Poly vs Uni - Creative Development

In Singapore’s CGI scene, the debate between polytechnic and university education is a hot topic. But, instead of a full-on “Diploma vs Degree” conversation, I’ll focus on the merits of poly vs uni education. And how much it affects employability in the private sector.

Firstly, how did this topic come about?

Recently, the Masonry Studios team visited NYP School of Design’s graduation show. The following day, our newly-hired sound designer, Russell had questions regarding the show. He asked about what we looked for in the animation graduates, if it differs between poly and uni candidates, whether university education is necessary, and if so, which path—poly or uni—holds the key to success. Great questions Rus!

Key Differences: Poly vs. Uni

Technical Skills are essential in our CGI Animation industry, and polytechnic education is very effective in technical skill training. Individuals with polytechnic diplomas train to have hands-on experience and proficiency with industry-standard tools. This makes them a valuable asset in a fast-paced CGI environment. In poly, I learnt then-cutting-edge technology, like motion capture and digital sculpting. Furthermore, I clinched wonderful internship opportunities at VHQ Media and Lucasfilm. The CGI capabilities I’ve acquired in poly gave me confidence to kickstart my 3D freelance career upon poly graduation.

However, the importance of Conceptual Thinking and effective communication cannot be overstated. This is where university education shines, nurturing students’ ability to think critically, articulate ideas, and engage in meaningful discourse. These skills are vital for effective collaboration, creative leadership and the business of creative services.

In my experience, that was precisely the situation. In poly, I struggled to articulate or expand on ideas. Regardless of how hard I tried, how painfully aware I was, or how encouraging my instructors were. I was a late-bloomer and was unable to grasp the idea of conceptualisation. The university environment and curriculum forced me to acquire those conceptual thinking and articulation skills. I’m forever grateful for the uni experience.

Okay, we get it, polytechnic teaches technical skills, and university teaches conceptual thinking.

But is it exclusive?

Creative Development

Creative Development

It turns out that the distinction between polytechnic and university education isn’t mutually exclusive. I’ve encountered individuals who defy these labels. They possess a unique blend of technical expertise, creative vision, and communication skills regardless of their educational background. I personally went through a linear technical-conceptual transition through poly-uni. That said, I was well aware of poly mates’ ability to generate, unpack and articulate ideas. So, it’s not always linear, is it?

Employability: Poly vs. Uni

Masonry Studios is a private-sector CGI animation and design company. When we recruit, it’s entirely based on the portfolio, with little regard to the education level. We seek quality individuals with both technical skills and conceptual thinking. It’s our requirement at our studio because of the way we operate; it’s not the same elsewhere.

However, I advocate for balancing both skills rather than focusing excessively on one at the expense of the other. I’m not suggesting a perfect 50:50 balance, but aim for a healthy ratio and never completely neglect either. Ultimately, having both helps us understand and build rapport with those who are differently skilled than us. It will make us a better team player. But I digress…

Conclusion: Poly vs. Uni

Is Uni Necessary?

So, is a university education needed to succeed in Singapore’s CGI scene?

The short answer is “no”…

But if your lack conceptual thinking and articulation, is hindering your growth as a creative, university education will be helpful. What truly matters is your self-awareness, dedication, and willingness to learn and grow. Whether you’re a polytechnic graduate with technical wizardry, or a university alumna with conceptual chops, there’s a place for you.

Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed individuals from both camps thrive and excel. Whether you choose to focus on technical skills, conceptual thinking, there are many opportunities to carve out a fulfilling career. Remember, it’s just work—take a deep breath, stay open to learning, and trust that you’ll find your place. At the end of the day, what matters most is finding fulfilment in what you do.

So, chill, embrace your journey, and keep creating! Here’s another related article, if you’re interested in a Guide to the Singapore Animation Industry.

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