NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye conferred Knight of the French Order of the Legion of Honour

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye was conferred the title of Knight of the French Order of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur) on 5 July 2022, in recognition of his distinguished contributions in education and research.

Founded in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte, the National Order of the Legion of Honour is the highest French distinction for military and civil accomplishments. The National Order of Merit consist of three ranks: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer) and Commandeur (Commander).

On behalf of the President of the French Republic, His Excellency Mr Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore, bestowed the award upon Prof Tan at the Residence of France.

Prof Tan said, “I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award on behalf of my colleagues in the National University of Singapore. This is a strong recognition of our continuous quest for excellence and our deep commitment to be a pathfinder in the advancement of education and research to create a better world for all.”

“I would like to thank our friends in France for their longstanding friendship and support, and NUS looks forward to strengthening our existing collaborations in both education and research as well as exploring new areas of common interest.”

Promoting strategic partnerships with French institutions

Speaking at the conferment ceremony, HE Mr Abensour said: “Professor Tan Eng Chye, your leadership and mentorship abilities and openness to Franco-Singaporean collaborations have solidly laid the foundation for long lasting bilateral relations. This impact is a far-reaching and long-lasting one."

Similarly, Prof Tan lauded the affinity between France and Singapore, two countries seemingly unconnected by geography or history.

“Over the years, with the advent of trade, technology and travel, the interactions and friendships between France and Singapore have blossomed; both countries have learnt much from each other, and have developed substantive diplomatic, defence, economic and educational ties,” Prof Tan affirmed.

He spoke about the healthy pipeline of exchange students between NUS and French universities and the mutual compatibility and trust in institutional standards, which have led to a notable number of double degree programmes between NUS and French institutions such as the Ecole Polytechnique, Sciences Po, HEC Paris and CentraleSupelec.

NUS has also collaborated with several French institutions in important research projects in areas such as artificial intelligence, biomechanics, defence, engineering, mathematics, synthetic biology and quantum matter physics, as well as hosting the French National Centre for Scientific Research’s first overseas subsidiary on campus.

Further, the latest development in the enduring friendship between NUS and its French counterparts is the NUS Overseas College Programme in Paris. Under the NOC Programme, students take on full-time internships at high-tech start-ups or innovative companies overseas while simultaneously reading entrepreneurship-related or discipline-based courses offered by NUS or partner universities.

The NUS Overseas College programme in Paris, Prof Tan shared, will be launched this academic year. The very first batch of NOC Paris students – with an initial target of 20 students – will be heading to Paris from January 2023 to undergo six-month internships. They will be attached to start-ups in the digital, food technology and retail technology sectors, exciting sectors that Paris is leading in.

“I am optimistic that the NOC programme in Paris will be a conduit which facilitates the flow of innovation and entrepreneurial talents, ideas and opportunities to access markets, investors and funding opportunities across both countries,” Prof Tan enthused.

Beyond the NOC Programme, NUS is also in discussion with the Institut Polytechnique de Paris on a new entrepreneurship-themed partnership to support students and start-ups from both universities.

Innovating higher education

A mathematician by training, Prof Tan is a passionate, award-winning educator. He was a pioneer architect of the current academic system in NUS, and has seeded many initiatives such as the Special Programme in Science, University Scholars Programme, University Town Residential College Programme, Grade-free Year, and Technology-enhanced Education.

A passionate champion of interdisciplinary teaching and learning, he oversaw the formation of three new interdisciplinary colleges between 2020 and 2022 – the College of Humanities and Sciences, College of Design and Engineering, and NUS College –  that deliver flexible, interdisciplinary education more accessibly, and at greater scale.

Prof Tan has also led strategic efforts to bolster lifelong education, transforming NUS’ operational model and institutional culture accordingly. One such instance was the bold approach of extending its student enrolment to 20 years from the point of admission – a world’s first – so as to seamlessly integrate lifelong learning with undergraduate education. To date, NUS has provided continuing education opportunities to more than 450,000 learners.  

As the Chair of Universitas 21, a leading global network of 28 research-intensive universities, Prof Tan plays an active role in promoting collaboration among universities around the world.