Oral History Collection

Publication Type


Date of Interview



Patricia Meyer


Singapore Management University, SMU, Tan Chin Tiong, history, university founding, beginnings, Singapore higher education, education policy, business schools, Tony Tan, Ho Kwon Ping, Tan Teck Meng, third university, John Yip, concept paper, Janice Bellace, Ron Frank, Howard Hunter, research university, teaching university, student enrollment numbers, Ministry of Education MOE, student qualities, industry feedback, business and IT, School of Information Systems, university curriculum, interdisciplinary, IT savvy, private university, high degree of autonomy, exceed expectations, success in attracting students, holistic curriculum, university administration, university admissions, interviews for admissions, other criteria for admissions, National University of Singapore NUS, Nanyang Technological University NTU, Singapore Institute of Management SIM, marketing, university curriculum, pedagogy, student development, non-passive learning, confident graduates, eloquent speakers, teaching style, autonomous university, successful experiment, quality of graduates, critical thinking, challenge norms, small size, Juris Doctor programme, study missions, thought leadership, Wharton School, city campus, advertising campaign, Singapore brand, overseas education fairs, Wharton-SMU Research Centre, community service, overseas exchange programs, accounting school, practice track faculty, research track faculty, economics school, law school, provost, deputy president, president, American-style education


The interview covered: first involvement with SMU, changes to concept plan, research, private university, faculty recruitment, challenges, marketing, advertising campaign, autonomous universities, collaboration with Wharton School, schools in SMU, change agent for education landscape, differentiating SMU, SMU students.


Provost, SMU, 1999–2008, and Deputy President, SMU, 2007–2009

Member of SMU start-up team

In 1998 Professor Tan Chin Tiong was one of the first three faculty members who joined the start-up team to create what would become Singapore’s third university, SMU. Among his many responsibilities during the planning phase of SMU, he oversaw faculty recruitment, public relations and marketing, and the liaison with Wharton. He was appointed provost of SMU in 1999, and in 2007 he also became deputy president. He focused on recruiting and developing the faculty, developing SMU’s graduate and research programmes, and institutional development.

In 2009, he took leave from SMU to become founding president of Singapore Institute of Technology.

During his twenty-year career at National University of Singapore prior to joining SMU, Professor Tan he served as head of the marketing department, head of the School of Management, and chairman of executive development programmes. His research interests include the socio-economic framework of business in Asia, and he has written on Asian perspectives in management, business and marketing.

Professor Tan publishes in international consumer research and marketing journals, and he sits on the editorial boards of several journals. He has authored or co-authored several books and book chapters, including Principles of Marketing: An Asian Perspective. Professor Tan has chaired and organised international conferences for the American Marketing Association, Association for Consumer Research, and Academy of International Business.

Active in management development and consulting, Professor Tan has designed and taught in many executive programs around the world. He is on the board of Citibank Singapore Ltd, and is the non-executive chairman of Superior Multi-Packaging Ltd. Professor Tan is also independent director of several publicly-listed companies and is active in many government agencies. He has been a past president and senate chairman of the Marketing Institute of Singapore.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the then University of Singapore, his MBA from Western Illinois University (USA) and his PhD in business from Pennsylvania State University (USA).


Asian Studies | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration

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This is an abridged version of the original interview. Please contact Li Ka Shing Library at libIR@smu.edu.sg for access to the full version of the transcript and/or audio recording.

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