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The debate between polytechnic (Poly) and university (Uni) education in Singapore’s CGI scene is a hot topic. But, instead of a full-on “Diploma vs Degree” comparison, I’ll focus on the objectives and merits of Poly vs. Uni education. And how much it affects employability in the animation industry.

Firstly, how did this topic come about?

The Masonry Studios team recently visited the 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

Polytechnic Education

Technical skills are vital in the CGI Animation industry, and polytechnic education focuses on imparting these practical skills. Individuals train to have hands-on experience and proficiency with industry-standard tools. This makes them a valuable asset in a fast-paced CGI environment.

University Education

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.

My Education Journey (just as a point of reference)

I’ve experienced both poly and uni, which might offer some insights. At Poly, I learned then-cutting-edge technology like motion capture and digital sculpting, landing internships at VHQ Media and Lucasfilm. However, I recall struggling to articulate ideas during my poly days. The university environment fostered my conceptual thinking and articulation skills, likely due to the curriculum and my peers. Poly and Uni education has helped me launch my freelance career and start a creative studio respectively.

Okay, we get it…

Polytechnic teaches technical skills, and University teaches conceptual thinking.

  • But is it exclusive?
  • Does this mean poly graduates can’t do conceptual thinking?
  • Or university graduates aren’t equipped with technical skills?

Of course not!

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’m a poor example because my creative development was a linear technical-conceptual transition through poly-uni. That said, I was well aware of my poly mates’ ability to generate, unpack and articulate ideas. So, it’s not always linear, is it?

Based on my observation, creative development is not confined to a linear path from polytechnic to university, as it can occur at any stage of one’s career journey, whether transitioning from industry experience to formal education or vice versa.

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 consideration of the qualifications. We seek quality individuals with both technical skills and conceptual thinking. It’s our requirement due to our operations, but we should note that it’s not the same for every creative company.

A small note on balancing technical skills vs. conceptual thinking

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 of conceptual thinking and articulation hinders your growth as a creative, university education will be helpful. That aside, 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 in the industry.

Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed individuals from both camps thrive and excel. Whether you focus on technical skills or conceptual thinking, there will be 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.

Ronald Fong

Author Ronald Fong

A CGI animation director and educator who blends storytelling prowess with visual finesse, shaping his expertise in the creative realm. From technically-driven 3D animator to founder of Masonry Studios, he navigates challenges, shares insights, and empowers the next generation of creatives through tutorials, talks, and business wisdom.

More posts by Ronald Fong

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