Professor Ho Teck Hua to assume NTU presidency

The National University of Singapore (NUS) informed its community today that Professor Ho Teck Hua, who has been the Senior Deputy President and Provost of NUS since January 2018, will leave the University to become the fifth President of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). This appointment at Singapore’s second oldest autonomous university will begin on 24 April 2023.

The University concurrently announced new management appointments to its renewed senior leadership team.

For the past 12 years, Prof Ho has overseen education, research and technology, innovation and enterprise, and talent recruitment and development at the University. He is credited with invigorating the flagship university’s approach towards education by introducing more academic pathways, greater flexibility and choice for students, and deeper real-world exposure. Under Prof Ho’s leadership, NUS’ research and presence in the enterprise ecosystem also grew substantially, with the University making further inroads into fields like digital innovation, urban solutions and materials research.

An NUS alumnus and renowned scholar in behavioural economics, operations research, and data analytics, Prof Ho was the William Halford, Jr. Family Professor of Marketing at the University of California, Berkeley, in the USA, prior to joining NUS. In 2011, he was appointed Director of the NUS Centre for Behavioural Economics and given a part-time appointment as Vice President of Research Strategy at the University. In 2015, Prof Ho returned to Singapore full-time under the National Research Foundation’s Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme and assumed the role of Deputy President of Research and Technology at NUS, before becoming Senior Deputy President and Provost in 2018.

Reflecting on his 12 years at NUS, Prof Ho, who is also a Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professor, said, “In every chapter of my life at the University, I’ve been inspired by the dedication of my talented colleagues and the curiosity, drive, and compassion of our students. I am grateful for these experiences and encounters, as well as the strong support I’ve received from NUS Chairman Mr Hsieh Fu Hua and the Board of Trustees, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, colleagues, students, and alumni. I will take the goodwill of these warm friendships with me as I begin a new chapter at NTU.”

Driving educational innovation

In 2020, NUS announced the launch of the NUS College of Humanities and Sciences – an enhanced experience that allows both science and arts students to chart their own pathways across diverse disciplines, learning through problem-based pedagogies and hands-on experiences like internships, fieldwork and capstone projects. This ground-breaking move to offer interdisciplinary learning at scale was joined, a year later, by the announcement of the NUS College of Design and Engineering (CDE), as well as NUS College, Singapore’s first honours college.

“Professor Ho Teck Hua is a leader who has helped set NUS apart in the global higher education landscape. In his time at NUS, Teck Hua has steered numerous initiatives towards greater interdisciplinarity, innovative teaching and learning, and lifelong education. He has also been instrumental in the recruitment and development of high-quality talent for the University,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Besides initiating new ways of learning, such as the award-winning Design-Your-Own-Module programme, Prof Ho also championed greater industry exposure for NUS students through digital platforms like Internship-As-A-Service and conNectUS that connect students with internship and gig opportunities and grow their professional networks. Career+, an app which uses AI to help students gauge and improve their career readiness, is another offering that lends NUS students a competitive edge in their job searches.

“At NUS, our goal is to nurture our students to be all-rounded and well-grounded individuals who can bring about positive changes in society,” said Prof Ho. Taking this to heart, he increased student engagement with the community during his tenure as Provost. This started with Teach Singapore, a community outreach programme that equips students with the resources and training to mentor children and youth from low-income families. This pilot programme has since been expanded and made part of the University’s General Education curriculum as the Communities and Engagement pillar. “The goal of this pillar is to change mindsets and scale up service learning so that every student contributes to the community,” said Prof Ho. Under this pillar, students explore topics such as climate change, mental health and wellness, and healthcare access through serving the communities around them.

Under Prof Ho, the University also strengthened the link between undergraduate education and lifelong learning by introducing short courses, certifications, and further postgraduate degrees, to ensure that our graduates remain industry-relevant. NUS became a leader in continuing education, with revenue from self-funded master’s degree programmes increasing five-fold since 2018. Another initiative started during Prof Ho’s tenure as Provost is the NUS Lifelong Learners (L3) programme, in which alumni are invited back to the University to take courses for at least 20 years after graduation. This programme is the first of its kind in Singapore and helps to strengthen the bond between the University and its alumni.

“Teck's impactful leadership as Provost has created many positive legacies. Passionate about efficiency and standards, he sees the academic operations of NUS as a matter of optimisation, with opportunities for innovation and actions to move outcomes. As a mentor and friend, he has shown strong leadership and empathy for our students and staff. I look forward to continuing our friendship and forging new ways of working with Teck when he assumes his new role at NTU,” said CDE Dean Professor Aaron Thean, who will assume the role of Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost from April 2023.

Expanding research and enterprise

Besides shaping education at NUS, Prof Ho oversaw NUS research, helping to grow the University’s research in emerging fields such as digital innovation, urban solutions and sustainability, and clean energy, among others.

As the Founding Executive Chairman of AI Singapore, Prof Ho has played an integral role in synergising and expanding Singapore’s artificial intelligence capabilities across universities and research institutions, furthering Singapore’s Smart Nation vision of being a digital-first city.

Besides taking part in national initiatives like AI Singapore and the Singapore Data Science Consortium, NUS also has its own Smart Nation research cluster, made up of various centres and laboratories that explore the fields of data and analytics, security and risk, and modelling and visualisation, among others. These units are housed in the innovation4.0 building, which also hosts the Graduate Research Innovation Programme that supports talented postgraduate students and researchers at NUS in establishing deep-tech start-ups.

NUS’ role in the enterprise ecosystem was also expanded with new global outposts for BLOCK71 – the University’s ecosystem builder – and the NUS Overseas Colleges programme, which offers undergraduates valuable real-world experience in entrepreneurial hotspots around the world.

AI Singapore’s Chief Scientist Professor Chen Tsuhan, who will transition from his current role at NUS as Deputy President (Research and Technology) to Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise) in April 2023, said, “Teck Hua has been instrumental in nurturing rising talents at NUS, across education, research, and innovation and enterprise. He is an effective leader himself, and a superb mentor to many. Personally, working with him in AI Singapore, learning from him side-by-side, has been an amazing experience. I wish him all the best at NTU, and know that his new role will enable even more interaction between our universities.”

Mentor, colleague, friend

Prof Ho has contributed greatly to attracting, nurturing, and supporting talent at NUS – a natural corollary, according to many who know him, of his people-first disposition.

“Provost Ho Teck Hua is more than an esteemed scholar and educator, more than an inspiring leader and mentor, more than just a good friend and colleague. As a scholar in behavioural economics, he is brilliant. As a leader, he sets high standards and leads by example. As a friend and colleague, he provides candid feedback and great opportunities for us to grow.

“Known to most of us as Teck, Prof Ho is above all, generous and motivational. As our academic chief, he motivates us to think big and work hard to excel. He’s generous in sharing his ideas and insights on academic and institutional excellence. He’s generous with his time, with his openness of mind, and most of all with his trust. He trusts you to do your best. After all, he’s given his best to NUS, and I know he will do no less for his next endeavour,” said Professor Liu Bin, who has worked closely with Prof Ho as Senior Vice Provost (Faculty & Institutional Development). Prof Liu will be NUS’ Deputy President (Research and Technology) from April 2023.

Professor Susanna Leong, Vice Provost (Masters' Programmes & Lifelong Education) and Dean of the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education, added, “Teck is a visionary leader with a big heart for his students and faculty. He is a big fan of our students, and their number one cheerleader. He gives his team clear directions and strategies, gives us space to develop new ideas and empowers us to implement and operationalise them. Most of all, we know without a doubt Teck is always there when we need him. I am privileged to have the opportunity to serve alongside him working on the University’s lifelong learning programmes and initiatives. Teck is a scholar, a teacher, a leader, and a gentleman to many of us. A mentor to me, I have learned and grown in his team. I will miss him very much and I wish Teck the very best in his new role!”

The Presidential Young Professorship, which was introduced by Prof Ho in 2019 following an earlier President’s Assistant Professorship scheme, has successfully attracted many talented early-career academics to NUS. Complementing such schemes are pro-family policies such as a tenure clock extension for female faculty members who have children; in 2021, this was improved by removing the limit on the number of years the tenure clock can be extended, and reducing the teaching load for new mothers. Prof Ho also played a key role in initiating the NUS Leadership Development Course, a management programme aimed at grooming the University’s academic and administrative leaders.

“Teck Hua has been a valued member of our leadership team and a key contributor to NUS’ success. He is an exceptional leader, and a generous and supportive colleague and friend. I wish Teck Hua the very best as he assumes the NTU presidency and look forward to working with him to fly the Singapore flag high,” said Prof Tan.

“Professor Ho Teck Hua has been outstanding as a senior leader at NUS. His work with the NUS Board of Trustees and President Professor Tan Eng Chye has been transformative, and the University has benefitted greatly from his visionary efforts.

“We thank Teck Hua for his exceptional contributions to his alma mater, and send him our warmest congratulations, as he seeks to break new ground in NTU,” said Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees.

Prof Ho’s appointment as President of NTU is the latest in a series of appointments of several former NUS leaders to the presidency of other universities. These include Professor Lily Kong (Singapore Management University), Professor Chong Tow Chong (Singapore University of Technology and Design), Professor Chua Kee Chaing (Singapore Institute of Technology), Professor Tan Tai Yong (Singapore University of Social Sciences) and Professor Freddy Boey (City University of Hong Kong, from 13 May 2023).

Click here to read about the renewed NUS senior leadership team.