Humanities at NTU Singapore: Holistic learning and interdisciplinary research

As an institution that currently ranks 11th in the world, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a first-class education provider with a truly global presence. Standing as Asia’s dominant education force and the globe’s top young university, the academic experience at NTU is nothing short of exceptional, empowering future change-makers with specialist knowledge and insight that both enlivens and informs a connected population.

NTU’s School of Humanities (SoH) exemplifies this prime reputation. Driven by a thirst to decode the modern world, school faculty are experienced masters of their craft. Originating from diverse global roots, staff here are globally recognised and influential in their respective fields, enriched by international perspectives that cross discipline borders.

“At present, SoH has more than 110 full-time faculty members who are educating nearly 1,500 undergraduates spread across a range of degree programmes covering the fields of Chinese, English, History, Philosophy, and Linguistics and Multilingual Studies,” says Professor K.K. Luke, Chair of SoH. “Our dedicated professors are also nurturing more than 100 graduate students in our PhD and MA research programmes.”

Opportunities in Postgraduate Education

Key aspects of postgraduate education at SoH include developing students’ ability to conduct rigorous independent research, whilst challenging them to stretch themselves and maximise their potential.

An alumna of SoH, Ms Amanda Low says, “I received a robust and enriching education at SoH from the School’s professors. They take a heuristic approach to teaching and learning which means that they will never spoon-feed you. Instead, the professors will always push you to challenge yourself and go beyond your comfort zone to develop a higher level of critical thinking and put forth your best work. The professors are also inspiring in their passion not just for their own work, but for that of others as well.”

In addition, aspiring academics at SoH can augment their professional networks and further their learning outside the classroom. Not only does the School organise seminars and workshops conducted by world-renown researchers, it also encourages students to attend international conferences which enable them to connect with other scholars and sow the seeds of transboundary collaboration.

“SoH provides opportunities for students to attend overseas conferences and I was able to present papers at two conferences in the UK,” says PhD candidate Mr Mani Saravanan. “The experience enabled me to expand my professional network, enhance my learning and broaden my intellectual horizons.”

As a testament to the high-quality research and scholarship undertaken at SoH, the school’s graduates have discovered that more doors of opportunity await them in education and research. For instance, Dr Li Jifen, an Assistant Professor at the prestigious School of Philosophy at Renmin University, says that earning her PhD from NTU “improved her chances of securing interviews”.

“I also realised that from attending overseas conferences, an increasing number of philosophy scholars were paying attention to research developments in Singapore, especially that of Humanities [at] NTU,” says Dr Li. “Their attention and interest in our research provides opportunities for beneficial academic exchanges in the future.”

Master of Arts in Translation and Interpretation

Other than its research-based educational programmes, SoH is also home to the M.A. in Translation and Interpretation (MTI), a coursework programme specifically focused on English-Chinese and Chinese-English translation. Students of this unique programme develop advanced proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing in two of the world’s most widely-spoken languages.

The MTI was developed in response to rising demand throughout the region and the world, bridging the gap between the academic realm and fast-paced global industry. This course integrates the training of translation and interpretation skills with knowledge of the subjects the School is so well-known for. A dynamic curriculum, that includes a six-week immersion in China, imbues the comprehensive skillset, professionalism and ethical compass needed to translate and interpret in a real-world working context. Graduates leave with a detailed understanding of the theory, debate and research methods needed to succeed in this rewarding sector.

Interdisciplinary Research

In addition to leveraging on teaching and research strengths in multilingualism, literature, Chinese studies and comparative philosophy, SoH also makes the most its Singapore location – a melting pot of cultures and recognised hub between the East and West – to chart new cross-disciplinary pathways of Humanities scholarship. The school’s research pursuits include relevant subjects such as interdisciplinary history, neurolinguistics and philosophy of science, as well as digital, environmental and medical humanities. It has also established five interdisciplinary research clusters—Interlingual and Intercultural Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, Gender Studies, Green Humanities and Medical Humanities.

Interlingual and Intercultural Studies

This impactful research cluster delves into every form of talk, communication and culture. Here, staff and students examine the tangled interaction between languages and culture, exploring the intrinsically collaborative nature of linguistics, literature, history and translation.

Southeast Asian Studies

Observing the fluent networks and exchanges of this global region, this innovative cluster represents a breadth and depth of disciplinary studies – including archaeology, art history, cultural studies, geography, history, international relations and literary studies. Promoting common themes that can be applied to research and writing practice, this research supports the creation of a new and informed outlook towards the Southeast Asia region.

Gender Studies

Gender Studies at SoH breaks through subject boundaries, blending the focus seen throughout the SoH with that found in NTU’s School of Social Sciences. As such, this cluster breaks new ground in the study of gender and sexuality, both of which form the bedrock of the unique human experience. Drawing on aspects of history, literature, language, psychology, philosophy, cultural studies and sociology, research here supplies social and cultural analysis toward the disparate dimensions of identity formation.

Green Humanities

Here, NTU students and staff break down barriers that separate the human and non-human worlds. Encompassing the fields of eco-linguistics, environmental anthropology, environmental history, environmental literature and environmental philosophy, this venture uncovers the impact of the environment on human thought and activity, as well as observing the devastating effects of human life and action within the natural world. This globally-respected, cross-disciplinary scholarship merges insights from social science and the humanities, also incorporating aspects of ecology, biology, and other natural science subjects.

Medical Humanities

This dynamic research cluster concentrates on the literary, linguistic, social, cultural, historical and philosophical capacity of all things health and sickness. Scholars here support the humanities’ contribution to healthcare, medical practice and the community at large, advocating global partnership between medical humanities scholars to tackle rising healthcare issues in Southeast Asia and beyond. Striving to grow an extensive network across multiple subject disciplines, this cluster remains open to PhD research on topics relating to health, culture, and the complex modern world.

“At SoH, we encourage and support disciplinary excellence as well as interdisciplinary teaching and research,” Professor Luke explains. “Our aim is to equip our students with up-to-date knowledge, critical thinking, research as well as communication skills to enable them to excel and pursue their talents and interests and to make lasting contributions in Singapore and beyond.

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