Singapore | University of Oxford
The skyline of Singapore
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Strong and broad ranging relations between Oxford and Singapore have been built over a number of years. Singapore is one of Oxford’s largest sources of students and increasingly important as a research collaborator. Since the 1960s, the Singapore government has funded more than three hundred undergraduate students to study at Oxford and many more have come independently or supported by other funding, for both undergraduate and graduate study.

Today, Oxford and Singapore are working together on a number of new initiatives, including research partnerships such as A*STAR-Oxford Partnership and the Singapore, Peking and Oxford Research Enterprise for Water Eco-Efficiency (SPORE).

Asian Studies Centre

The study of Singapore currently takes place in the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College. Geographically, the Centre predominantly covers South, Southeast and East Asia. It works closely with scholars in the Oriental Institute.

In March 2013, Oxford will host the 2nd Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium organised by Project Southeast Asia, run by a number of leading academics focused on Southeast Asia at Oxford, which will look at contemporary and trans-regional issues in the region, and will be a forum for interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations.

The Oxford University Internship Programme

For students who are not studying subjects related to Singapore but who wish to become acquainted with the country and its culture, the Oxford University Internship Programme offers students the chance to spend a summer during their studies working in Singapore. In 2012, students were offered the chance to apply for internships at the Tanglin Trust School, Hwa Chong Institution and A*Star (Agency For Science, Technology And Research) in Singapore.

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Oxford University’s collaborations with Singapore occur both at the level of broad and wide ranging partnership between institutions and in the form of specific research collaborations between faculty members.

SPORE for Water Eco-Efficiency

Oxford has joined with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Peking to form the Singapore, Peking and Oxford Research Enterprise (SPORE) for Water Eco-Efficiency which aims to develop sustainable water technologies. Academics in Engineering and Chemistry at Oxford, NUS and Peking will engage in joint research projects and jointly supervise ten postgraduate research students studying for an Oxford doctorate. This collaboration will help to develop new ways to conserve and protect precious water resources, and offer exciting new opportunities for young scientists and engineers.

A*STAR-Oxford Partnership

In 2009 Oxford began a new collaboration with A*STAR, the Singaporean government Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, which is charged with fostering world-class scientific research for Singapore. The A*STAR-Oxford Partnership (AOP) includes a graduate scholarship programme for Singaporean students to study for an Oxford DPhil. Students on the programme experience two outstanding research cultures as they spend two years in doctoral studies at an A*STAR research institute and another two years at the University of Oxford. The programme builds on existing collaborations between Oxford and A*STAR academics and is also helping new collaborations to develop. In October 2009 the first three students began their studies under the programme.


The Oxford Institute of Ageing has been working with Singapore’s Council for Third Age (C3A) since 2009 in an innovative three year collaboration to assist the Singapore government in its ongoing development of national policies on “active ageing”. The Programme comprises the Annual Oxford-Singapore Workshop on Ageing, held in Singapore to train future leaders from government, NGOs, civil society and health professions in the area of gerontology. There is then further Oxford-based training for researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the field.

Collaborations into Genetic Susceptibility to Infection and Diseases

The Genetic Susceptibility to Infection programme in Oxford’s Jenner Institute leads studies aimed at identifying the genes that underlie individual differences in susceptibility to major infectious diseases of the developing world. There have been many links between this group and collaborators in Singapore:

Chiea Khor, a former DPhil student in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, is currently Senior Research Scientist and Principal Investigator at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS.) He is starting his own research laboratory supported by the A*STAR programme. Recent research published by Oxford and his team has identified key genetic variants that increase susceptibility to several infectious diseases – including tuberculosis and malaria. The variations in DNA sequence identified by the scientists occur within a single gene involved in the body’s immune response to infectious disease. This finding could lead the way to greater understanding of the role of this particular gene in disease susceptibility and even to the development of new vaccines.

Professor Yik Ying Teo, recently of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford, is now an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Ongoing work with Professor Teo aims to develop better statistical methods to analyse infectious disease susceptibility.

Also working on genetic factors behind disease susceptibility, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Vietnam Research Programme and Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, together with researchers from the Genome Institute of Singapore, have identified two gene variants associated with increased susceptibility to severe dengue. This finding opens up new avenues for understanding and developing a vaccine for the disease. This could go on to have a great impact because dengue is globally the most common mosquito-borne infection after malaria and kills an estimated 100 million people per year.

Material Sciences

Researchers from the Department of Materials have been working alongside colleagues in the Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore (NUS) on a range of collaborations relating to quantum properties of materials.

A team of researchers have been studying an unexpected subject matter - birds. The team have discovered the ways in which certain birds may actually be able to see the earth magnetic fields. It has long been known that birds can detect the earth’s magnetism in some form to help them navigate on long migratory flights, but this cutting edge research has shown that certain birds may have a form of compass view layered on top of their normal vision. This finding could go on to be a powerful model for engineered magnetometers; for instance a compass that is integrated into a contact lens.

In another quantum science collaboration, a team of researchers from Oxford and NUS have found that by attaching an ‘amplifier’ molecule to the tip of a diamond, they are able to turn it into a tool for locating and identifying individual atoms.


Oxford and the National University of Singapore (NUS) are both members of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), an alliance of ten of the world’s leading research universities. One of the flagship initiatives of IARU is the Global Summer Programme (GSP) at Oxford which always includes members from NUS.

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There are 206 Singaporean students currently studying at Oxford, making Singapore the 7th largest source of non-European students for the University. Singapore is currently the third-largest source of international undergraduates at Oxford, a remarkable achievement for a city-state with the world’s 115th largest population. There is a greater proportion of the Singaporean population studying at Oxford than any country outside the British Isles. The majority of Singaporeans at Oxford are full-time undergraduates, with the remainder being fairly evenly split between postgraduate research and postgraduate taught courses.

More than half of the Singaporean undergraduate students at Oxford study courses in the Social Sciences and the next largest cohort studies subjects related to the Medical Sciences. Top courses studied by Singaporean undergraduates at Oxford are: Jurisprudence, PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), and Economics and Management. Postgraduate students are spread fairly evenly between the Social Sciences, Medical Sciences and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences. There are a number of scholarships available to Singaporean students wising to pursue studies at Oxford. The Singapore Public Service Commission offers scholarships for outstanding young men and women who want to serve Singapore through a career in the Singaporean Civil Service. Oxford is delighted to welcome ten of the 61 scholars from the 2012 round of awards: five studying law, three studying PPE, one in economics and one in engineering science

Oxford University Malaysian and Singaporean Students' Association

The Oxford University Malaysian and Singaporean Students' Association (OUMSSA) provides support for Singaporean and Malaysian students studying at Oxford and there are a number of societies dedicated to the wider region including the Oxford Asia-Pacific Society (OUAPS) and the Oxford Majlis Asian Society - the second oldest student society at the University and the oldest Asian student society in the world


Oxford currently has ten Singaporean academics and research staff among its faculty.

Professor John Quah

Professor John Quah is Professor of Economic Theory and a fellow of St Hugh’s College. His research interests are in monotone comparative statics, revealed preference analysis, demand theory, and general equilibrium theory. He is an associate editor of two academic journals in economics: Economic Theory and the Journal of Mathematical Economics.

Professor Quah was born and raised in Singapore. He graduated with first class honours in Mathematics from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and received his Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley. He joined Oxford as a lecturer in the Economics Department in 1996 and was an ESRC Research Fellow for three years between 2001 and 2004. He visits NUS regularly as a Visiting Professor.

Professor Luke Ong

Professor Luke Ong is Professor of Computer Science, Director of Graduate Studies at the Department of Computer Science, and a Fellow of Merton College. His research interests revolve around logical methods in computation and include the semantics of computation (especially game semantics), infinite systems, software model checking, and formal analysis of programming languages.

Professor Ong was born in Singapore and read Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, before obtaining his PhD in Computer Science from Imperial College, London. After a lectureship at the NUS (1990-1992) and a research fellowship at Cambridge (1992-1993), he moved to a lectureship at Oxford in 1994, and was made professor in 2004.


With well over 1,000 Oxonians, Singapore boasts the 9th largest international concentration of Oxford alumni. Many are active in the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Singapore (Oxbridge Singapore) which promotes social contact among Oxbridge alumni through organising more than 12 events each year. These include speaker events, dinners, lectures, receptions, and an annual Boat Race Dinner and Ball with its neighbouring Oxbridge alumni society in Malaysia.

Famous Singaporean alumni in politics include:

  • Mr Raymond Lim Siang Keat, Singaporean Minister for Transport and the Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Calvin Cheng, Nominated Member of the Singapore Parliament and a leading Asian modelling mogul
  • Chen Show Mao, Singaporean Rhodes Scholar, corporate lawyer and Singapore Member of Parliament
  • Mr Eddie Teo, Chairman, Public Service Commission
  • Mrs Ow Foong Pheng, Second Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Lieutenant-General Desmond Kuek Bak Chye, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, immediate past Chief of Defence Force

Singaporean alumni in business and finance include:

  • Mr Ronnie Tay, former Chief of Navy, current CEO of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
  • Professor Lim Chong Yah, past President of the Economic Society of Singapore and former Chairman of the National Wages Council
  • Mr Michael Hwang, Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

Alumni from Singapore in sports and academia include:

  • Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Deputy Chairman of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
  • Thum Ping Tjin, better known as PJ, Singaporean Olympic Swimmer and the first Singaporean and first Oxford graduate to swim the English Channel.