Singapore’s powerhouses neglect local intellectual life

Singaporeans deserve more local impact from their top-ranked public universities, says Cherian George

(11 January 2018) Singapore’s two main public universities have risen in global reputation, lifted by the state’s economic might. For most Singaporeans – as well as many of the region’s brightest students – getting a place to study at the National University of Singapore or Nanyang Technological University is a proud accomplishment. In several fields, our universities have become research powerhouses, worthy of mention alongside the traditional brand names of the West.

But the NUS and NTU suffer from stunted development. Even as they rise in global rankings, their contribution to the country’s intellectual life is relatively modest. Particularly in the humanities and the social sciences, they are largely absent precisely when their expertise is most needed – when complex and controversial issues call for the clarity, context and research-based insight that we academics claim to be able to provide. This retreat from the public sphere has been so complete and enduring that it is no longer noticed. It doesn’t occur to most Singaporeans that our universities could be playing a much broader social role.

TimesHigherEducation.com has the full article by Cherian George.