Nanyang Technological University (NTU) president Bertil Andersson was awarded an honorary doctorate by Tianjin University yesterday in recognition of his "outstanding contributions in academia" and for fostering ties between the two institutions.
Professor Andersson is the first person from Singapore to receive an honorary doctorate from Tianjin University and the first university president among its partner institutions to be given the honour.
The award also makes Prof Andersson - a renowned plant biochemist - one of the few people from Singapore to have received the rare honour from China, where such degrees undergo a strict selection process.
Previous recipients from Singapore included founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who received an honorary doctorate from Fudan University in 2005, and President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who received the honour from Tianjin's Nankai University earlier this year.
Tianjin University is one of the oldest and largest multi-disciplinary engineering universities in China. Yesterday's ceremony was held in conjunction with the institution's 120th anniversary.
In his citation, Tianjin University president Li Jiajun highlighted the long-standing relationship between the two institutions and described Prof Andersson as "very unique and special".
Since the Swede took over at NTU in 2011, the two universities have set up joint virtual research centres in new media, environmental sciences and engineering, among others, and have undertaken joint projects on green electronics.
In his acknowledgement speech, Prof Andersson said he was humbled and honoured, and hoped the two universities would continue their cooperation. "As an analogy, I said we are engaged to be married - that means that we already have a lot in common but we also can develop a lot more."
Separately, he gave a talk to over 350 Tianjin University students and staff and is set to take part in a university presidents' roundtable.
Moving forward, Prof Andersson told The Straits Times both universities may explore building a joint research centre for areas such as water and waste management issues, on which they are already collaborating. "We know Singapore is very engaged here in Tianjin and its Eco-city, so there are many grounds to explore for further collaboration."