MOE sets aside S$350m over next 5 years for social science and humanities research

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SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) has set aside S$350 million over the next 5 years to develop the social science and humanities research landscape, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced on Monday (Nov 7).

The amount is a 45 per cent increase from MOE’s spending on social science and humanities research over the last five years.

Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the launch of the Institute for Societal Leadership (ISL) under the Singapore Management University (SMU), said MOE will provide strong support for the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

“The Council is working to strengthen the network of researchers, policymakers and thought leaders around the world. I hope the council’s efforts would encourage more robust discussion and collaboration between our research community and policy makers, for example in methods to promote social mobility or a lifelong approach to human capital development,” Mr Tharman said.

The SSRC was set up in January to serve as a focal point for efforts to develop talent and strengthen social science and humanities research.

In May 2016, the SSRC launched a research award, the Social Science Research Thematic Grant (SSR Thematic Grant) where S$50 million was put aside between 2016 and 2020 to supporting social sciences and the humanities.

At the close of the grant call in August, MOE received 70 proposals from eight institutions in Singapore namely SMU, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Institute of Technology, SIM University, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The results are expected to be released early next year, with a second grant call being made in 2017.


At the same event, Mr Tharman launched ISL, a new institute under SMU that seeks to advance societal leadership in the region.

According to the university, ISL will focus on convening societal leaders and curating leadership lessons, and will do so through various initiatives. This includes the Societal Leadership Summit – which had its inaugural event on Monday.

A seven month programme for undergraduates called SEAGULL (Southeast Asia Global Undergraduate Leaders’ Programme) is also part of ISL efforts to develop leaders from the region.

Mr Tharman, who was keynote speaker at the Summit said the ISL agenda is “a response to the times”. He added that for governments to achieve social objectives, it cannot act alone.

“Such challenges are complex with many causes, and that’s why they need to be tackled on multiple fronts,” said Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

“That collective approach, including governments, firms, the media and NGO, and citizens themselves, unleashes a positive dynamic of its own.”
ISL is part of efforts by SMU to become a socially responsible university and to build thought leadership, said SMU President Prof Arnoud De Meyer, who also spoke at the launch.

He said: “Creating societal impact has always been at the core of what SMU stands for.”

For instance, Prof De Meyer said SMU was the first university to include community service in its curriculum. It also works with organisations like the Lien Foundation.

“Societal Leadership as defined by the Institute, is the practice of creating sustainable value and impact for the betterment of society, within one’s sphere of influence,” he added.