Oral History Collection

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Date of Interview



Patricia Meyer


Singapore Management University, SMU, John Niland, university administration, Singapore education, university admissions, Board of Trustees, Academic Affairs Committee, tenure, Finance and Remuneration Committee, FinREM, QAFU, International Academic Advisory Panel, University education


The interview covered: first involvement with SMU, SMU's Board of Trustees, early priorities of the Board of Trustees, the Academic Affairs Committee, the tenure process at SMU, Finance and Remuneration Committee, admissions criteria, early days at SMU, the role of QAFU, the role of the International Academic Advisory Panel, looking ahead, Singapore's public policy in guiding universities, personal impact, advice for students.


Deputy Chairman, SMU Board of Trustees (2000-2012)

Professor John Niland joined SMU Board of Trustees in 2000 and has been closely involved with SMU's growth and development since then. He served as the Chair of the Finance and Remuneration to oversee budgeting and financial matters. As the Deputy Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, he contributed to determining the strategic direction and setting the standards for academic excellence at SMU.

Professor Niland obtained his Bachelor and Master of Commerce from UNSW and PhD from the University of Illinois. He has held academic positions at Cornell University, Australian National University, and UNSW. He served as a mediator of labour disputes in the US while at Cornell, and in Australia has undertaken extensive academic and policy work in conflict resolution, theory and practice, particularly enterprise bargaining. He is the Professor Emeritus of UNSW and was its fourth Vice Chancellor and President from 1992-2002. Before that he was the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Economics. As the Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, he was the founding director of both Universitas 21 and Australia’s Group of Eight Universities. He also served a term as President of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, and was a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. Professor Niland also held a range of other academic, community and corporate positions.

After leaving the SMU Board of Trustees in 2012, Professor Niland continues to be consulted by SMU, as well as by other university leaders in Australia and Asia.


Asian Studies | Higher Education

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This is an abridged version of the original interview. Please contact SMU Libraries at library@smu.edu.sg for access to the full version of the transcript and/or audio recording.

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