THE Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) will take in its first doctoral students next September.

The university, which admitted its first undergraduates this year, will offer a PhD programme lasting three to five years.

Unlike doctoral courses elsewhere, the wide-ranging SUTD programme will not only focus on research, but also prepare students for life after graduation, said Associate Provost Pey Kin Leong yesterday.

All students will go on industrial attachments for six months to learn how to apply their research in the real world. They will also be allowed to gain teaching experience to prepare them for academic life after graduation.

More senior PhD students will be allowed to co-teach classes with faculty members and design some aspects of the curriculum.

"After our students have the technical skills, we think about what soft skills we want them to have," said Professor Pey.

One such skill is communicating well, he said. Students will be able to learn how to pitch for grants and patents. They will also learn how to commercialise their research.

Top academics will be invited to speak to students, to share tips on how to conduct cutting-edge research and how to survive in the world of academia.

Another key feature, said SUTD president Thomas Magnanti, was the focus on using design thinking in research that cuts across disciplines.

While most other universities offer PhD courses within a particular academic department, SUTD students will be able to choose mentors from across disciplines.

The university is not divided into traditional faculties. Instead, it has grouped teaching staff and students into four "pillars": architecture and sustainable design, information systems technology and design, engineering systems and design, and engineering product development.

PhD students will graduate from one of those four pillars. The architectural element in the PhD course is also a first for a Singaporean university.

Yesterday, the university also announced that up to 50 scholarships will be given to PhD students, who will typically have graduated from their undergraduate courses with first-class honours. The SUTD President's Graduate Fellowship will cover tuition fees, provide a monthly stipend of up to $3,300 as well as allowances for internships and research exchanges, and pay for attendance at academic conferences.

Graduate student Lee Wei Fen, 25, said SUTD's focus on developing its students professionally is welcome.

The school will move to a permanent campus in Changi in 2014.