DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of NAFA–UAL Degree Partnership

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 7 January 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) – University of the Arts London (UAL) Degree Partnership on 7 January 2021. 


Minister of State for Education and Manpower, Ms Gan Siow Huang,

Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London, Professor David Crow,

NAFA Chairman, Ms Low Sin Leng and Board Members of NAFA,

NAFA President, Mrs Tan-Soh Wai Lan,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very Happy New Year to all!

2020 has been a very difficult year for Singapore and the world. But I am glad that we are starting the new year with renewed hope and possibilities. Many countries, including Singapore and the UK, have started COVID-19 vaccination. This is a key step to return to normalcy. In Singapore, we recently moved into Phase 3, where we permit a wider range of activities.

I am happy to join you today from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) campus. NAFA has a long and rich history. The Academy has come a long way since its modest founding 83 years ago. With only 14 students when it was founded, NAFA now offers a wide range of diploma and degree programmes, with 2,600 full-time students. The Academy has groomed generations of artists, performers and creative professionals, who have embraced the Nanyang spirit in their pursuits. Among its distinguished alumni are 13 Cultural Medallion recipients and 14 Young Artist Award recipients. Over the years, NAFA has sought to intertwine the arts practices of the East and West in your curriculum. You have showcased our local and regional culture, and blended them with contemporary practices from other parts of the world. I am glad this pursuit of educational and artistic excellence continues to thrive after so many decades.

So, I am very happy that NAFA and the University of the Arts London (UAL) are starting the year with a new degree partnership. Through this partnership, NAFA plans to offer new degrees in arts and design. These degrees will provide structured multi-disciplinary arts training and place emphasis on industry experience. NAFA will be UAL’s first overseas partner to offer degrees validated by the university. UAL is one of the top-ranked universities in the world for arts and design. This partnership is a recognition of NAFA’s achievements, and the confidence that UAL has in NAFA’s ability to deliver programmes that meet UAL’s rigour and standards. This partnership is also testimony to NAFA’s and Singapore’s continued willingness to engage in high quality collaborations with overseas institutions, and to expand pathways for tertiary education for our students.

In the coming years, as our economy and society continue to develop, an education in arts or design can open up new opportunities. The arts has the power to lift our spirits and strengthen our identity as a society. Design is important for improving our daily lives – from creating a positive experience for users to enhancing the usability of products. Creativity and innovation will have a critical part to play as we seek to recover from the crisis. I encourage our youths to pursue your passion. And if your passion is in arts or design, this partnership between UAL and NAFA will open up more pathways and opportunities.

NAFA is also starting the new year with a new President, with Wai Lan taking over from Mia Chiang. I know both Mia Chiang and Wai Lan well, from my days at the Ministry of Education – first as Director of Higher Education, and later as Minister. Under Mia Chiang’s leadership, NAFA has grown in size and strength over the past six and a half years. He has enhanced NAFA’s standing as a student-centric institution, and strengthened NAFA’s curriculum with industry-based learning, overseas immersion programmes and inter-disciplinary projects. Mia Chiang’s achievements go beyond NAFA. Prior to helming NAFA, Mia Chiang was Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic for fourteen years. Mia Chiang will be retiring from NAFA. I am sure his leadership will be missed. But I am confident that Mia Chiang will remain active, especially in the arts scene, and I wish him fulfilment in his next pursuit. With Wai Lan taking over, I know that NAFA will be in good hands. I have known Wai Lan for more than two decades, since working together at the Higher Education Division in MOE. She is a passionate and dynamic educator and has provided excellent leadership in several schools and institutions. I am sure that she will take NAFA to even greater heights. You also have a very dynamic board, chaired by Ms Low Sin Leng, who also has a connection to MOE. She was in MOE many years ago, when Dr Goh Keng Swee was Minister. She had a hand in making education policies during that period. Together with you, the Board will be able to provide strategic direction for NAFA’s further development.

As we start the new year, the arts and culture sector that NAFA is part of continues to be hit by COVID-19. Last year, I announced a 55 million dollars Arts and Culture Resilience Package to support the community through this crisis, so that our artists and performers can emerge stronger from this pandemic. As we begin this year, we are also seeing a gradual resumption of arts and culture activities under Phase 3. Live performances are restarting, and we are seeing more visitors at our museums and arts venues. The virus may be with us for some time, and we may not be able to go back completely to the pre-COVID era. But despite the circumstances, I am glad that our arts and culture community had adapted and are staying resilient.

Once again, congratulations to NAFA and UAL on your successful partnership. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, I am glad that NAFA and UAL persevered and worked through the details of the partnership. Well done! This shows that there are opportunities amidst adversity, and gives the arts and culture community something to cheer about as we start this year. May you further deepen your partnership in the years to come.

Thank you very much.