Professor Tan Tai Yong to assume Singapore University of Social Sciences presidency

Professor Tan Tai Yong will be leaving NUS after 35 years of esteemed service to take on the position of President of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) from 1 January 2023.

Prof Tan, who is Professor of History at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Yale-NUS Professor of Humanities, is an eminent scholar of South Asian and Southeast Asian history. He has been instrumental in the development of NUS and Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS) as an academic, education and administrative leader.

Reflecting on his career at the University, he said, “This has been a most meaningful journey with NUS. I hope that I have been able to contribute in equal measure to how much I have gained and learned from my students, fellow faculty and colleagues, who have greatly enriched my time at the University.”

“I will be carrying forward those lessons, memories and experiences with gratitude, as I begin a new chapter at SUSS,” said Prof Tan, who is currently on sabbatical leave until 31 December 2022.

As President of Yale-NUS from July 2017 to June 2022, Prof Tan helped nurture Yale-NUS into a highly respected liberal arts college, distinguished by its common curriculum and a tight-knit community of living and learning. Before his presidency at Yale-NUS, he served there as Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) between 2014 and 2017.

“Tai Yong is a distinguished scholar and academic leader whose years of administrative expertise have helped make Yale-NUS College a leading liberal arts college in Asia and beyond. Under his leadership, the College has produced many cohorts of outstanding graduates… to serve their communities in Singapore and around the world,” said Professor Joanne Roberts, President of Yale-NUS.

Prior to his time at Yale-NUS, Prof Tan was Vice Provost (Student Life), during which he played a major role in establishing University Town and the Residential Colleges. He also oversaw the development of the Centre for English Language Communication, as well as the Office of Student Affairs and the Halls of Residence.

He served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2004 to 2009, and was concurrently the founding Director of the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS). He is currently Chairman of ISAS, a position which he will continue to hold.  

Prof Tan’s education and administrative experience is also matched by a prolific academic career devoted to researching the history of Singapore, partition of South Asia, the Sikh diaspora, and civil-military relations, among other themes.

He has authored and co-authored several books, including Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore (2019), Creating “Greater Malaysia” Decolonization and the Politics of Merger (2008), and The Aftermath of Partition (2000). A collection of his lectures on Singapore’s history, delivered as the sixth S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, was published by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2019 as The Idea of Singapore: Smallness Unconstrained.

“Tai Yong has been an inspiring colleague and valuable friend to many of us in his 35 years at NUS. We thank him for his many contributions in his various role as an alumnus, faculty member, administrator, and leader, and wish him the very best as he assumes the SUSS presidency in the new year,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman of the SUSS Board of Trustees, said, “I am very pleased to welcome Professor Tan to SUSS and trust that we will benefit greatly from his vast experience and deep expertise as we continue to work on strengthening ourselves for future growth. Professor Tan’s leadership will help unlock the impact of our transformative work in adult learning and education, and nurture the next generation of purposeful global citizens of Singapore and the region.”

Established in 2017, SUSS seeks to transform society through the applied social sciences, with a focus on applied education that caters to both fresh school leavers and adult learners. Describing SUSS’ focus on applied social sciences and lifelong learning as “important pillars that will demonstrate our commitment to deepening our understanding of society”, Professor Tan Tai Yong said, “I am honoured to have the opportunity to be part of SUSS, a purpose-led University with a rich history of providing lifelong education for learners from all walks of life. I look forward to working alongside the Board of Trustees, SUSS colleagues, students and partners to build on the strong foundation that has been built over the years.”