Speech at the Warwick-NTU Neuroscience Symposium, Singapore

HE Antony Phillipson made a speech at the Warwick-NTU Neuroscience Symposium. His speech highlighted the UK-Singapore education partnership.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

British High Commissioner to Singapore, Antony Phillipson

Professor Ling San, Dean of the College of Science, NTU, Professor Peter Preiser, Acting Chair of the School of Biological Sciences, NTU, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be invited to join you for the start of the second Warwick-NTU Neuroscience Symposium.

I hope you will understand that as a historian who then went on to become a diplomat I will not attempt to address the actual substance of your symposium. You have a distinguished line up of experts to do that in the course of the rest of the day.

Before that, though, let me just touch on three, linked, sets of issues that are closer to my area of responsibility if not expertise….

The first is the importance of education in all its facets for the future development of both the UK and Singapore.

Both of us face the challenge of remaining competitive in the global economy of the 21st century. We may have more people in the UK than here, and we may have enjoyed the benefits of north sea oil and gas, and many yet find a further boon in shale gas, but fundamentally both the UK and Singapore are relatively small populations without the abundance of resources that others enjoy.

But we both have something else of immense importance – the key elements of a knowledge economy. We both have vibrant R&D sectors and institutions, we both value innovation, knowledge and intellectual property, we both see ourselves as hubs for global trade and investment, with strong services economies complementing high end R&D manufacturing in key sectors.

And we both have world class universities like Warwick and NTU. Our universities in the UK may be older, richer in heritage and tradition, but in the global market place of today Singapore’s universities stand with the best.

Education sits at the heart of the second issue I wanted to mention, which is the work that we have been doing in the UK over the last year to develop what we call our Industrial Strategy.

Last week, appropriately enough at the University of Warwick Business School Government Ministers, senior officials and a range of businesspeople, academics and other experts gathered to review the progress we have made on developing a partnership between the public and private sectors around 11 key sector strategies.

The sectors were chosen because they will be the building blocks of the British economy in the coming decades; they will drive the growth of the economy, job creation, goods and services exports and attract investment. They are the essence of a “plan for growth” that builds on the difficult but necessary cuts to public spending in recent years.

One of those sectors is education. It’s not hard to see why. The education sector, including expenditure on national education systems, is currently the second largest sector globally after healthcare.

Enrolments in primary and secondary education have risen from 400 million and 184 million in 1970 to 691 million and 544 million in 2010. Over the same period, the number of students in tertiary education rose from 33 million to 178 million.

Growth is expected to continue globally, as a result of demographic change and rising incomes in developing countries, with emerging economies particularly focused on increasing numbers of students in higher education.

International education, in all its forms, represents a huge opportunity for Britain. Our analysis estimates that in 2011 education exports were worth £17.5bn to the UK economy. So our education strategy analyses the economic opportunities resulting from this growth, and sets out a targeted plan for the UK to grasp them, building on our education strengths both at home and abroad.

At present 75% of our educational export income comes from international students studying in the UK. However, this is not the only area with potential for growth. Our aim is to offer more UK education overseas, exploiting innovations in educational technology and forming multi-faceted relationships with all over the world.

Which brings me to my third and final point. I believe that the scope for partnership between the UK and Singapore is enormous, perhaps only limited by our own capacity to exploit and deliver it.

And it is partnerships like that between NTU and Warwick that are leading the way.

In February of 2010, an MoU for collaborative neuroscience research was signed by Jonathon Baldwin, Registrar for Warwick, and Bertil Anderson, then Provost of NTU. His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, Duke of York was there to witness the moment.

The key goal of this MoU was the hiring of two world-class neuroscientists to be jointly appointed and supported by the two institutes. That has now happened and Drs Albert Chen and Ayumu Tashiro now occupy labs in Biopolis adjacent to Dr George Augustine of Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at NTU and A*STAR’s Neuroscience Research Partnership.

The successful recruitment of Drs Chen and Tashiro, and the true beginning of joint neuroscience research between our two universities, was celebrated in September of last year with an inaugural symposium held at Warwick University which generated great excitement regarding the potential for synergistic research in neuroscience.

This has been followed by the establishment of a joint PhD programme in neuroscience between Warwick and NTU. This PhD recognises the bond and the need to link research degrees with the balance of project time and provision of supervision.

Both Warwick and NTU have high international profiles in the neuroscience area and both are high ranking universities. Students will study at both institutions and benefit from the international perspective of their research and their degrees.

And so today we gather for the second Warwick-NTU Neuroscience Symposium. Of course, I hope that the sharing of knowledge and expertise today will enable more progress to be made towards tackling the pressing challenges faced in terms of neuroscience research and, at the same time, deepen the strong scientific relationship which already exists between Singapore and the UK.

But as important for me, is that it continues the process of building the people to people links, and that between two great academic institutions, that are the essence not only of research based collaboration but also serve to strengthen the overall partnership and friendship between the UK and Singapore.

And that, in a nutshell, is what my day job as High Commissioner is all about, and I thank you for helping me to do it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have taken too much of your time and I should let you get on with the programme.

My thanks to Professor Ling San and Professor Peter Preiser for giving me the chance to say a few words, and to their teams who have pulled together such a packed and exciting programme.

I wish you a successful and fruitful symposium and an enlightening day. Thank you.

Published 20 September 2013