clementi was officially opened in 2001. Further expansion works were completed by 2014. The campus features facilities such as a performing arts theatre, sports halls and financial training centre.30


Hamzah Omar Yaacob

1. Institute of Management, Singapore, The Momentous Journey of a Singapore First (Singapore: Singapore Institute of Management, 2014), 8. (Call no. RSING 378.04095957 SIN)
2. Peter Absalom, “Need to Ensure Maximum Productivity in Industries,” Straits Times, 4 December 1965, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Who We Are,” Institute of Management, Singapore, accessed 29 September 2016.
4. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), 281. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
5. “Members of Economic Development Board,” Straits Times, 19 August 1961, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “School for Managers Urged,” Singapore Free Press, 19 October 1961, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey of a Singapore, 8.
8. “Managerial Shortage ‘May Delay Industrial Progress’,” Straits Times, 8 February 1964, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 8.
10. Institute of Management, Singapore, Singapore Institute of Management 21st Anniversary, 1964–1985: Commemorative Magazine (Singapore: Institute of Management, 1985), 5. (Call no. RSING 658.400625957 SIN)
11. Institute of Management, Singapore, Singapore Institute of Management 21st Anniversary, 5–6.
12. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 11.
13. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 22–23.
14. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 23.
15. Institute of Management, Singapore, Singapore Institute of Management 21st Anniversary, 7.
16. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 23.
17. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 26;Discover SIM GE,” Institute of Management, Singapore, accessed 29 September 2016.
18. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 26–27.
19. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 30–31.
20. Lee U-Wen, “A Uni with a Difference,” Today, 27 April 2005, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Lee U-Wen, “UniSIM Carves Its Own Niche,” Today, 25 September 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 33.
23. Sumita Sreedharan, “More Full Time Places for Applied Degrees,” Today, 27 August 2012, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 33; Institute of Management, Singapore, “UniSIM’s School of Law to Commence Classes in January 2017,” news release, 16 February 2016.
25. Institute of Management, Singapore, “UniSIM’s School of Law to Commence Classes.”
26. Institute of Management, Singapore, Singapore Institute of Management 21st Anniversary, 5.
27. “Spring Singapore Collaborates With SIM To Benefit SMEs,” Institute of Management, Singapore, accessed 29 September 2016.
28. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 40; Jeffrey Tsang, Olivetti Plans $20 Million Expansion,” Business Times, 23 April 1987, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 41.
30. Institute of Management, Singapore, Momentous Journey, 43.


The information in this article is valid as of 28 October 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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