These pages have been silent for a couple of weeks since I have been visiting our campus in Singapore. I spent the time visting not only our operations in Ngee-Ann and Nanyang Polytechnics, but also a number of government agencies. Thanks are due to the excellent negotiating powers of our Dean in Singapore, Ehsan Mesbahi, who managed to convince these agencies to give us some time. I should also mention his driving skills in a country where the roads seem like the Tyne Bridge in the rush-hour, but 24/7!
At Ngee-Ann Polytechnic the Marine and Chemical Engineering degree programmes are now well-established. At Nanyang Polytechnic, the programmes in Mechanical Engineering and Food And Human Nutrition are gaining momentum, and will be complemented by new programmes from 2013. While facilities at both sites are good, the complexity of setting up and running these programmes in excess of 6000 miles from Newcastle, while at the same time preserving the ‘Newcastle Experience’, should not be underestimated. I’d like to thank everyone in Singapore for their Herculean efforts in making NUIS the success story that it now is. There will remain challenges in communication between the Newcastle and Singapore sites, especially given the time difference, but we must all remember we are part of the same organisation and put the geographical and temporal differences to the back of our minds as far as possible.
So what of the future? Having visited organisations such as ‘A-Star’, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF), I’m very impressed how well these units interface with universities in order to help drive the economy. The WDA, for example, constantly seeks to ensure that the skills of the population are aligned with economic needs. A simple concept, but very effective. The NRF has available some 16 billion Singapore Dollars (that’s about £9 billion) to invest in science and engineering. That does not sound particularly impressive when RCUK spends about £11 billion, but remember Singapore is a country roughly the size of the Isle of Wight with a population a tenth the size of the UK. Moreover, much of this funding is highly targetted into areas that are critical for Singapore, such as water and clean energy, interactive digital media, biomedical sciences, and marine/offshore engineering. Interestingly, these areas overlap very nicely with our own activities in SAgE. The door is very much open for us to collaborate with our Singaporean colleagues, and as a research intensive organisation it makes perfect sense for us to grow our research activity in the region. Indeed, we have already started to do this by co-funding a number of PhD studentships for the coming year, and further developments will soon follow.