2018-03-23 05:00:00 2018-03-24 04:59:00 SPH It pays to study at a small university - especially if the niche it occupies is the flavour of the day.

It pays to study at a small university - especially if the niche it occupies is the flavour of the day.

The third batch of graduates from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) kept up the trend of earning higher starting salaries than their peers from other local autonomous universities.

They also earned more than graduates from the previous year, the university said yesterday.

According to a survey of 228 out of SUTD's third cohort of 267 graduates, the median gross monthly salary among its graduates employed in full-time permanent positions was $3,700 last year, compared with $3,650 in 2016.

This is higher than the median starting salary of their peers from National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) reported last month, which was $3,400.

Graduates from these three universities numbered about 14,000 last year and came from a wider range of disciplines, including the arts and social sciences and the creative disciplines.

The results also showed that more than nine in 10 fresh SUTD graduates were employed within six months of completing their final examinations. But what was significant was that 86.2 per cent of the graduates secured full-time permanent employment in 2017, an increase from 84 per cent in 2016.

The full-time employment rate was particularly high for engineering graduates, hitting 89.6 per cent last year. In comparison, for NUS, NTU and SMU, the proportion of their graduates who secured full-time permanent employment fell from 79.9 per cent in 2016 to 78.4 per cent last year. More went into freelance work, or took up part-time or temporary jobs.

SUTD reported that top hiring sectors included information and communications, finance and insurance, and scientific research and development. For example, its information systems technology graduates achieved 100 per cent full-time employment and their median salary increased to over $4,000.

SUTD's acting president and provost Chong Tow Chong said its students have been carefully nurtured within the university's multi-disciplinary technology and design ecosystem, as well as through internships and overseas exposure.

"SUTD graduates are industry-, region-and future-ready," said Professor Chong.

Ms May Quek, an information systems technology graduate who specialised in artificial intelligence, is one of several SUTD graduates whose internship translated into a job offer. Internships are a requirement for all students.

She interned for four months in 2016 at nuTonomy, which makes software for self-driving cars and autonomous mobile robots. On completing her internship, she was offered a part-time position and eventually a permanent job as a software engineer.

Currently, the 23-year-old is managing data processing and cloud infrastructure at nuTonomy.

Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said he is not surprised that SUTD graduates continue to outdo their peers in other universities.

He said: "Graduates with degrees in areas such as computing, artificial intelligence and analytics are in hot demand... at a time when we are forging ahead as a Smart Nation.".