The family of the late property tycoon Ng Teng Fong has donated $33 million to fund programmes between three Singapore universities and three Chinese universities.
The gift, which will go towards the six institutions' initiatives in research and education, is the single largest donation the Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation has given to the education sector.
To mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China, the universities yesterday signed agreements at The Clifford Pier at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), said at the event that the strengthened partnerships are a result of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Singapore last month.
The institutions and their partners are the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Tsinghua University, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Peking University, as well as Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Zhejiang University.
The tycoon's older son Robert Ng, who represented the foundation, said he hopes the donation will help faculty and students gain more insight into both countries.
"Education is a very important thing for any country. If you don't educate your people, how high can the country go?" said Mr Ng, who is chief executive of property company Sino Group.
The three partnerships each received $11 million for programmes ranging from student exchanges to research in areas such as data analytics, digital manufacturing and sustainability.
For instance, NTU and Peking University will set up a research institute next month to deepen their work in data analytics technologies for smart cities and healthy living.
NTU provost Freddy Boey said the university hopes to also double the number of projects it is carrying out with Peking University - it currently has about six - in these areas.
"Both countries face the same problem - we both have very fast-ageing societies, a limited number of young people to care for (the elderly) - (so it) makes sense for us to solve problems together," he added.
NUS, which first collaborated with Tsinghua University in 1991, has sent about 100 students on exchange stints to the Chinese institution in the past five years. It hopes to increase this number. NUS provost Tan Eng Chye said it wants to send more students to its overseas college in Beijing. During their one-year stint, students attend entrepreneurship classes while serving as interns with technological start-ups.
SUTD, which tied up with Zhejiang University in 2010, will set up a joint centre on both campuses by the middle of next year to focus on work in digital manufacturing, urbanisation and sustainability.
SUTD provost Chong Tow Chong said: "We want to use this platform to eventually nurture future leaders who have the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that can serve as a bridge between Singapore and China."
Said Mr Ong: "We are living in an era where nations make progress by embracing diversity and learning from others, because this process of learning and adaptation makes our own socio-ecosystem much stronger and much more resilient."
This article was first published on December 8, 2015.
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