Nanyang Technological University

Singapore Infopedia

by Pattarin Kusolpalin


The Nanyang Technological University was formally established on 1 July 1991 through the merger of the Nanyang Technological Institute and the National Institute of Education, though its origins can be traced to the establishment of Nanyang University in the 1950s.1 As Singapore’s main science and technology university, NTU focuses on providing a research-intensive education that is also well rounded and global in nature. The university offers degrees in engineering, business, science, humanities, arts and social sciences, and medicine. As of 2016, NTU has some 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students from all over the world.2 It has also been ranked the world’s best young university.3

The origins of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) can be traced to the establishment of Nanyang University in the 1950s, which was at the time the world’s only Chinese-medium university outside of China and Taiwan.4

In 1979, Singapore’s economy was slanted towards a high-value, high-technology structure, which saw a demand for skilled and well-trained professionals. The Council on Professional and Technical Education (CTPE), which was set up to examine professional and technical education needs in Singapore, foresaw the shortage of engineers. The CTPE findings sparked off a reorganisation of engineering education at the tertiary level.5

The restructuring resulted in the merger of Nanyang University with the University of Singapore to form the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1980 against the wishes of many Nanyang University supporters. Then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew gave the assurance that within 10 years, the grounds of Nanyang University would be home to a full-fledged university.6

The Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) was subsequently established on 8 August 1981 to “provide higher instruction, training and research in various branches of engineering and technology”.7 NTI set itself apart from NUS by providing hands-on education for practice-oriented engineers. It looked beyond academic background to employ faculty with industry experience.8 Students underwent in-house practical training followed by industrial attachments to obtain work experience.9 By the time the first batch of students graduated in 1985, NTI was named one of the best engineering institutions in the world by the Commonwealth Engineering Council.10

The Nanyang Technological University Bill was passed in Parliament on 22 March 1991,11 and NTU was formally inaugurated on 1 July 1991 through the merger of NTI and NIE.12 Prior to the merger, NTI students were awarded degrees from NUS. Students graduating in the transitioning year of 1991 were given the option of getting a degree awarded by either NUS or NTU. Eighty percent chose an NTU degree.13

In 2004, the University Autonomy, Governance and Funding (UAGF) Steering Committee was established to look into appropriate models of autonomy for Singapore’s publicly funded universities, including NTU, that would enable them to succeed in a more competitive education environment. In 2005, the committee’s recommendations for giving greater autonomy to publicly funded universities were accepted by the government. NTU subsequently became a corporatised, not-for-profit, autonomous university on 1 April 2006.14

Campus development
NTU’s main campus is located on the grounds of the former Nanyang University in Jurong and is accessible via Jalan Bahar and Pioneer Road. The campus has undergone many expansions and renovations since the original NTI complex designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange officially opened on 15 November 1986. NTU currently has 16 halls of residence for undergraduates and a graduate hall.15 The NTI campus was used as a games village to host athletes of the 12th Southeast Asian Games held in May and June 1983.16 In August 2010, the NTU campus also served as the Youth Olympic Village for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.17

Despite the rapid campus expansion, NTU has preserved a number of the original buildings and landmarks belonging to the former Nanyang University. The Nanyang University Administration Building, Nanyang University Memorial and the original Nanyang University Arch were declared national monuments in 1998. While the first two are located on NTU’s present premises, the latter is at Jurong West Street 93, a short distance away, marking the old entrance of Nanyang University.18

Comprehensive global university
Beyond its initial engineering focus, NTI established the School of Accountancy in 1987 by transferring over the accountancy students and faculty from NUS. The move was to help facilitate the transformation of NTI into a full-fledged technological university as well as to complement the engineering courses and provide a more holistic learning environment at the institute.19 It was, however, viewed as part of the national agenda to expose more female undergraduates to their male counterparts at NTI, which was then heavily male-dominated. After the move, the male-to-female ratio at NTI decreased from 9:1 to 2:1.20

In 1988, NTU set up the School of Applied Science and introduced Singapore’s very first computer engineering degree programme the following year. In 1999, NTU launched its very own mini-satellite.21

As part of its expansion drive, NTU set up the School of Biological Sciences in 2001, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2004, followed by the schools of Art, Design and Media as well as Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 2005. By 2006, NTU was the only institute in Singapore to offer double degrees in engineering and business. The Interdisciplinary Graduate School opened in 2012, with the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine established the following year as a partnership between NTU and Imperial College London. Graduates of the latter receive a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) awarded jointly by NTU and Imperial College London. On 4 March 2016, NTU announced that it would be introducing seven new double-major courses – combining arts, social sciences and business subjects leading to a Bachelor of Arts with honours in both majors – in the new academic year.22 The Nanyang Business School’s Master of Business Administration programme is now ranked among the world’s top 100. NTU’s College of Engineering remains one of the world’s largest engineering colleges.23

In March 2017, a second campus of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine was opened on Mandalay Road in Novena.24

1980: NTI Planning and Development Committee is formed with Professor Cham Tao Soon as chairperson.

1981: NTI Bill is passed in Parliament; NTI is formally established on 1 August 1981.
1982: First batch of students is admitted into Civil and Structural, Electrical and Electronic, Mechanical and Production Schools of Engineering.
1985: First batch of 557 students graduates with Bachelor of Engineering degree.
1986: PhD and Masters (Research) programmes are launched.
1987: School of Accountancy is established.
1988: School of Applied Science is established, introducing first computer engineering degree in Singapore.
1991: NTU Bill is passed by Parliament; establishment of NTU on 1 July 1991 with NIE incorporated; NTU starts awarding its own degrees.
2001: Three engineering schools are formed as part of the newly established NTU College of Engineering.
2006: NTU becomes an autonomous university.


1981–1991: Cham Tao Soon (NTI)
1991–2002: Cham Tao Soon
2003–2011: Su Guaning
2011–present: Bertil Andersson

Pattarin Kusolpalin

1. Nanyang Technological University. (2013, October 29). Our history. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:

2. Nanyang Technological University. (2016, January 6). Introduction to NTU. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
3. Davie, S. (2015, November 24). NTU named top young uni in the world again. The Straits Times, p. B3. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
4. Nanyang Technological University. (2013, October 29). Our history. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
5. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA); Lu, S. (1995). The NTU story: The making of a university of industry and business. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 11–12. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 SIN); Liu, F. T. (2015). Thirty years hundred stories: Engineering accomplishments in Singapore as told by the NTI pioneer engineering class of 85. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, p. 212. (Call no.: RSING 620.0095957 LIU)
6. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA)
7. Singapore Statutes Online. (1992, March 9). Nanyang Technological University Act (Chapter 192). Retrieved from Singapore Statutes Online website:;ident=1cbcaf12-9146-4096-8daf-03b1d02e763a;page=0;query=DocId%3A%222003fc72-cbd1-4760-919c-cb30c0a7a5e0%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#legis
8. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA)
9. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA)
10. NTI named as one of best in world. (1985, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Singapore Statutes Online. (1992, March 9). Legislative history: Nanyang Technological University Act (Chapter 192). Retrieved from Singapore Statutes Online website:;ident=33fc5ef3-389e-4020-9b57-da6ec1d2d108;page=0;query=DocId%3A%222003fc72-cbd1-4760-919c-cb30c0a7a5e0%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#xv-
12. Nanyang Technological University. (2013, October 29). Our history. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
13. Nanyang Technological University. (2014, April 7). From first-rate engineering institute to top-ranked global university: The untold inside story of NTU’s earlier years. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
14. Ministry of Education. (2005). NUS, NTU, SMU to become autonomous universities. Retrieved from Ministry of Education website:; Singapore Statutes Online. (2006, December 31). Nanyang Technological University (Corporatisation) Act (Chapter 192A). Retrieved from Singapore Statutes Online website:;ident=abd15df1-dadb-42d1-9bb7-8ea074dd9c6a;page=0;query=DocId%3A%2261079560-5954-46f5-a92d-04f2855cac13%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#legis
15. Nanyang Technological University. (August 2010). Yunnan garden campus master plan. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 4, 17, 19. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:; Milestones. (1986, November 15). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA)
17. Youth Olympic athletes to stay at NTU campus. (2008, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Nantah campus has a part in S’pore history. (1998, March 6). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Dr Tan tells why accountancy school should move to NTI. (1986, March 22). The Straits Times, p. 12; Accountancy school urged to provide consultancy. (1987, July 7). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA)
21. Nanyang Technological University College of Engineering. (2014, June 11). Facts at a glance. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
22. Davie, S. (2016, March 5). NTU expands degree options with eye on top arts students. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website:
23. Nanyang Technological University. (2015). Colleges and schools. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:; Nanyang Technological University. (2016, February 29). About NTU. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:
24. Toh, W. L. (2017, March 3). Mega Novena campus for NTU medical students to train in. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website:
25. Cham, T. S. (2014). The making of NTU: My story. Singapore: Straits Times Press, pp. 78–79. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 CHA); Nanyang Technological University. (2014, June 11). Facts at a glance. Retrieved from Nanyang Technological University website:

Further resources
Goh, H. F. (2005). First: In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the pioneer graduates of 1985: Nanyang Technological Institute (1981–1991), Nanyang Technological University (1991–present). Singapore: Miles Media Editions.

(Call no.: RSING 378.5957 GOH)

Nanyang Technological University. (2001). Challenging boundaries: Breaking barriers: Nanyang Technological University, 20th anniversary, 1981–2001. Singapore: The University.
(Call no.: RSING 378.5957 NAN)

Nanyang Technological University. (2002). Coming of age: The NTU story part II. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University.
(Call no.: RSING 378.5957 COM)

The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to 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.

More to Explore

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)


The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Transport. Set up on 1 September 1984, the mission of this statutory board is to develop Singapore into an international aviation hub. The board’s responsibilities include maintaining and managing Singapore’s airports, providing air traffic control...

First drawdown of national reserves


Singapore’s national reserves, or net assets, are a vital strategic resource for the country, and are therefore strictly protected by the Constitution. Specifically, the Constitution safeguards the portion deemed to be “past reserves” – reserves that were not accumulated by the government during its current term of office – by...

Woolley Report on the state of education, 1870


On 29 December 1869, then Governor Harry Ord appointed a select committee chaired by Colonel R. Woolley to look into the state of education in the Straits Settlements, which comprised Singapore, Melaka and Penang. The resultant “Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council to Enquire into the State...

Young Men’s Christian Association


The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Singapore is located at 1 Orchard Road. Founded on the same Christian principles as its parent in Britain, the YMCA was officially established in Singapore on 30 June 1903. In its early years, the organisation was instrumental in providing members with access to...

Li Lienfung


Li Lienfung (???) (b. 1923, Shanghai, China–d. 3 August 2011, Singapore) was a chemist and writer. She worked in the Wah Chang group of companies started by her father, Li Kuo Ching, with her huband Ho Ri Hwa, a prominent businessman and former ambassador. As a writer, she was known...

Racial Harmony Day


Racial Harmony Day is an annual event held on 21 July to commemorate the communal riots of 1964 and teach students the importance of maintaining racial and religious harmony in Singapore’s multicultural and multi-ethnic society. It was launched in 1997 as part of the National Education programme conducted by the...

St Margaret's School


St Margaret’s School is the oldest girls’ school in Singapore. It was founded in 1842 by Maria Dyer of the London Missionary Society, who had sought to provide a home and education for young girls who would otherwise be sold to rich families as domestic servants. The school was originally...

Chan Kim Boon


Chan Kim Boon (b. 1851, Penang–d. 1920, Singapore?) is a Peranakan who gained fame with his Baba Malay translations of Chinese classics such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin....

Lee Wee Nam


Lee Wee Nam (b. 1881, Theng Hai, Guangdong, China–d. 24 January 1964, Singapore) was an eminent entrepreneur and community leader. Better known as Wee Nam Yia, a title given by the Teochews to a distinguished man of high position, Lee was the chairman and managing director of Sze Hai Tong...

Seah Eu Chin


Seah Eu Chin (???; She Youjin) (b. 1805, Guangdong, China–d. 23 September 1883, Singapore) was a wealthy Teochew merchant who made his fortune from the cultivation of pepper and gambier. A prominent member of the Chinese community in early colonial Singapore, Seah is also well known as the founder of...