President Tan awarded honorary doctorate

President Tony Tan Keng Yam was yesterday conferred an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, the University of Adelaide, for his contributions to Singapore's development in scientific research, education and public life.

In accepting the honour, Dr Tan reminisced about his days as a doctoral student here, while elaborating on how Singapore has benefited from its education ties with Australia.

"My wife and I remember fondly the warmth and generosity of our Australian friends and have been looking forward to returning to this beautiful city," Dr Tan said in a speech at the ceremony.

The President, here as part of a six-day state visit to Australia, completed his PhD in applied mathematics at the university in 1968 and, during the three years spent here with his wife Mary, his eldest son was born.

Dr Tan received the honour for his contributions to Singapore's development into a global hub of scientific research and education, and for his "exceptional contribution" to public life.

In his 27 years in political office, Dr Tan helmed the Education and Defence ministries, among others, and also served as deputy prime minister.

University vice-chancellor Warren Bebbington described Dr Tan as "an outstanding advocate for educational and cultural relations between Australia and Singapore, and a true friend of the University of Adelaide".

Dr Tan also received the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005.

In his speech, Dr Tan held up education as one of the key pillars in the countries' bilateral relations.

Singapore is a beneficiary of Australia's open and generous education policy, he said, starting from the 1960s, when Singaporeans went Down Under on the Colombo Plan Scholarship to study.

Many Singaporeans who have studied in Australia have gone on to become industry leaders, politicians and senior government officials, he said. These include Singapore's late former president Ong Teng Cheong and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran, both of whom were also University of Adelaide graduates.

Today, there are more than 6,000 Singaporean students in Australia, and about 130,000 Singaporeans are alumni of universities in the country.

They go to Australia because of the "excellent education standards, diverse range of courses and unique research opportunities", said Dr Tan. The close links extend to the schools and education ministries of both countries, he added, and "Singapore continues to look to Australia for innovative and best practices".

Singapore will explore new ways to collaborate. A New Colombo Plan sending Australian students to schools in Singapore and other countries in the region is an "excellent platform" to strengthen cooperation, he said.

Before he flew to Adelaide, Dr Tan met Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra.

Both agreed that bilateral relations were long-standing and excellent, with cooperation deep and multi-faceted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The two also agreed that both countries should explore opportunities to bring relations to an even higher level.

This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
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