Rapid Drive for Excellence: A View from Singapore

Sunday, 16 February 2014
Grand Ballroom C North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Bertil Andersson , Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
Singapore is a small country – a city-state of 5.3 million people and very geographically constrained. Although with a strong economy, its Government has driven hard to re-orientate towards a balanced, knowledge-based economy. This is being achieved through major investments in research, especially in the universities with the result that Singapore is now in the top echelon of research countries. Singapore will become one of the select ‘small smart countries’ of the World which includes Finland, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland.

To achieve this position has not only depended on a generous funding system but also to a commitment to excellence by benchmarking internationally and by adopting very rigorous standards, especially of peer-review. The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is a good exemplar of this success. Starting out as an institute to train engineers some 30 years ago and committed to the highest international standards, NTU has developed rapidly to become one of the most highly ranked young universities and is in the top 50 global universities.

This advance has been based on a rigorous appointment, promotion and tenure system and the recruitment of both senior experts from around the World as well as some of the best young brains. The latter face a considerable competition to attain a post at NTU. Now we have to build up local talent to an equivalent level.

So the pursuit of excellence has to be based on Government commitment and investment, competition and the rigorous adoption of international standards of assessment and this has been the basis of Singapore’s (and NTU’s) success.

Finally, comparisons will be drawn between Singapore and Asia with the situation in Europe where the speaker has extensive experience at the national (Sweden) level and at the European level.