National University of Singapore (NUS) provost Tan Eng Chye, who led the implementation of a number of groundbreaking initiatives, including the University Town residential college programme, was yesterday named the 23rd president of the university.
The mathematician, who is an NUS alumnus and who has been the provost for the past 10 years, will succeed current president Tan Chorh Chuan on Jan 1.
NUS said Professor Tan, 55, who holds a PhD and Master of Science in Mathematics from Yale University, is widely acknowledged as being behind the transformation of NUS into a world-class university, and the chief architect of the university's pioneering educational and academic programmes.
As deputy president (academic affairs) and provost since March 2007, he led the thrust towards technology-enhanced learning and a comprehensive programme to prepare NUS undergraduates to be career-ready.
Describing him as "a home- grown leader" who has been with NUS for 32 years, the university said he is a powerful advocate for global education.
Under his leadership, the proportion of NUS undergraduates who have had overseas educational experience increased to more than 80 per cent. He also underscored the importance of a broad-based education that promotes exploration, curiosity and critical thinking through a comprehensive revamp of the NUS general education curriculum, and by leading the introduction of the grade-free scheme for freshmen.
Prof Tan, who said he was deeply honoured to be tapped for the top position, praised the current president for having affirmed NUS' position as a leading global university.
In order to continue to be among the world's great universities, NUS must continue to innovate, he said.
NUS chairman Hsieh Fu Hua, who chaired the search for the new president, said the incoming president was a "deeply respected academic and a steadfast, open and decisive leader who has a strong passion for NUS".
"Eng Chye has a wide following based on the trust he engenders, and his exceptional ability to inspire people to work together," he said.
NUS also announced the appointment of Professor Ho Teck Hua, 56, as its new senior deputy president and provost from next year.
Prof Ho is among the world's scientific elite that Singapore had been trying for years to entice back to the country.
Two years ago, the behavioural scientist was persuaded to give up his chaired professorship at the University of California, Berkeley to take up the position at NUS of deputy president of research and technology.
He currently heads two national research and development programmes in artificial intelligence and data science.
Prof Tan and Prof Ho - who were hostel mates back in their university days and dub themselves the "Tan-Ho partnership" - plan to make learning in the university more inclusive and flexible, such as by introducing aptitude-based admission and opening up classes for Singaporean members of the public.
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post: "With both at the helm, NUS is in excellent hands."