​NTU President's speech for Convocation 2019

Published on: 23-Jul-2019

Speech by


Professor Subra Suresh

President & Distinguished University Professor,

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore




Nanyang Auditorium

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


Madam Chancellor, President Halimah Yacob,


Chairman Koh Boon Hwee and Members of the NTU Board of Trustees,


Presidents Emeriti,

Honorary Doctorate Recipients, 

Distinguished guests,

Graduates and family members, 

Alumni and friends of the University, 

Faculty and staff,


Good morning and a warm welcome to NTU Singapore's 2019 Convocation. The annual Convocation ceremony is the highlight of the university's calendar.  Over the next 7 days, more than 9,400 graduands will receive their degree certificates in 20 ceremonies.


To the Class of 2019, my heartiest congratulations. Well done! Today, as you step out of this auditorium, you will be armed with the confidence provided by your formal learning at NTU as you formulate ambitious goals for your personal and professional lives. NTU has shown you the ways to enhance your critical thinking and given you the skills to thrive in a changing world, with a sense of responsibility to society. Be proud of NTU and do your alma mater proud. As NTU's reputation continues to rise rapidly on the global stage, so will the value of your degree.


I would like to thank all parents and family members and friends for supporting your sons and daughters during their studies. Let me also congratulate and thank all our dedicated faculty from the Colleges and Schools at NTU for their contributions to the successful academic journey of our graduands. I also express my profound gratitude to all the academic and administrative staff who have played a crucial role in supporting your journey, often behind the scenes.


The University will also be conferring Honorary Doctorates on two distinguished individuals. They are Professor Sir Keith O'Nions and Mrs Margaret Lien.


Professor Keith O'Nions, Chairman of Cambridge Enterprise Board, will be awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his contributions to the establishment of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at NTU in collaboration with Imperial College London and for his extensive contributions during his term as a member of NTU Board of Trustees.


We are also delighted to confer upon Mrs Margaret Lien, Governor Emerita of Lien Foundation, an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters for her passion and active support for promoting and raising the standard of education and living in the community.


You will hear more about these two extraordinary individuals later in today's ceremony.


NTU is starting a new university-wide tradition this week to recognise our PhD graduates as we welcome them into the academy of scholars.  Two Doctoral Hooding Ceremonies were held at this auditorium yesterday for PhD graduates in celebration of the successful completion of their studies. The PhD degree recipients were individually recognised and were hooded on stage by their supervisors.


Today, we also launch another new tradition.  We have invited our alumni from the Classes of 1989, 1994 and 1999 to this Convocation Ceremony as they celebrate their 30th, 25th and 20th anniversaries, respectively, of their graduation. They will be presenting their Class Gifts to the Chancellor later.


A few months ago, NTU announced a PhD Student Exchange programme with NUS – a first in Singapore. Starting this year, PhD students from NTU and NUS will be able to enrol for courses in both universities. This will result in a much broader and richer spectrum of PhD course offerings that students from both universities can benefit from.


This year, NTU has risen further in international stature, reputation and rankings, reaching its highest levels to date in many fields and by many different metrics and perspectives. NTU has moved into the global Top-50 for the first time in the 2019 US News & World Report's assessment of Best Global Universities. Four major programmes within NTU: Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Science, and Computer Science, were identified by US News as being the top five among peer institutions in the world. In addition to an overall 11th place in the 2019/2020 QS World University Rankings, NTU retained its position as the world's top young university this year.


In line with NTU's unique approach of nurturing graduates who are workplace-ready, the University is expanding its offering of work-study opportunities. To deepen industry exposure, NTU has launched seven new SkillsFuture accredited Work-Study Degree Programmes through the introduction of an apprenticeship track for corresponding degree programmes. There are currently nine industry partners involved in these programmes, including multinational engineering and electronics company Bosch, pharmaceutical giant GSK, and semiconductor industry heavyweight GlobalFoundries.


To ensure that NTU programmes continue to match rapidly-changing industry needs and opportunities brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the University will also introduce six new areas of engineering specialisations.  Our engagement with industry also received a major boost this past year with NTU establishing a new Corporate Laboratory in the area of Digital Manufacturing in partnership with the global technology company, HP, with strong support from Singapore Government's National Research Foundation.  This is NTU's largest Corporate Lab today, and HP's largest university engagement worldwide.  Just last week, we launched the second five-year phase of NTU's Corp Lab with leading aircraft engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce.  This is also Rolls Royce's largest university partnership anywhere in the world.


To prepare for anticipated disruptions in the future work place of our graduates, our College of Engineering, College of Science, Nanyang Business School, and College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences have embarked on a bold and ambitious journey to restructure their academic programmes. Beginning in Academic Year 2020, all students in their freshman year will have the opportunity to take foundational courses across Colleges, Schools, degree programmes and across disciplinary boundaries. For example, engineering students will be able to take courses in humanities, social sciences, ethics, communication and business, on top of foundational engineering courses.


Beyond academics, NTU will also expand its emphasis on the holistic development of students. A new leadership programme will be available to undergraduates starting this new academic year. The programme will offer multiple levels of training to enable students to discover and develop their leadership skills and potential.


Last year, we established the new Presidential Post-Doctoral Programme to attract some of the brightest young minds to NTU to engage in our academic activities.  This programme has attracted 894 applications this year from around the world for only 12 positions, making it the most competitive talent attraction scheme in NTU's history.  This programme has also received major endowment support and new collaborations from Sweden's Wallenberg Foundation and matching support from Singapore's Ministry of Education.

Such enhancements to our academic activities have also been accompanied by significant improvements in our administrative services and software systems.


It is inevitable that to succeed in the 21st Century, education and learning for our graduates and our fellow citizens need to be lifelong. You will need to continually upgrade and re-skill to remain relevant and productively employed amid a rapidly changing professional and business environment.  NTU will support you in this journey. We will be offering more graduate diploma programmes to cater to your needs as working adults, in the form of modular, standalone courses that are stackable towards a graduate diploma or a full-fledged Master's degree programme.


Education and research are closely inter-twined in a major research university such as NTU.  During the past year, NTU faculty and staff were able to attract a record volume of research funding support from government and industry, and they published a record number of scholarly articles in the highest-impact journals covering a wide spectrum of fields.  Our research leads to new discoveries and to creation of new knowledge and perspectives, in addition to serving national objectives and addressing global challenges such as ageing populations, climate change, and sustainability.


I thank everyone who has contributed to the development of NTU during the past academic year: Chancellor, the Ministry of Education, Pro-Chancellors, NTU Board of Trustees, Provost, all members of the senior leadership team, the College Deans and School Chairs, faculty, academic and administrative staff, and of course, all students and alumni and their families.


A university's impact is not just reflected in its reputation, research output, employment opportunities for its students, or rankings.  Ultimately, a university's impact is measured by how its alumni contribute to local community, to the country, and to global society, and how they individually and collectively change the world and the human condition for the better. 


Today you join more than 240,000 alumni of NTU in over 150 countries, who are having a profound impact in so many different domains and in so many spheres of professional work.  Do hold your alma mater close to your heart and stay connected with the NTU community. Share with us your latest professional achievements and contributions to society. As an ambassador of NTU, show the world how your NTU education has made an impact in your life and the difference that you make in the lives of others.


On this very important day of your lives, as you celebrate your accomplishments with your teachers, families and friends, many of you will think about your future journey through a successful career and fulfilling life. I would like to conclude my remarks with a poem that describes a successful life.  This quote or poem is from the 19th Century Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson.  I have changed a few words in this quote to make it more relevant to the 21st century.


"That person is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had."


Once again, I would like to congratulate the Graduating Class of 2019. I look forward to watching your journey from here on, and to seeing how you define success for yourself and for NTU in years to come. My very best wishes to all of you.


Thank you.

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