Published on 24 Jul 2018

​Speech by NTU President Professor Subra Suresh at NTU Convocation 2018

Speech by

Professor Subra Suresh
President & Distinguished University Professor,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Nanyang Auditorium
Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Chancellor, Nanyang Technological University, Your Excellency President Halimah Yacob,
Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung,
Chairman, NTU Board of Trustees, Mr Koh Boon Hwee,
Chair of Imperial College Council, Sir Philip Dilley,
Members, NTU Board of Trustees,
Presidents Emeriti,
Honorary Doctorate Recipients, 
Distinguished guests,
Graduates and family members, 
Alumni and friends of the University, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and a warm welcome to NTU’s Convocation 2018. 

Today is a day of joy and celebration not just for you, our new batch of graduates, but also for your families and friends, and for the faculty and staff who have supported you during your time at NTU. It is also a day to commemorate and reaffirm the values that direct and inspire us as a university. To the Class of 2018, my heartiest congratulations. Well done!

This convocation is special to me personally because it is my first as President of NTU. Indeed, it is my privilege to be here to celebrate the achievements of as many as 9,755 graduands, who will be receiving their degrees during 20 convocation ceremonies over the next seven days. 

We will be welcoming our inaugural graduands in the fields of Medicine, in Philosophy, in Environmental Earth Systems Science, and in the Master of Arts in Professional Education (Training & Development).

The university will also be conferring Honorary Doctorates on three distinguished individuals for their contributions to education and to NTU. They are Dr Tony Tan, Mr Peter Ho, and Dr Lee Seng Tee. 

Dr Tony Tan, who had previously served as Education Minister, is a visionary architect of Singapore’s university landscape. He played an instrumental role in setting up NTU and the National University of Singapore, and served as Minister-in-Charge for the two institutions. Later, under his watch as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Singapore Management University was set up. Elected as Singapore’s seventh President, Dr Tan was the NTU Chancellor from 2011 to 2017, before he passed on this important role to Her Excellency President Halimah Yacob who is presiding over today’s ceremony for the first time as NTU Chancellor. As Chairman of the National Research Foundation, he laid the groundwork for a research ecosystem in Singapore. In recognition of his significant contributions to NTU, as well as to Singapore’s higher education ecosystem, Dr Tan will be conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.   

On a personal note, I have had the honour of knowing Dr. Tony Tan for more than 20 years, and have had the extraordinary privilege of closely observing, and in some cases participating in, a number of activities that he initiated, which have had a transformative effect on the education, research and innovation ecosystem of Singapore and NTU.   It is a great pleasure for me to be here today as President of NTU as we award an honorary doctorate to Dr. Tony Tan.  

Dr Tan also set up the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, now known as the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at NTU. Today, RSIS is an established think tank with its research focused in the areas of security, defence, diplomacy and international affairs. In recognition of the instrumental role he played in the establishment of RSIS, we are also delighted that Dr Tony Tan will be appointed Chairman of the Governing Board of RSIS with effect from 1 Aug 2018.

Mr Peter Ho has had a long and distinguished career in public service spanning more than 34 years. Formerly the head of Civil Service, Mr Ho also spent 15 years as a Permanent Secretary in several ministries. Now the Senior Advisor at the Centre for Strategic Futures, Mr Ho is also the Chairman of the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), set up by NTU in partnership with NUS. Mr Ho will be conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, for his exceptional and outstanding contributions to Singapore and NTU.    We are also pleased that Mr Ho has agreed to serve as the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the newly-created NTU Institute for Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH).

We are also proud to confer upon Dr Lee Seng Tee, Chairman of Lee Foundation, an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, for his staunch support and philanthropic contributions to education worldwide. Dr Lee played a pivotal role in facilitating the Lee Foundation’s generous support to NTU in 2012 for the establishment of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. Dr Lee is not present today, but we have prepared a video of a separate conferment ceremony which you will see later.

Our next recognition goes to a familiar face who has given much to NTU: former NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson.  In recognition of his distinguished leadership and meritorious service as President of NTU from 2011 to 2017, we are pleased to confer upon him the title of President Emeritus. Professor Andersson, along with President Emeritus Su Guaning, many colleagues from the NTU leadership team, the Board of Trustees, the LKC Medicine Governing Board Chairman Mr. Lim Chuan Poh, the Lee Foundation, and leaders from Imperial College in London, as well as numerous dedicated faculty and staff and Dean James Best and his predecessors, played a key role in the evolution of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine).  

Today, we are graduating the inaugural cohort of 52 medical doctors from LKCMedicine.  They have benefitted from the School's rigorous curriculum and its innovative educational programmes that integrate the latest technologies for classroom and laboratory training.  Singapore and the world will benefit from them as they take on the important responsibility of caring for patients, and advancing the frontiers of medical and clinical practice in Singapore and beyond.

Today, NTU Singapore is widely recognised as a leading research university with impact in education, in the creation of new knowledge through cutting-edge research, in translating that knowledge to benefit industry, the economy and society, and in service to the nation, the region and the world.  From its origins as a university that focuses on technology, NTU has emerged as a leading global player in education, research and innovation: not only in engineering and natural sciences; but also in humanities, arts and social sciences; in economics and business; in biology and medicine; in policy, public administration, and indeed in a comprehensive portfolio of intellectual pursuits that will shape the human condition in the 21st century.  Innovative learning paradigms developed and adapted by NTU have the significant potential to further transform the life-long education and re-skilling of not only our students, alumni and fellow citizens of Singapore, but also our kindergarten to junior college school teachers, through the National Institute of Education which is located on our campus, through the National Centre for Early Childhood Education that will begin formal affiliation with NTU starting next year, and through our very successful collaborations with our Corporate partners, from Alibaba to Rolls Royce to Singtel and many more,  who have chosen to work with us right here on our campus.  

The collective effect of this impressively broad portfolio of activities is that NTU is uniquely positioned to play an important role in shaping how technology will impact the lives and livelihoods of ordinary citizens in Singapore and around the world.    

NTU also aspires to play a pivotal role in shaping a balanced discussion of the many benefits of technological innovation as well as of their unintended and potentially detrimental consequences.  This led to our announcement early this year to establish the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity. The institute will serve as a university-wide forum for multidisciplinary research, policy discussions, and activities that address how human behaviour will interface with technology to impact the human condition.  

Starting with the new academic year that begins next month, all NTU undergraduate students will have the opportunity to take new core educational modules that enhance their digital literacy, including the ethical and human aspects of digitisation.   Starting next month, NTU will also offer a new undergraduate degree programme in the area of artificial intelligence and data science.

As Singapore takes steps to become a technologically-advanced economy, NTU is also making big strides in becoming a globally distinctive Smart Campus. This beautiful university is also a crucible of innovative and sustainable technological solutions that we develop and test here with our partners, giving them the confidence to implement and take these technologies to market, in Singapore and beyond. 

As a university campus, NTU is also uniquely positioned to serve as a living testbed to trial the latest innovations that emerge from our laboratories, centres and academic programmes before they are rolled out to broader society.  They include novel approaches that blend technology with humanity to develop environmentally- and financially-sustainable solutions to energy utilisation, climate change, mobility, autonomy, transportation, and aging with dignity and comfort.  As a key step in this direction, we announced earlier this year our vision for NTU to emerge as a Smart Campus where technology solutions enhance work, living and quality of life.   

Just two weeks ago, NTU announced its partnership with France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission to develop innovative recycling technologies for electronic waste, which is becoming the world’s fastest  growing  trash  stream  as  consumer  electronic devices and components,  such  as  mobile  phones, constantly  get  replaced.  We will be announcing several new initiatives in the next few weeks to further this vision of NTU Smart Campus to also enable it to become one of the most eco-friendly campuses in the world.

Our NTU Presidential Post-Doctoral Fellows Programme, which was launched earlier this year to attract the brightest young scientists to NTU , has also attracted sizeable philanthropic gifts from abroad, from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in Sweden, and from co-founder of Indian IT giant Infosys, Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan.  The latter gift – the first gift being the largest from outside of Singapore in the history of NTU –  was announced last month in conjunction with the historic visit to NTU by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with new agreements to work with several leading institutions in India.  These collaborations reflect NTU’s rapidly expanding international stature, consolidating its reputation as a leading global university. 

Graduates you begin a new phase of your lives, stay connected to the NTU community. You will join approximately 230,000 living alumni from over 150 countries. An NTU degree is not just a ticket to a successful career.  It is equally a means to develop the professional and human skills that prepare you for service to society and for a lifetime of learning, enquiry, curiosity, and adaptation to continual reskilling and upskilling in rapidly-changing circumstances.  The NTU degree you are receiving today signals not only that you are ready to make your mark in your chosen profession, but also that you are committed to upholding the values of the University and contributing to a brighter human future.

In closing, I express my deep appreciation to everyone who has contributed to the successful development of NTU over the years - the Chancellor, the Education Ministry, our Pro-Chancellors, the NTU Chairman and Board of Trustees, the NTU academic and administrative leadership team, my predecessors, previous Presidents of NTU, our deans and school chairs, our dedicated professors, faculty, staff, alumni and, of course, our wonderful students and today’s graduands.

Once again, my heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2018.  I eagerly look forward to observing the impact you will have on Singapore and the world, and I offer my congratulations to you, to your families, and all those who helped nurture you.

Thank you very much.