Straits Times: New NTU course for Asia's top officials

Programme similar to Mayors' Class run for Chinese officials since 1998


A NANYANG Technological University (NTU) master's degree programme in public administration, similar to the "Mayors' Class" it has run for senior officials from China since 1998, will be offered to top civil servants and officials from elsewhere in Asia, especially South-east Asia.

The new Master in Public Administration (MPA) course to be offered from July will be taught in English and modified to suit the requirements of students from the region.

Professor Liu Hong, director of NTU's Nanyang Centre for Public Administration which is running the programme, said: "We are offering the new programme because of the success we had with Chinese officials. We want to broaden our student base so more can learn from Singapore's experience and expertise in public administration.

"Singapore is at the crossroads of the East and West and its multicultural advantage makes it an ideal place to groom future leaders for Asia."

The new programme will also be open to Singapore students. Participants can take the programme on a full-time or part-time basis.

A unique feature of the existing NTU programme is the involvement at lectures and seminars by former Singapore Cabinet ministers and top civil servants who had significant roles in Singapore's development in a range of areas.

Among them are former ministers Yeo Cheow Tong and Yeo Ning Hong, former minister of state Chan Soo Sen and former permanent secretary Ngiam Tong Dow.

Another feature involves visits to government departments and statutory boards for students to learn first-hand about policy formulation and implementation, and field trips to MPs' Meet-the-People Sessions.

Over 1,200 senior Chinese officials have graduated from the NTU's year-long, full-time Master of Science in Managerial Economics which started in 1998, and the MPA which began in 2005.

Many went on to become mayors or held high positions in government on their return, hence the nickname, "Mayors' Class".

The latest batch of about 50 students from the two programmes graduated earlier this month.

To graduate, students must complete 10 courses in subjects such as public governance, policy and finance, and submit a dissertation.

The programmes are so popular that in 2010, the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy also started a Master in Public Administration and Management programme in Chinese for officials from China.

Prof Liu, who is also chair of NTU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, revealed that interest in the new MPA in English has come from the Middle East and India.

But he hopes to attract students from South-east Asian countries first, particularly Vietnam and Cambodia.

The two governments have been sending senior officials to NTU's Nanyang Centre for Public Administration for short training courses since last year under a programme sponsored by the Temasek Foundation.

Commenting on the new MPA programme, Mr Ha Ngoc Anh, 55, a deputy director in the Communist Party of Vietnam, who was one of 24 senior Vietnamese officials who completed a two-week NTU training course last week, said it would provide great insights and an understanding into what made Singapore tick.

"We have already learnt a lot about Singapore from our two-week course, especially on its strategies for economic development," he said.