Professor Bertil Andersson
President, Nanyang Technological University
Monday, 25 July 2016, 11.00 am
Nanyang Technological University
Presiding Officer, Pro-Chancellor, Nanyang Technological University, Dr Wee Cho Yaw,
Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Mr Ong Ye Kung,
Pro-Chancellors, Chairman and Members, NT U Board of Trustees, Excellencies,
Professor Su Guaning, President Emeritus,
Honorary Doctorate Recipients,
Graduates and family members,
Alumni and friends of the University,
Good morning and a warm welcome to Nanyang Technological University's Convocation 2016. Today is a day of celebration — celebration of achievements, a celebration of knowledge, and also a celebration of NTU.
Yes, the annual Convocation ceremony is indeed the highlight of the university's calendar.
To all the graduands, I say well done! It’s actually wonderful to see all the graduates here out in the audience in your nice gowns. I can tell you, that’s a big wow factor for a university president to see this!
So, over the next 7 days, as many as, and listen here now, 9107 graduands will receive their degree scrolls over 18 ceremonies. In fact, NTU alumni number surpassed 200,000 during last academic year. An impressive number indeed for a young university like NTU that this year reaches the age of 25 years.
This morning, we also have two highly distinguished graduands who will be conferred Honorary Degrees. They are Professor Sir David Payne and Mr Iskandar Jalil.
Professor Payne will receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering for his exceptional contributions in the fields of telecommunications and laser technology, and his contributions to NTU in setting up the Photonics Institute and Centre for Optical Fibre Technology.
Mr Iskandar Jalil, an acclaimed master ceramicist will be conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his exceptional and meritorious long standing service to NTU and Singapore.
Last year, we celebrated Singapore's golden jubilee. I think you will remember it was an interesting year. This year as I mentioned, NTU is celebrating 25 years of inspiring
excellence in education and research.
NTU, you can say celebrates its silver jubilee in service to Singapore. And you, the Class of 2016, are our 25th cohort of graduates! That is special I think. 25 years ago, NTU became a full-fledged University with the merger of Nanyang Technological Institute (NTl) and the newly re-constituted National Institute of Education (NIE). At the inauguration ceremony held on 30 June 1991, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke on Government policy on tertiary education, the support that would be given and the role which education could play in meeting the needs of the country and the aspirations of the population.
The first graduating cohort comprising 10 higher degree graduates and 1,345 first degree graduates received their degree scrolls at our first ever Convocation in August 1992. It was a historic occasion and a stamp of recognition for NTU as a University.
The story of NTU however can be traced back to its predecessor institutions, the Nanyang University, fondly known as Nantah and to NTI (Nanyang Technological Institute). Many of the Nantah and NTU graduates are now prominent leaders in the community and in industry, and they continue to inspire us with their determination and enterprise.
As we celebrate today, we value the history and contribution of the Nantah and NTI alumni. At the NTI Class of 1985's 30th Anniversary Reunion dinner last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged that many alumni have done well in the field of engineering while others have distinguished themselves in public service.
World class university
Today, after 25 years, NTU is firmly established as a world class university and its global reputation attracts world-acclaimed faculty, scientists and scholars and top level students.
NTU is widely recognised by peers and international review panels for the rapid progress it has made in education and research and as one of the fastest rising universities in the world. Its research has global impact and is top among Asian universities in research impact in several separate bibliometric benchmarks. It offers an education that is at the forefront of teaching and learning pedagogies and amongst the best in the world.
NTU's steep progression in recent years has been reflected in the meteoric rise in various international benchmarks. Placed 13th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world's top young university for the last two years running.
You can of course take these benchmarks with a pinch of salt, but the high recognition of Singapore’s two big universities has strongly added to the country’s reputation in the international knowledge and innovation arena.
Education and research in Singapore have had strong support from political leaders not the least from Singapore's founding father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew was instrumental in shaping the educational landscape that paved the way for NTU's development. He had always given personal attention to NTU's development and would visit the campus unannounced to observe the progress. On one such visit, he noticed students walking to their lectures in the hot sun and sometimes in the pouring rain. He then suggested having covered walkways to provide shelter for students.
Today, when you come to the campus, you will see these shelters all over the campus and they are appreciated by staff and students. So you see, Mr Lee Kuan Yew executed his leadership on very different levels. Mr Lee also attended five Ministerial Forums here on campus where he shared with our students and the NTU community his ideas and concerns for Singapore's future and the challenges facing Singapore amidst a rapidly changing world.
Today, NTU is a multidisciplinary university. However, it started out with only three disciplines back in 1991 – engineering, accountancy and applied science. Communication Studies was then added in 1992.
In the 2000s, a diversity of disciplines in biological sciences, physical and mathematical sciences, humanities and social sciences, and art, design and media were added to cater to the growing and diverse aspirations of young Singaporeans. During the same period, international studies was also added with the establishment of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
In more recent times, it is worth mentioning the establishment of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), established in partnership with Imperial College London in 2013. Combining NTU's core strengths in engineering and business with Imperial's world- renowned medical expertise, the LKCMedicine has offered since 2013 an innovative and multi-disciplinary medical degree using new pedagogic approaches. At NTU, we believe in the Humboldtian philosophy of universities that teaching and research are integrally related and mutually reinforcing.
As we ramped up our research in the last ten years, we have also raised the quality of education. It is not either or — it must be both. We have over the last few years revamped the curriculum structure, raised the effectiveness of teaching and learning, expanded academic advising and career guidance and enriched student life. The so-called flipped classroom approach and the team-based learning approach pioneered at LKCMedicine have proven successful.
NTU has partnered Coursera, the largest provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and is the first institution to offer courses on the platform available for credit transfer. The establishment of the Margaret Lien Centre for Professional Success has made available a new and comprehensive career preparatory programme for students.
To cater to the best and brightest, NTU has rolled out several premier programmes such as the Renaissance Engineering Programme (REP) which has very quickly established itself as the most popular engineering programmes for top students in the country. And our first REP cohort is graduating today! The same is true for the other premier programme, the University Scholars Programme.
That also includes lifelong learning — which is critical for the future of Singapore’s society in a dynamic and international economy. Any individual is likely in the future to change his or her competence profile to remain employable. Thus, NTU has ambitiously supported national priorities when it comes to lifelong learning and established the College of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) — a crucial new addition to the university's eco-system. So I guess the average age of our graduates may increase somewhat during the years to come.
The last 10 years saw the transformation of NTU from a teaching university into a world renowned research university in response to the Singapore Government’s increase in research funding about 10 years ago. Our research themes and foci are well-aligned with national priorities and industrial needs as well as address the grand challenges of the world.
NTU has today research strengths in water, energy, health, biomedical devices, biomaterials, manufacturing and genomics, to name just a few.
While science and technology remain our core, we have also built up a diversity of strengths in business, humanities, social sciences, as well as of course, education.
The diverse disciplines in NTU have enabled a cross-fertilisation of ideas in an inter-disciplinary manner.
Research and Industry Collaboration
To ensure that fundamental research activities maintain their societal relevance, NTU also collaborates with companies and the latter are keen to work with us. The University has attracted a number of industry leaders and technology giants to its campus, including Rolls-Royce, BMW Group, Lockheed Martin, Johnson Matthey. The emphasis in recent years has been Singaporean companies, such as ST Engineering and the SMRT.
NTU has close collaboration with industries for skilled development in education and training, because our industry collaborators give young Singaporeans and of course, the graduates, a real work life experience. I would argue that lifelong learning programmes must have a strong interface with the business and research and development world to be maximally beneficial.
So, on graduation day, today, students of the University become NTU alumni. That is cool! Today, NTU has over 45 alumni associations worldwide, with over 200,000 alumni members including Nantah and NTl. Alumni act as a bridge for the University and society and the achievements and contributions of our alumni are a reflection of
the important role NTU plays in society.
NTU will continue to strengthen its alumni network and has constituted an advisory Alumni Council that will serve as a bridge connecting with the alumni associations worldwide. We will also develop more facilities for the alumni on campus and at various locations in Singapore to act as a focal point for interactions between our alumni and the University. So, the Class of 2016 and all alumni can enjoy new attractive facilities and stay in touch with the University’s progress and keep in touch with classmates. So we are looking forward to have you engaged in the years to come.
You would have seen while coming here today that the campus is transforming rapidly. We have added new academic buildings, halls of residence, and recreational facilities and amenities. I have already mentioned the iconic HIVE building. Furthermore, the North Spine Mall provides more retail and service outlets for NTU community, adding to the buzz on campus.
In 2017, when all the new halls of residence are completed, there would be 1 7,000 students living on campus. That is quite an incredible figure as it means 50 per cent of all NTU students can live here on campus.
There are also bold plans to create a beautiful park landscape within the campus, bringing about an aesthetic improvement and improving the heritage aspects of the campus. Importantly, this would also make the recreational spaces of the campus more used not just by staff and students but also the Singaporean public. In that way we can share about the educational and research activities with the public. The University cannot exist in its own isolation.
Let me conclude by saying that the last 25 years have been an exciting and fruitful journey for NTU and I am confident that the next 25 years will be no different. In the pursuit of excellence in education and research, NTU will continue to attract top talent,
be responsive and relevant to Singapore's economic and social needs, remain connected internationally and contribute to global solutions.
In closing, I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has contributed to the significant and successful development of NTU — the Chancellor, the Education Ministry, our Pro-Chancellors, the NTU Chairman and Board of Trustees, the Provost and the rest of the NTU Management, and not the least to our dedicated professors, faculty and staff and, of course, our wonderful students and graduating students.
Once again, my heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2016, our silver jubilee cohort. Now is the best time to cultivate your curiosity and follow your dreams. Let your NTU star shine, and good things will follow.
I wish you happiness, and the very best as you embark on your next venture in life. Thank you very much!