Benchmarking of research excellence

In upcoming conversations about developing benchmarks for research excellence, we as a Department will be asked the question: “What does excellence in research mean for us?”

I believe this is an important question and one that needs to be asked consistently because defining excellence guides us toward evaluating the quality of the work we do.

In a practical sense, having developed a well atriculated set of criteria helps us as a Department in seeing how we are doing, as well as in evaluating individual productivity and performance.

In the weeks to come, sharing the Provost’ document with you, I would like to learn from you, What does excellence mean to you? And what are the criteria through which excellence in research in CNM can be measured?

Developing and identifying solid criteria will serve as the basis for communicating these criteria both internally as well as externally. So let me begin by posting for you the three questions that were articulated by the Provost as guiding questions:

  • How do we determine a holistic set of performance indicators for research excellence? 
  • How does one ensure the indicators are relevant and acceptable to the Departments or disciplines concerned?
  • How would these criteria help in the P&T processes?

I look forward to having one-on-one conversations with you in the hallways on these pertinent questions. Your inputs are vital as they will continue to shape how well we do, how we grow, and how we are evaluated as a Department!

Mid-September thoughts: SFR!

We are already in the middle of September. The annual reviews are finally behind us, the Head’s Report has been submitted and modules are way underway. Finally, I am having an opportunity to sit down and reflect on some of the issues that have been coming up from various quarters.

My goal here is to explain some of these issues as a way to foster open communication and also as a way to to invite dialogue from the various stakeholders of our Department. These are also teasers for you to start thinking about in preparation for our Departmental meeting.

One of these issues is the question of Student to Faculty Ratio (SFR). Questions regarding SFR have come up from various quarters, including recently a student from our “Online Journalism” module writing to ask about SFR. That we have engaged students who care about their curriculum and seek to turn curriculum and instruction-related issues into topics for their Journalism modules is a very healthy sign.

So what exactly is SFR?

As one would speculate, it is the ratio between the number of students served by faculty instruction. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students taught by CNM modules divided by the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff in CNM generates the SFR for CNM.

Now, one student in a module equates to 0.2 FTE, meaning that 1000 students in CNM modules would translate into 200 FTEs. Also, different members of our teaching staff count differently toward the faculty total. Tenure track faculty count as 1.00 and so do Instructors and visiting fellows. Teaching Assistants count 0.3 and adjunct faculty count 0.2 as well. Once all the additions are done, the total student FTEs generated by CNM divided by the total teaching staff FTEs at CNM provide the SFR.

So what has happened with our SFR at CNM and why pay attention to it?

Over the last year, our SFR has gone down. What this translates into is that we are not serving as many students per teaching staff as we used to. There are a couple of reasons for this: (a) our student numbers have gone down, and (b) we have grown in our faculty FTEs. In many ways, this is a sign of our growth as we have become a large Department from where we started as a small program. SFR is important because ultimately for resource allocations and evaluation of strategic directions, it becomes vital to see where our student demands are. So I see this opportunity as a good way for us to have a conversation.

How do we address the SFR issue?

The two ways to address and stabilize the SFR are to (a) increase the student numbers and (b) cut down on the faculty growth. CNM is on a growing trajectory and we want to be seen among the best globally. To get there, option (b) is not a choice as we will need to hire senior faculty that continue to contribute to our research visibility and strong teaching mission. So, we have to move the route of option (a), which means that we need to be strategic about how we promote CNM and consider the attractiveness of the modules we offer for students within CNM as well as for students across NUS. Our growth as a Department rests on our ability to attract students into our modules and major.

I invite you to dialogue with me and the rest of the CNM team to suggest your thoughts and ideas regarding ways to grow CNM!

I am looking forward to working with you in building a robust student-to-faculty ratio that allows us to grow strategically and systematically to becoming a global leader.


Mohan J. Dutta

Book Published by Ingrid Hoofd “Ambiguities of Activism: Alter-Globalism and the Imperatives of Speed”

In May 2012, Ingrid Hoofd published her book titled “Ambiguities of Activism: Alter-Globalism and the Imperatives of Speed” with Routledge. The Routledge website describes the book as providing an in-depth analysis of the paradoxes that are brought about by the mobilization of problematic discourses and divides to address issues of gendered, raced, and classed oppressions worldwide. In the book, Ingrid specifically draws our attention to the ways in which the discourses of speed and transcendence intensify global hierarchies. A review by Mark Featherstone notes:

“Hoofd’s book presents an essential critique and anti-dote to the utopian activism of the contemporary anti-capitalist leftists, such as Hardt and Negri, and shows how the ideas and practices of anti-capitalism may be complicit in the neo-liberalism of the speed elite.”

I am looking forward to reading this book as it hopes to provide key insights regarding the tensions, struggles and contestations implicit in contemporary global activist movements, especially as they relate to the utilization of the new media in a politics of social change.

The book is available from Amazon. Congratulations Ingrid on this fantastic achievement!!


Homecoming 2012!

This last week was an eventful week for CNM and for me personally, marking the Homecoming ceremony as an opportunity for meeting staff, students, faculty and alums. What was most amazing for me at this weekend function was the strong sense of family and camarederie that filled the airs.

CNM Homecoming 2012!

Having the opportunity to meet so many students and alums was amazing. This year, the homecoming event was opened with a “community batik” painting activity. With this activity, those of us who are artistically blessed and also those of us who are simply brave to try out anything painted the batik together, filling in the painting with vibrant colors and our creative imaginations. The product was truly amazing, pictured in the photograph above. Thank you to all those involved including our amazing graduate students and staff for all your hard work in pulling the event together so nicely!

This also is a time for celebrating all the achievements of our colleagues. Sun Sun Lim, Y. H. Chan, Shobha Vadrevu and Iccha Basnyat published their paper titled “Managing peer relationships online – investigating the use of Facebook by juvenile delinquents and youths-at-risk” in Computers in Human Behaviour. Alex Mitchell and Kevin McGee got their paper “Reading Again for the First Time: A Model of Rereading in Interactive Stories” (based on some of Alex’s thesis research) accepted for presentation and publication at the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) 2012 in San Sebastian, Spain in November. Anne Marie Schleiner has a book chapter publication titled “Playing the City” from a chapter of her dissertation that will be coming out of a June conference on Citizen Science, Play and Politics at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. These are all amazing achievements and I am delighted to share them on this blog! Please keep these stories coming so I have the opportunity of sharing your successes!

I have always believed that great research goes hand in hand with excellent teaching and mentorship. Talking about mentorship and excellence, Cheryll Soriano successfully defended her PhD thesis titled “New Media and Political Mobilization: The case of online mediation of minority groups in the Philippines.” Congratulations to Cheryll and her advisor Dr. T. T. Sreekumar. I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to sit in on the conversation and it was a treat to read through the complex layers of sophisticated analyses that came alive in the dissertation.

As the semester gets closer and you all start returning home, I look forward to meeting you! Please drop by or just simply drop me a note!

As many of us are back, let’s get started with our Friday informal lunches that are such a great part of our Department culture! Please plan on joining us at the conference room starting this Friday at 12:30 p.m. Do bring your lunch, and all the fun stories of summer travels! Chocolates and sweets, as always are welcome with enthusiasm!

Have a wonderful week ahead, and as always, I am right around the corener whenever you want to stop by to chat,


My first week in CNM!

Dear friends and colleagues of CNM,

I am delighted to write this first blog post in a week that is momentous for the history of this very young Department.

In the QS World University Rankings (the first ever for Communication and Media Studies programs), the Department of Communications and New Media was ranked third worldwide!

These stellar rankings for a Department so young speak to the global relevance of cross-cutting, cross-disciplinary Communication theory, research, and practice that foregrounds the vitality of creativity and innovation in communication.

Of particular relevance in the rankings are the high score given to CNM by employers. This score speaks volumes about the quality of pedagogy at CNM and its intersections with the needs in the industry. It also is a celebration of the high quality of professors, instructors, lecturers, graduate students, staff, undergraduate students, alums and industry advisory board members who serve the Department with commitment, passion and foresight.

In the months to come, as I spend my time getting to know you and listening to your dreams for CNM, I look forward to our continued conversations and to participating in a creative journey of co-creation to further strengthen our position in Asia and globally.


Mohan J. Dutta

To read more about our rankings, go to: