Nanyang University

Nanyang University (simplified Chinese: 南洋大学; traditional Chinese: 南洋大學; pinyin: Nányáng Dàxué, abbreviated Nantah, 南大) was a university in Singapore from 1956 to 1980. During its existence, it was Singapore's only private university in the Chinese language. It was only until 2005 that SIM University, another Singapore private University was established. In 1980, Nanyang University was merged with the University of Singapore to form the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Nanyang University
MottoPeople, Progress and Productivity
Active1956–1980 (Merged with University of Singapore to form National University of Singapore)
FounderTan Lark Sye
1°20′33.9526″N 103°40′57.0083″E
500 acres (2 km²)



The idea of a Chinese university in Singapore to provide higher education to the Chinese community was first mooted by Tan Lark Sye in 1953, then chairman of the Singapore Hokkien Association. A fund was set up for this purpose, drawing donations from people of all walks of life and with Tan himself donating $5 million. The Singapore Hokkien Association donated 500 acres (2 km²) in the western Jurong area, which was then largely undeveloped rural land.[1]

Nanyang University conducted a flag-raising on 15 March 1956 and started classes on the 30th of that month, offering courses in the arts, sciences and commerce. The first phase of the university building programme was completed two years later, and the university held its official opening ceremony 30 March 1958, with the Governor of Singapore William Goode as guest of honour.[1]

Merger with the University of Singapore

In 1970s, Nanyang University encountered problems in student enrolments as many students were attending English-language schools. Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew prompted the university to adopt English language within five years. Subsequently in the same year in March, a joint campus scheme was introduced to allow students from Nanyang University to jointly study with students from the University of Singapore.[1]

In 1979, Lee invited British academic Frederick Dainton to present his views on the future of university education in Singapore. He suggested merging Nanyang University and the University of Singapore into the latter's campus at Kent Ridge. His proposal gained the support of the government and, in April 1980, the merger was confirmed.[1]

Nanyang University's 21st and last convocation was held on the 16 August 1980. That same month, the National University of Singapore Act took effect, legally merging the University of Singapore and Nanyang University to form the National University of Singapore (NUS).[1]

The three circles in the logo represent values long held to be important in Chinese tradition. They represent a trinity of values: people, progress and productivity. The linking shows the interdependence between the need for people to work together productively and achieve progress. This symbol can now be seen in the National University of Singapore's crest. The circle with the yellow star represents "people," signifying the importance placed on human capital in Singapore.

Relationship with Nanyang Technological University

After Nanyang University was merged with the University of Singapore, the grounds formerly occupied by Nanyang University were occupied by a similarly-named technical institute, the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI), in 1981. In 1991, the NTI was upgraded to the status of a university as Singapore's second English-medium university and became the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Chinese Heritage Centre

In 1995, the former Nanyang University Library and Administration Building was reopened as the Chinese Heritage Centre, an autonomous research institute of Nanyang Technological University. It was the first and only university institute in the world that specializes in the study of the ethnic Chinese communities from different parts of the world. It currently served as a research centre, a library and a museum.

Proposed renaming of Nanyang Technological University as Nanyang University

The NTU administration announced in 2003 a decision to rename Nanyang Technological University as Nanyang University by 2005, justifying the move based on the university's introduction of non-technology-related schools and its expansion into a full multidisciplinary university.[2] In 2004, the administration announced that the renaming would be held off, citing a need to establish itself in other fields of study first.[3]

List of former Nanyang University Chancellors

Name Term start Term end Notes
Lin Yutang 林語堂 1954 1955 Began term on 2 October 1954, resigned on 3 April 1955
Zhang Tianze 張天澤 1956 1959 Chairman of the Management Board. Nanyang University set up its Management Board as the highest administrative body on 5 March 1956, with Dr. Zhang as its chairman presiding over school affairs and taking over the duties of the President.
Chuang Chu Lin 莊竹林 1960 1964 Vice-Chancellor
Liu Konggui 劉孔貴 1964 1965 Interim chairman of the Management Board. Zhuang resigned on 1 July 1964, and the University set up an interim Management Board on 8 July with Prof Liu as chairman, presiding over school affairs.
Huang Yingrong 黃應榮 1965 1969 Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor
Rayson Huang 黃麗松 1969 1972 Chancellor
Hsueh Shou Sheng 薛壽生 1972 1975 Chancellor
Lee Chiaw Meng 李昭铭 1975 1976 Vice Chancellor
Wu Teh Yao 吳德耀 1976 1977 Acting Chancellor
Lu Yao 卢曜 1968 1977 Vice-Chancellor (Administrative). From 15 August 1977, the position of Chancellor was vacant and a special committee was set up to manage the university. Chen Zhuqiang 陈祝强 served as University Secretary, and carried out the decisions of the committee. On 7 July 1980, Nanyang University was closed and merged into the new National University of Singapore.


  • Journal of Nanyang University, Volumes 5-6. Contributor 南洋大學. 新加坡南洋大學. 1971. Retrieved 24 April 2014.CS1 maint: others (link)

See also


  1. Board, National Library. "Nanyang University". National Library Board. Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  2. Lee, Jane (29 March 2003). "NTU set to drop that middle T". Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017 via NewspaperSG.
  3. Cheong, Yvonne (12 July 2004). "Nanyang Technological University's name to remain for now". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 12 August 2004.
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