Having recently returned from an extended visit to Singapore (see previous blog), I thought I’d share some general thoughts.
I always enjoy visiting Singapore – apart from the weather (It’s close to freezing with severe gales here in the UK as I write this), I’m amazed by the friendliness and openness of the people, and the ‘can-do’ attitude. A new building seems to have appeared literally every time I visit. I’m convinced that it is an excellent environment in which to do business, and there is much business that can be done.
As a general observation, from Singapore NU seems an awful long way from NUIS. This is stating the obvious of course, and the reverse is true, but my point is that I don’t believe that our two operations (that are in reality one operation) are as effectively joined-up as they should be. The time difference doesn’t help of course – I found myself spending most evenings responding to the many e-mails that start to arrive at 5pm Singapore time. But with a little thought we can overcome these issues. As a reminder, NU does not franchise, so a strong academic link between NU and NUIS is paramount. I was surprised, for example, to find that some members of staff at NUIS are not members of research groups within their parent schools in NU. We need to fix this and a number of others problems derived from the perceived time and distance barriers with some haste. Fortunately the solutions are not difficult.
As as second observation, it was pleasing to see the breadth and depth of the talent pool at NUIS. This is not just a ‘teaching operation’ – 8 Million Singapore Dollars (ca. £4M) of research awards have been raised to date (in many respects against the odds) and recently the first Nature paper arose from Singapore. We need to build on this, and the opportunities for doing so in Singapore are very significant. In a world where the availability of research funding in the UK continues to drop in real terms, we need to look offshore in order effectively to grow our activities in a number of areas. Marine Technology is but one example, and it was pleasing to find a number of opportunities for growth following discussions with appropriate parties.
So what of the future? At the risk of boringly repeating myself, our vision is of a sustainable presence in Singapore in teaching, research and engagement. Nothing that I experienced during my visit suggested that this would be unachievable – quite the reverse. The critical tasks that we now need to undertake to achieve our vision seem to me to be straightforward, although I won’t share them on this open blog. Suffice to say that we will be compiling a written strategy over the next six month or so, and we will be seeking input from various stakeholders as we go through this process.