Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Singapore Infopedia


Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) began in 1963 as Ngee Ann College, an independent institute of higher learning set up by Ngee Ann Kongsi. Offering four-year degree courses in commerce and technology, Ngee Ann College aimed to become a university. However, the private college was restructured during the 1960s and 1970s into a public institution providing education at the diploma level to meet the demand for skilled technical workers. The college was renamed Ngee Ann Technical College (NATC) in 1968 to reflect its new identity. Then, in 1982, NATC was officially recognised as a polytechnic, and its name was changed to Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Ngee Ann College (1963–68)
From the 1950s, Chinese-educated students in Singapore found it increasingly difficult to go to China for further studies, because of the political turmoil and the rise of communism there.1 At the same time, these students were unable to enrol in local tertiary institutions in Singapore set up by the colonial government, since entry into these institutions required them to have a minimum level of English proficiency, a language that many were unfamiliar with.2 The lack of opportunities soon created a gap in their education.

The idea to establish an independent college of technology and commerce was first proposed in May 1961 by Ngee Ann Kongsi under the presidency of banker Lien Ying Chow. The government approved the proposal,3 and Lien was appointed chairman of the board of governors of Ngee Ann College.4 By January 1963, the college had acquired a 100-acre (0.4 sq km) site along Bukit Timah Road, and construction for the school building was soon underway.5Until the new campus was ready, however, Ngee Ann College shared the premises of the new Teochew Building on Tank Road with Tuan Mong School.6

In January and February 1963, the college opened application for its seven courses – accountancy, business administration, Chinese language, Malay language, applied chemistry, telecommunications and domestic science – under the divisions of language, commerce and technology.7 Except for the Malay language course, all other courses were taught in English and Mandarin.8 The first cohort of Ngee Ann College students began their academic year on 16 April 1963, with 311 full-time and 122 part-time evening students.9

At the college’s inauguration ceremony on 25 May 1963, Lien revealed Ngee Ann Kongsi’s eventual plan to develop the college into a full-fledged university.10 An expansion plan was proposed in 1964. The first phase involved the construction of the College of Technology and roads within the new campus site, while the second phase was the construction of the College of Commerce and College of Arts, a library, a communal hall and student hostel facilities.11

However, disagreement within the kongsi’s management resulted in the suspension of construction in May 1965.12 The suspension was met with heavy opposition from the students who had hoped that the college would become a university. As a result, the students held a massive boycott of classes in June and July 1965.13 This led to an inquiry commission headed by Thong Saw Pak, then head of the physics department in the University of Malaya, to study the running of the college and its future development.14The review committee released its report (also known as the Thong Saw Pak report) on 7 October 1966.15 A key recommendation was to convert Ngee Ann College into a public institution to train commercial and industrial technicians at the diploma level.16 Instead of being fully dependent on Ngee Ann Kongsi, the institution was to be governed by a council comprising the principal and members representing Ngee Ann Kongsi, the Ministry of Education, the Economic Development Board, the college senate, and commercial and industrial interests.17 The report was rejected by the student body, who saw the proposals as retrogressive and detrimental to the development of the college and Chinese higher education.18 The situation escalated into a 26-day student sit-in that ended in a crackdown and expulsion of 81 students from the college in November 1966.19

Based on the recommendations of the Thong Saw Pak report, the Ngee Ann College Act was passed in parliament on 7 September 1967, altering the status of the college from a private to a public educational institution.20 Then, on 22 August 1968, the college changed its name to Ngee Ann Technical College (NATC) to reflect its new focus.21 In accordance with the Act, the college was formally transferred from Ngee Ann Kongsi to the Council of Ngee Ann Technical College on 19 September 1968. That same year, the college shifted from Teochew Building to its new campus on Clementi Road.22

Ngee Ann Technical College (1968–82)
The reorganisation of NATC was in line with the shift in Singapore’s education system towards technical and vocational training to support industrialisation. All degree courses in NATC were phased out and replaced with three-year diploma courses in industry and commerce.23 The last batch of degree students graduated in 1970.24

NATC began the new academic year in April 1970 offering technician diploma courses in mechanical engineering, industrial electronics, and commerce.25 In addition, the introduction of English as the medium of instruction paved the way for non-Chinese students to be admitted into NATC from 1971.26

Preparing for increased student intake, NATC embarked on its first five-year expansion plan in 1971, which entailed the construction of workshops and laboratories, extension of the library and canteen, as well as classrooms, lecture theatres, staff offices and other campus facilities.27 The new S$15-million complex was declared open on 14 July 1978 by then Minister for National Development Lim Kim San.28

By 1980, enrolment had grown to some 3,000 students across five academic departments: Building, Business Studies, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Shipbuilding and Repair Technology.29 There were also four academic support units: English Language, Mathematics and Science, Educational Technology, and the Library.30

Given that NATC had been conducting diploma courses and its standard was seen to be on par with Singapore Polytechnic, a name change was proposed to more accurately reflect the college’s status.31 With the passing of the Ngee Ann Technical College (Amendment) Act on 3 March 1982, Ngee Ann Technical College was renamed Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP).32

Ngee Ann Polytechnic (1982 – present)
At the turn of the decade, a tight labour market and rising wages led to a shift from low-skilled, labour-intensive manufacturing towards more capital-intensive, higher-technology industries. Technical and vocational education was likewise upgraded to ensure the quality and competitiveness of the Singapore workforce. NP continued to expand its premises, facilities, equipment, student enrolment and diploma programmes in the 1980s.

NP commenced its second five-year expansion plan in 1982.33 In keeping with the national drive to raise productivity through computerisation, a key component of the expansion programme was the establishment of a Centre for Computer Studies, which would support the new diploma course in computer studies.34 The expansion programme also included the upgrading and construction of teaching facilities, offices, campus infrastructure, a staff residential complex and a sports complex.35 The curricula of the five academic departments were also revised to be more practical and relevant to the needs of industries.36

Another significant development was the establishment of the Continuing Education Centre on 2 January 1985 to provide working professionals and diploma holders with opportunities for further education and skills upgrading.37 On 25 October 1986, the S$300-million expansion of the NP campus was opened by then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.38

Having rapidly expanded its facilities and enrolled some 9,600 students by August 1986, NP turned its attention to consolidating and improving its quality of education.39 NP’s mission was to provide quality education and training below the degree level in the commercial and technical fields for the technological, economic and social development of Singapore, and to be a recognised centre of academic excellence.40 To that end, NP launched a five-year strategic plan (1986–91) focusing on five areas: graduate output; teaching, management and administration; learning environment and resources; keeping abreast with changing technologies for industry and commerce; and learning environment and resources.41

By its 25th anniversary in 1988, NP had over 10,000 students enrolled across six academic departments: Building, Business Studies and Accountancy, Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Shipbuilding and Offshore Engineering.42

Further broadening its course offerings, NP introduced the Diploma in Mass Communication in June 1989, to train students for positions in broadcasting and print journalism, advertising, public relations, radio and television production, and related areas. A new radio and television complex with studio facilities and equipment was built and opened on 27 November 1990.43

To deepen its links with the industry and support the upgrading of local enterprises, a Ngee Ann Industry Technology Exchange Centre (NITEC), supported by the Economic Development Board, was launched on 12 November 1990. NITEC provided a formal channel for local businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, to access the expertise and resources of NP through consultancy services, technology transfer and training.44

In keeping with the move towards higher-value-added industries, the Department of Biotechnology was formed in 1992.45 A laboratory complex comprising five laboratories and a roof-top greenhouse with aeroponic and hydroponic systems had been completed earlier in 1990 to provide comprehensive facilities for the course.46

Two more phases of campus expansion were carried out in 1990 and 1992.47 In 1994, NP focused on the redevelopment of existing facilities, and the repair and upgrade of older buildings.48

NP’s mission in the mid-1990s was to nurture enterprising professionals for the economy. The Technopreneurship and Design Centre was set up in December 1995 to cultivate innovation, design and entrepreneurship among students. The centre provided training and a setting for students and staff to develop their ideas and turn them into marketable products.49

In 1997, a character education curriculum, NPlus, was introduced. Its programmes included Productivity and Quality Studies, Physical Education, National Education, Social and Community Values.50

In 2001, NP launched the Ngee Ann Learning Model, a broad-based interdisciplinary approach to learning to prepare students for lifelong employability in the knowledge-based economy.51 Fully implemented in March 2003, the approach allowed students to learn beyond their core academic disciplines and acquire soft skills.52 Students could choose from 96 interdisciplinary modules in five categories: communication, entrepreneurship, life skills, media and the arts, and science and technology.53

NP has continuously evolved and adapted to meet the changing needs of the economy. As at 2020, NP has over 14,000 students enrolled across 36 fulltime diploma courses in eight academic schools: Business and Accountancy, Design and Environment, Engineering, Film and Media Studies, Health Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, Infocomm Technology, and Life Sciences and Chemical Technology.54

Janice Loo

1. Cui Guiqiang崔贵强, Xinma huaren guojia rentong de zhuanxiang, 1945–1959新马华人国家认同的转向,1945–1959 [The turn of Chinese national identity in Singapore and Malaysia, 1945–1959] (Singapore: 新加坡青年书局, 2007), 107–62. (Call no. RSEA 305.895105957 CGQ)
2. Saravanan Gopinathan, Towards a National System of Education in Singapore 1945–1973. Singapore: Oxford University Press,1974), 2–12, 39. (Call no. RING 379.5957 GOP)
3. Sumiko Tan, Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the Next Millennium, trans. Goh Sin Teck (Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, 2005) 73–74. (Call no. RSING 366.095957 NGE)
4. “All Students Welcome at Ngee Ann College,” Straits Times, 11 August 1962, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “College to Spend Millions on Expansion,” Straits Times, 31 January 1963, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Chaozhou dasha gongcheng wanjun jinri juxing luocheng dianlǐ” 潮州大厦工程完竣近日举行落成典礼 [Teochew Building project completed, inauguration ceremony held recently], Sin Chew Jit Poh星洲日报, 25 May 1963, 6. (Microfilm NL 3479)
7. “College Calls for Candidates,” Straits Times, 9 January 1963, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “College Looks for Staff,” Straits Times, 21 August 1962, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
9 Lim Beng Tee, “A Surprise Gift,” Straits Times, 26 May 1963, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Yian daxue jiang dansheng” 义安大学将诞生 [Ngee Ann university to be born], Minbao民报, 25 May 1963, 6 (Microfilm NL 2859); Lim, “A Surprise Gift.” 
11. “Ngee Ann College Plans Big Building Project,” Straits Times, 3 July 1964, 6. (From NewspaperSG); Lim Kok Hua, The Ngee Ann Story: The First 25 Years 1963–1988 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1988), 27. (Call no. RSING 378.5957 NGE)
12. “Policy Rift Halts Ngee Ann College Extension,” Straits Times, 27 May 1965, 6; “Ngee Ann Board of Governors Quit in Protest,” Straits Times, 3 June 1965, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Lim Beng Tee, “1,000 Call for Resumption of Extension Job – Ngee Ann Row: A Protest by Students,” Straits Times, 5 June 1965, 5; “Ngee Ann Students Continue Their Boycott,” Straits Times, 6 July 1965, 6 (From NewspaperSG); Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 29–31.
14. “Ngee Ann Kongsi to Inquire Into Running of the College,” Straits Times, 1 July 1965, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “‘Freedom’ for Ngee Ann College Call,” Straits Times, 6 October 1966, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Thong Saw Pak, Report (Singapore: Committee of Review on the Future Development of Ngee Ann College, 1966). (Call no. RCLOS 378.5951 SIN); “‘Freedom’ for Ngee Ann College Call.”
17. Thong, Report; “A ‘Proper Footing’ for Ngee Ann,” Straits Times, 17 March 1967, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Ngee Ann Students Reject the Thong Report,” Straits Times, 11 October 1966, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Wan Seng Yip and Han Hai Fong, “Crackdown on Students,” Straits Times, 20 November 1966, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Stop Press,” Straits Times, 20 November 1966, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 33–34.
20. Parliament of Singapore, Ngee Ann College Bill: Third Reading, vol. 26 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 8 September 1967 (Singapore: Govt. Printer), 236–37 (Call no. RCLOS 328.5957 SIN v.26 Jul–Dec 67)
21. “Ngee Ann College Attains Full Autonomy,” Straits Times, 12 August 1968, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 41–42.
23. “Technical Studies Only at Ngee Ann College,” Straits Times, 31 March 1970, 5. (From NewspaperSG); Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 39.
24. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 44; “The Last 134 Degrees from Ngee Ann,” Straits Times, 12 April 1970, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 44.
26. “Ngee Ann Opens Door to Non-Chinese Students,” Straits Times, 18 February 1971, 5 (From NewspaperSG); “15 Malays, Indian Admitted to Ngee Ann College,” Straits Times, 2 April 1971, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 47–49; “Highlights of Ngee Ann Tech’s $11 Mil Master Plan,” Straits Times, 15 November 1971, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
28. “Lim to Open $15 m Ngee Ann Complex,” New Nation, 11 July 1978, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Majority of Students Opt for Technical Courses,” (1978, July 15). Business Times, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 58, 71.
30. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 58.
31. Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 74; “Renaming of Ngee Ann Technical College,” Straits Times, 20 March 1982, 8. (From NewspaperSG); Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1981–82 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1982), 2. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
32. Ngee Ann Technical College (Amendment) Act 1982, Act 4 of 1982,Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 13. (Call no. RCLOS 348.5957 SIN)
33. Ng Weng Hoong, “Expanded Ngee Ann Polytechnic Ready by 1986,” Straits Times, 10 December 1982, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
34. Wong Souk Yee, “Ngee Ann to Set Up Unit for Computer Studies,” Business Times, 20 March 1982, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Ngee Ann Polytechnic,  Annual Report 1981–82, 7.
35. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1981–82, 3; Lim, Ngee Ann Story, 77–83.
36. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1981–82, 5–7.
37. Now known as the Continuing Education & Training (CET) Academy. “About CET,” Ngee Ann Polytechnic, accessed 20 September 2020; Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1984–85 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1985), 26. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
38. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1986–87 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1987), 6, 35. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
39. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1985–86 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1986), 4. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR]); “Ngee Ann’s Five Goals for a Quality Education,” Straits Times, 21 August 1986, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
40. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Our Story: To Commemorate the Official Opening, Oct. 25, 1986 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1986), 23. (Call no. RSING 378.5957 NGE)
41. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1986–87, 9; “Ngee Ann’s Five Goals for a Quality Education”; Richard Ng, “Blueprint for Academic Excellence,” Straits Times, 25 October 1986, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
42. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1987–88 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1988), 12, 18–22. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
43. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1990–91 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1991), 26. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
44. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1990–91, 30.
45. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1992–93 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1993), 25. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
46. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1990–91, 20.
47. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 1990–91, 38.
48. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1994–95 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1995), 43. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
49. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1995–96 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1996), 37. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
50. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 1997–98 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 1998), 14. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
51. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 2001–2002 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 2002), 10, 20. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR]); Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 2002–2003 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 2003), 13. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
52. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 2002–2003, 18; Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Annual Report 2003–2004 (Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 2004), 5, 32. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 NATCAR-[AR])
53 Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Annual Report 2001–2002, 10.
54 “Our Story,” Ngee Ann Polytechnic, accessed 12 May 2020; “Diplomas,” Ngee Ann Polytechnic, accessed 7 January 2021.

The information in this article is valid as at January 2021 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Rights Statement

The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.