Former President of Singapore Dr Tony Tan and global health leader Dr Margaret Chan conferred NUS Honorary Degrees

14,729 graduates from the NUS Class of 2023 celebrate their achievements in the presence of their loved ones and the university community

The National University of Singapore (NUS) kicks off its annual graduation celebrations today with the conferment of honorary degrees on two outstanding leaders and alumni:  Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Former President of the Republic of Singapore; and Dr Margaret Chan, Founding Dean of Vanke School of Public Health at Tsinghua University, and Emeritus Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Honorary Degree is NUS’ highest form of recognition for outstanding individuals who have rendered distinguished service and had a great impact in Singapore and globally.

As a tribute to Dr Tan’s visionary and selfless leadership, as well as distinguished services to Singapore, he was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws. Dr Tan is widely admired for his remarkable contributions in various areas including transforming Singapore’s education system, armed forces, reserve management, and research and development efforts while helming the Education, Finance, Health, Trade and Industry and Defence Ministries in the Singapore Government, and serving as the Deputy Prime Minister and President of Singapore.

Dr Chan was presented with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science in recognition of her visionary and selfless leadership, and remarkable achievements in international public health, as well as her support of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health as the Chair of its International Advisory Panel. Dr Chan had earlier accepted the Honorary Degree in 2021, but the conferment ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The honorary degrees were conferred during the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2023, presided by Mdm Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor.

Dr Tan and Dr Chan were joined by 64 graduates from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, 207 graduates from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, as well as 76 graduates from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, who received their degrees at the Main Ceremony today.

The NUS Class of 2023 comprises 14,729 graduates: 7,968 students will receive Bachelor’s degrees and 6,761 will receive graduate degrees. A total of 30 ceremonies will be held at the NUS University Cultural Centre over a period of 10 days, from 6 to 15 July 2023. NUS Commencement 2023 will conclude with the Commencement Dinner, which will be held on Friday, 21 July 2023.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “It is a great honour and privilege to confer honorary degrees on two outstanding NUS alumni – Dr Tony Tan and Dr Margaret Chan. We hold immense respect and admiration for their remarkable accomplishments which have had a profound impact on the University, Singapore and the global community. Their vision, leadership and selfless dedication will inspire all of us to pursue excellence and make a positive difference – big and small – in our future endeavours.

Congratulating graduates from the Class of 2023, Prof Tan said, “I am confident that our graduates have the skills, knowledge, and training, and possess the qualities of grit, drive and imagination, to thrive in the complex times ahead. The present and future generations of NUS graduates will, like their predecessors, demonstrate the same spirit of resolve, imagination and care for community that will propel them to overcome challenges, and take our society to new possibilities, and new heights of achievement.”

This year, 234 students will be graduating as the pioneer cohort of 11 programmes:

  • Juris Doctor
  • Master of Science (Biomedical Informatics)
  • Master of Science (Computer Engineering)
  • Master of Science (Energy Systems)
  • Master of Science (Biomedical Engineering)
  • Master of Science (Accounting)
  • Master of Science (Human Capital Management and Analytics)
  • Master of Science (Digital Financial Technology)
  • Master of Arts (Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship)
  • Master of Arts (Contemporary Southeast Asia)
  • Bachelor of Landscape Architecture


2023 Honorary Doctor of Laws Recipient – Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam graduated from the University of Singapore with a First Class Honours Degree in Physics in 1962, and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he obtained a Master of Science degree. He later obtained a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Adelaide.

After obtaining his doctorate in 1967, Dr Tan joined the University of Singapore as a lecturer with the Department of Mathematics. In 1969, he left the University to begin a career in banking with the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), where he rose to become General Manager. He left OCBC in 1979 to enter politics. Dr Tan was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1979 and was appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Education. From October 1983 to December 1991, Dr Tan held various positions in the public service, namely Minister for Finance, Minister for Trade and Industry, and Minister for Education.

In December 1991, Dr Tan stepped down from the Cabinet to return to the private sector as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OCBC. He re-joined the Cabinet in August 1995 and subsequently held appointments of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, as well as Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence.

Dr Tan retired from the Cabinet in September 2005 and was appointed Deputy Chairman and Executive Director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Private Limited (GIC), Chairman of the National Research Foundation and Deputy Chairman of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council, and Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH).

On 1 September 2011, Dr Tan was sworn in as the seventh President of the Republic of Singapore for a six-year term ending on 31 August 2017. In September 2017 Dr Tan was appointed the Honorary Patron and Distinguished Senior Fellow of Singapore Management University.

Dr Tan has been conferred numerous honours for his work. In 2018, the Republic of Singapore awarded him the Order of Temasek (First Class). Dr Tan is in the very top ranks of senior statesmen worldwide, evidenced by – among many other occasions – Queen Elizabeth’s celebration of his visit to the UK in October 2014 and by awards granted to him internationally, including from the Foreign Policy Association and being made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the United Kingdom.

Please refer to Annex 1 for the Citation on Dr Tan.

2021 Honorary Doctor of Science Recipient – Dr Margaret Chan

Dr Margaret Chan obtained her M.D. degree from the University of Western Ontario in Canada in 1977. She started her career in public health in 1978 when she joined the Hong Kong Department of Health. She obtained the Master of Science in Public Health and Occupational Medicine from NUS in 1985.

In 1994, Dr Chan became the first woman to be appointed Director of Health of Hong Kong. In her nine-year tenure as Director, she launched new services to prevent the spread of disease and promote better health. She also introduced new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance and response, enhance training for public health professionals, and establish better local and international collaboration. She had effectively managed outbreaks of avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

In 2003, Dr Chan joined WHO as Director of the Department for Protection of the Human Environment. In June 2005, she was appointed as Director of Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response as well as Representative of the Director-General for Pandemic Influenza. In September 2005, she was named Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases. Dr Chan was elected to the post of Director-General on 9 November 2006. The Assembly appointed Dr Chan for a second five-year term at its sixty-fifth session in May 2012. Dr Chan’s last term began on 1 July 2012 and ended on 30 June 2017.

On 2 April 2020, Dr Chan was appointed as inaugural Dean of Vanke School of Public Health at Tsinghua University in China.

Please refer to Annex 2 for the Citation on Dr Chan.