Singapore Increases Funding for Social Sciences and Humanities Research

Dec 15, 2016 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore recently set aside $252 million in research funding over the next five years in social sciences and the humanities.  This is a 45 percent increase in spending in the last five years.

Why the push?  For years, Singapore has focused on STEM research, and while that’s been important, the government of Singapore recognizes the need for social science and humanities research in their growing and ageing nation.  Last January, the government set up a new Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to offer universities specific direction in social sciences and the humanities.  Their major concerns?  Aging and social mobility.

When he announced the funding, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugarathnam said in The Straits Times, “We have to build a stronger core of local researchers and thought leaders in the social sciences and humanities.”  He added, “Our region today is a fascinating and fertile ground for study, but scholarship has not caught up with its growing importance. We can and must build up this scholarship in the region that can inform and spur both policy reform and the initiatives of societal leaders.”

The overall goal?  To improve the quality of life in Singapore and the region.  The Council’s grants will focus on the broad themes of identity-building, social integration and resilience, and the development of new educational models. 

In response to the new funding opportunity, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), one of Singapore’s top institutions of higher education, announced that it would set up two new schools: one for the humanities and one for social sciences.  In a statement, NTU said, “Humanities and social sciences at NTU are poised for further growth. The establishment of the two new schools will enable the strengthening of existing minors such as urban and environmental studies and global Asia, and the introduction of new programs such as science, technology and society, and health and society.”

To hit the ground running, the SSRC is currently working the Social Science Research Council in New York and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. 

Learn more about studying in Singapore

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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