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Asian roots, global reach

By Conrad Becker
- Jan 10, 2015
Credit : GMI Post


This year, the National University of Singapore (NUS) celebrates the 110th year of its founding together with Singapore’s 50th year of independence. The university’s history is intertwined with Singapore’s dramatic development as a nation, and is marked by a rich tradition of leadership and contribution to country and society.

Founded in 1905 as a modest medical school, NUS is today widely known for its innovative and rigorous education that has nurtured generations of leaders and luminaries across industries, professions and sectors in Singapore and beyond.

Consistently ranked as one of the top two universities in Asia and top 25 in the world, NUS is a research powerhouse with a lively and cosmopolitan community of inquiring minds spread across three campuses, 16 schools and 24 university-level research institutes and centres.

Education and entrepreneurship

The university’s education is distinguished by being global and Asian. Its comprehensive curriculum and over 70 joint, concurrent and double degree programs with leading universities around the world offer students multiple pathways.

Seven out of ten undergraduate students at NUS can go on study abroad opportunities with 300 top universities in 40 countries, or pursue internships in high-tech start-ups through its six NUS Overseas Colleges, which provide a truly unique entrepreneurial educational experience.

NUS President Prof. Tan Chorh Chuan said: “NUS is a leading university hub for entrepreneurship and start-ups in Asia. We are keen to enhance our students’ learning experience through global entrepreneurial opportunities, which in turn will further increase the vibrancy of our academic community. Our strong push in applying and commercializing our research discoveries and invention, is also positioning NUS as a magnet for promising start-ups and academic entrepreneurs, drawing investors, venture capitalists and business partners to our campus.”

NUS has deep and longstanding partnerships with leading U.S. universities in key educational programs. These include the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore with Duke University, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music with the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and Yale- NUS College with Yale University.

The university pioneered a new form of residential colleges at the NUS University Town

(UTown), which has been successful in creating diverse, vibrant and collaborative learning communities. UTown is also home to the Campus for Research, Technology and Enterprise (CREATE), an initiative of Singapore’s National Research Foundation.

CREATE supports interdisciplinary research groups from renowned universities that include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, University of California at Berkeley, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Cambridge.

Strength in research

NUS has broad-based research excellence and is among the world’s leaders in several fields, including quantum technologies, cancer, and mechanobiology based in NUS’ three Research Centres of Excellence (RCEs), as well as engineering, computing, materials science and Asia-related research. It is also a partner in a fourth RCE that draws on the university’s strengths in life sciences and sustainability research.

Much of the research at NUS is integrative and multi-disciplinary in nature, with particular emphasis on themes such as integrated sustainability solutions for energy, water and the environment; ageing populations; biomedical sciences and translational medicine; global-Asian studies; finance and risk management; and materials science.

The university is strongly committed to transforming the translational impact of NUS research to improve lives, with many research partnerships with industry and governmental entities.

Further afield, NUS is the first foreign university to establish a research institute in Suzhou, China. Leading companies who have established research labs and partnerships at the university include Siemens, GE, Zeiss, and Agilent.

NUS’ vision and strategic positioning as a leading global university centered in Asia, is reflected by the university’s role as a key node in multiple global knowledge networks including the World Economic Forum, the International Alliance of Research Universities, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, Universitas 21, and the ASEAN University Network.

“NUS is well-poised to tackle the challenges of the rapidly changing and complex future. We will continue to innovate and strengthen our education and research, and develop and grow new strategic local and global partnerships. Going forward, we will be placing an even greater focus on preparing future-ready graduates, transforming the translational impact of our research and making NUS the most vibrant university enterprise ecosystem in Asia. These will enable our university to create even more distinctive and high-impact value for Singapore and the world,” Tan said.

- This report originally appeared in the January/February 2015 edition of Foreign Affairs (Credit: Angelo Romualdez and Conrad Becker)

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