Tan Tai Yong is the second President and Professor of Humanities (History) at Yale-NUS College. His presidential term began on 1 July 2017. Prior to becoming president, he served as the College’s Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) from 2014 to 2017. As Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), he oversaw the academic and co-curricular aspects of the liberal arts experience at Yale-NUS College, including all faculty matters and academic affairs.
A strong believer in the value of a liberal arts and science education, President Tan has been active in shaping the academic programme of the College from the very beginning. He served as the co-chair of the joint Yale and National University of Singapore (NUS) committee that hired the inaugural faculty members in the humanities and helped shape the common curriculum in 2011. In October 2014, he took on the role of Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) at Yale-NUS College, where he worked closely with students, faculty, and staff to enrich the educational experience and enhance the academic programmes at the College. Under his leadership, the Yale-NUS faculty, comprising outstanding teachers who are also respected researchers in their respective fields, has nearly doubled in size. President Tan also worked with the academic team to strengthen the curriculum, enhance research at the College and improve laboratory and library facilities, and with the student affairs team to further integrate the academic and residential life at the College.
Previously, President Tan was the Vice-Provost (Student Life) at NUS overseeing student matters, University Town and the Residential Colleges, the Centre for English Language and Communication as well as the Office of Student Affairs and the Halls of Residence. President Tan also served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2004 – 2009. He was concurrently Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies, an autonomous university-level research institute in NUS.
President Tan is Honorary Chairman of the National Museum of Singapore. He serves on the National Heritage Board as Chairman of the National Collection Advisory Panel and member of the Academic Research Panel, and the Institute of South Asian Studies as Deputy Chairman of the Management Board. He is a member of the Indian Heritage Centre’s Advisory Board.
President Tan was appointed as the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)’ 6th S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, for the period from 1 August 2018 to 31 May 2019. In 2016, he was appointed to the Singapore Social Sciences Research Council. He is also a member of the Singapore Bicentennial Advisory Panel, and served as a Nominated Member of Parliament from 2014 to 2015. President Tan was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) at the 2009 National Day Awards.
A graduate of NUS, President Tan completed his doctorate at Cambridge University. He has been a faculty member of the NUS Department of History since 1992 and served the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as Sub-Dean (1994–1999), Head of the History Department (2000–2003), Vice-Dean (2001–2003) and Dean (2004–2009). As a recognition for his commitment to teaching, he received the Teaching Excellence Awards in 1992 and 2000.
President Tan specialises in South and Southeast Asian History and he has published extensively on the Sikh Diaspora, social and political history of colonial Punjab, de-colonisation and the partition of South Asia, and Singapore history. He has authored and co-authored several books, including Singapore: Seven Hundred Years – A History of Singapore, (2019); Creating Greater Malaysia: The Politics of Merger (2008); The Garrison State (2005) and The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia (2001).
In 2001, President Tan was awarded the Moncado Prize for outstanding essay published in the Journal of Military History. He has received a number of fellowship awards, including the Overseas Commonwealth Fellowship, British Academy Visiting Fellowship, the Wolfson College (Cambridge) Fellowship as well as a Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. President Tan is currently a member of the editorial boards of Modern Asian Studies, India Review and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.