My Joint Degree Programme Experience at King’s College London

In the autumn of 2014, I arrived at King’s College London (KCL or King’s for short) under its Joint PhD Degree Programme with NUS. Located in Central London by the side of River Thames, King’s is a vibrant academic community and the home of more than 10 Nobel Laureates. My stay in London and study at KCL have been a fruitful and eye-opening experience.

Year-end lunch organized by King's Interdisciplinary Social Science for its members.
Year-end lunch organized by King’s Interdisciplinary Social Science for its members.

One feature I think very positively about King’s academic community is that the links across departments are strong and the boundaries are almost nonexistent. For example, although I was officially hosted by the China Institute for the Joint Degree Programme, I was able to appoint a professor from the Department of Management as my main supervisor because of the close proximity between my research and his. The King’s Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Centre (KISS-DTC) was established with the aim to build links for social scientists across the college. Soon after I arrived at King’s, I became a member of the KISS-DTC and benefited a lot from the methodological training I received at the center. In the process, I also got to know and became friends with many doctoral students from other disciplines of social science.

Celebrating the 2015 Chinese New Year with the classmates of King's College London
Celebrating the 2015 Chinese New Year with the classmates of King’s College London


Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. Taken during the 2015 European Political Science Assoiation Annual Meeting
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. Taken during the 2015 European Political Science Assoiation Annual Meeting

During my time at King’s, in addition to researching for my dissertation, I had the opportunity to audit two modules on European political economy and public policy. The insight gained from the modules complements my current research very well. Given that I focus on monetary policy, the case of the European Monetary Union has greatly enhanced my understanding of the topic and at the same time, poses many theoretically challenging questions for me to reflect on. Furthermore, these materials are very useful for a political economy module that I am currently teaching at NUS, as they allow me to introduce a European perspective to a mostly Asian audience.

IAPSS World Congress 2015, Birkbeck College, University of London
IAPSS World Congress 2015, Birkbeck College, University of London

One good thing about studying at King’s is that one automatically has University of London. That brings about much more opportunities and resources beyond KCL itself. When I was at King’s, I often walked across the (highly dangerous) road to attend seminars at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), talk to the scholars in my field of study or visit the British Library of Economics and Political Science (the LSE library). Moreover, the geographical location of London makes academic conferences in Europe much more accessible and affordable. Within the academic year, I managed to attend three conferences held in Jerusalem, London and Vienna. At the conferences, I received valuable feedback for my research and greatly expanded my social network.

Academic conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Academic conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel


St. Anthony's College, Oxford University
St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University


In front of the International Court of Justice (Peace Palace), The Hague, The Netherlands
In front of the International Court of Justice (Peace Palace), The Hague, The Netherlands

My life in London was certainly not all about academics. During my free time, I often walked along River Thames and visited the parks and the museums of London. On weekends, I could travel to other places in the UK for sightseeing or join my friends studying at Oxford or Cambridge. In addition, I also travelled to other European countries such as France and the Netherlands for slightly longer holidays during my stay in London. The marvel of the European culture and civilization only not opened my eyes and mind, but also constantly made me reflect on themes such as humanity, modernity and scientific progress.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France


Louvre Palace, Paris, France
Louvre Palace, Paris, France


St. John’s College, Cambridge University, where Mr. and Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew took their photos three times in their lives.

Today, when people ask me what I miss about London and the UK, I can easily give them a long list, which includes, among other things, the vibrancy and diversity of the society, the splendid culture, the spirit of the Industrial Revolution that continues to inspire us today, as well as the Green and Pleasant Land, the British sense of humor and the aphrodisiac accent. Virginia Woolf, a famous modernist English writer and alumna of King’s College London once wrote: “London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play and a story and a poem…” That is, I think, the most accurate and vivid summary of my memory of London.

A marvel of art on the bank of River Thames, an embodiment of British creativeness
A marvel of art on the bank of River Thames, an embodiment of British creativeness


Big Ben and red telephone box, two icons of London
Big Ben and red telephone box, two icons of London

Li Xiang
Department of Political Science

Tracking Down Human Trafficking

NUS News

Students from the FASStrack Asia Summer School course in human trafficking recently returned from a 11-day field trip to Cambodia and Thailand.

The field trip was a great learning experience as it provided opportunities for them to do hands-on research and interviews. Besides being able to apply theories learnt in the increasingly popular module, the trip involved meetings with government officials, representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and victims in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, as well as Bangkok and Mahachai.

Department of Political Science Dr Kevin McGahan who led the field trip added that the students’ research projects and policy recommendations will be shared with the people and organisations they’ve met during the trip.

To read the full article, click here.

CNM Media Writing Students Take All Three Top Positions at the Future News Competition

Our heartiest congratulations to three Department of Communications & New Media students – Desmond Koh, Celine Leong and Chng Yan – for the unprecedented achievement at the Future News Competition, an international competition for aspiring journalists.

All three students scooped the top three places at the competition and will be headed for a three-day, fully-paid journalism conference in Edinburgh this month. There, they will meet leading journalists and learn more about multi-media reporting and editing.

The students who undertook the module NM3211 News Reporting and Editing were mentored by Ms Ee Lyn Tan, an award winning journalist who has received the Asia Human Rights Press award and has also worked at Reuters previously.

To view the works of these students, click here.

Congratulations to all FASS National Day Award Recipients!

National Day Awards are a means of recognising various forms of merit and service to the nation. This year, a total of 3,888 individuals in 23 award categories received National Day Honours.

We are pleased to announce the following National Day Honours awarded to our FASS faculty and staff members.  Our warmest congratulations to:


Prof Brenda Yeoh
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Assoc Prof Chan Wai Meng
Associate Professor, Centre for Language Studies


Ms Karen Chan May Ling
Associate Director, Dean’s Office


Mdm Koh (Chong) Mui Gek
Management Assistant Officer, Department of Geography


Dr Alexander Lee Earn Yung
Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work

Assoc Prof Maribeth Erb Mucek
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Mdm Yuen Sau Yoong
Management Assistant Officer, Centre for Language Studies

Flourishing under guidance and supportive environment


Annisa Ridzkynoor Beta, a graduate student of the Cultural Studies in Asia programme, is a recipient of the Graduate Students’ Teaching Award – an award that recognises and rewards the teaching efforts of FASS graduate students.

Annisa has facilitated the module ‘Social Capital’ together with Dr Vincent Chua (Department of Sociology) for a semester.

Recently, we caught up with her to congratulate her on the award and to find out more about her thoughts on pursuing a graduate programme with FASS as well as her experience as a Teaching Assistant.

1. Why did you choose Cultural Studies in Asia?

It was essential for me, when I was looking for PhD programmes, to study in an environment that will allow my research interests to flourish, not just to have a degree. The programme’s focus on Asia allows me to learn about and further investigate important notions in Asian context that are not taken for granted for its ‘Asian-ness’.

My main research interest is on Muslim women in Indonesia, specifically on their movements and subjectivity. Being in Cultural Studies in Asia PhD programme has allowed me to critically read previous studies about Muslim women in Southeast Asian context. There has always been a conscious effort in the programme to rethink ideas such as identity, representation, power relations, subject formation, and politics of the body in Asian context, and I found it indispensable for my research progress.

Thus, I found Cultural Studies in Asia fitting to my criteria to further my study.

 2. How has FASS and NUS contributed to your journey thus far?

Taking different modules from different departments has shown me how supportive FASS and NUS has been for an interdisciplinary student like me. The scholarship scheme, campus facilities, as well as events and seminars organised in the university has facilitated my intellectual growth, and I believe that FASS and NUS have provided me the most vital contributions I need as a young scholar.

3. How do you feel about the award that you have achieved?

I am grateful, and I cannot express how happy I am to receive the award. Assisting Dr Vincent Chua for a semester has opened up a lot of fields of study that I have not thought of before.

Knowing that the module ‘SC3225 Social Capital’ was new for me, Dr Chua was really kind and encouraging, and his sessions were engaging, allowing me to position myself not only as a Teaching Assistant but also as a student of the class itself. Being awarded for an opportunity to learn has made me realized how lucky I am as a PhD student in a very supportive institution like NUS.

4. Can you tell us more about your experience as a Teaching Assistant?

Starting the semester with the module was a bit challenging. However, Dr Chua was very supportive and I felt involved and engaged with the materials. My students were also very interested in the topics in the module, so I felt challenged to work harder as a teaching assistant. For the tutorials, I looked into extra materials, and the students were also asking stimulating questions, and by the end of the semester, I felt like I learnt a whole new set of knowledge.

5. Were there any challenges during the course of teaching?

Not really. Dr Chua provided guidance and information, and students in my tutorial were cooperative and interested in the module.

6. What were the memorable moments?

I always enjoy receiving emails from students in my tutorials. They inquire about issues that may not be addressed in the lectures or tutorial sessions, and I found those electronic discussions motivational for me as a teaching assistant.

 7. Has the teaching experience changed your outlook on learning, academic interests or personal aspirations? How so?

Yes, mainly because ‘Social Capital’ was a field that prioritises quantitative analysis, and I have been accustomed to humanities’ qualitative approach in doing research. I learnt that social inequality can also be critically approached via quantitate based research, and for me this opened up more areas in understanding gender issues.

8. What are your future plans with regards to your academic development?

I plan to earn my degree in the next two years, and to focus on developing my research interest through research projects and teaching.

Turning your Dream into Reality

john mead

He has a passion for dance, with over 40 years of experience in the performance arts. This year, at the age of 62, John Mead graduated with a PhD in Communications and New Media from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). John, who was also one of our Valedictorians for the Class of 2015, shares his thoughts on pursuing his graduate education at FASS.

  1. Tell us a bit of your professional background in performing arts.

I am an internationally recognised choreographer, performer and educator. I began my career in the performing arts by dancing professionally for 12 years, primarily in the United States and Europe. Subsequently I became a choreographer having choreographed over 120 concert stage works over the past 30 years, which have been performed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States. In 1988, I won the prestigious “Lausanne New Choreographers Competition” hosted by Bejart Ballet Lausanne, Switzerland and subsequently worked periodically for four years as a visiting faculty member of the official school of the Bejart Ballet: Rudra Bejart Lausanne. From 1993 to 2000, I was the Artistic Director of John Mead & Dancers in New York City, and was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the New York University Programme in Dance Education during that same time period. I am currently the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of two Singapore-based companies: the John Mead Dance Company (JMDC) which presents concert stage choreographic works and Firefly Tales (FFT) which is JMDC’s affiliate organisation dedicated to narrative film production and dance education outreach. Since 2002, I have lived in Singapore and am now a Permanent Resident of the country. Recently, on 31 May 2015, after 6 years in the Communications and New Media (CNM) Department at NUS, I was awarded my PhD, and chosen to be a doctoral Valedictorian of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

  1. Given your professional background, why did you choose to pursue a PhD in Communications and New Media at FASS? Which part of the programme appealed to you?

In 2009, I made the decision to apply to the CNM Department to pursue my PhD on a “part-time” basis as I continued to direct my Singapore-based dance company.

The reason I applied to the CNM Department was because there are few universities which offer a doctoral degree in the performance aspects of Dance. In the performing arts, a Masters of Fine Arts degree (MFA) is often considered to be a terminal degree. In order to go on to the doctoral level in Dance, you usually have to study some tangential subject area – such as Dance Anatomy/Kinesiology, Dance History, Dance Philosophy, Dance Ethnography, Dance Anthropology, etc. I wasn’t interested in pursuing any of those disciplines since I already had a certain amount of knowledge in those areas from all of my years in dance. My real interest was to engage in the philosophic study of performance-related work, so when I decided to pursue the PhD at NUS, the only two departments I thought might be relevant with my arts background and two Masters of Fine Arts degrees (in Dance and Film), were the Department of Philosophy and the Communications and New Media Department (dance being one of the most ancient forms of communication). I applied to both. Because of my extensive background in the performing arts, I was accepted into the CNM Department.

  1. Can you tell us about your experience in the programme?

My experience in entering the CNM Department was probably a bit different than that of younger students who enter the department – especially since I was 56 years old when I entered. I’ve worked professionally with my own companies most of my life and even though I had wanted to earn a PhD one day, I had never made the time to do it. However, I’ve never felt age should be a deciding factor regarding important dreams in one’s life, so I went ahead in 2009 and began my pursuit of the PhD. It was a bit difficult at first to re-enter an academic environment as a student after having been an Adjunct Professor at New York University for 8 years, and to be in classes with other students that were less than half my age, but I soon forgot the age difference and began to enjoy my studies. The required classes I took during my first two years in the CNM Department were challenging, and opened my eyes to ideas about academic inquiry and doctoral level work. The last 4 years of work were primarily oriented around my research and thesis writing. This proved to be the most demanding, and in turn, rewarding area of my studies. The many discussions I had with my excellent doctoral advisor, Dr. Lonce Wyse, concerning a host of intellectual and difficult philosophic ideas in connection with dance, the arts, technology and the concept of practice-based research in the arts, was a consistently rewarding experience, that helped to clarify my research, and deepen my related thought processes.

  1. Were there any challenges during the course of study?

There were many challenges on many different levels during my course of study. Even though I considered myself to be a decent writer, one challenge I soon discovered was to learn to write in an academic, doctoral fashion – which I came to realise, is a very specialised way of communicating. With the help of my doctoral advisor, the tone and style of my writing evolved over the years of my candidature, toward a more academically rigorous quality.

  1. How has the programme benefitted your career?

My doctoral thesis is titled, A Framework for Understanding Practice as Research in Dance. It is a study of the nature of dance practice that is simultaneously considered to be research. My related work as a practicing choreographer in one of the most primal areas of communication, i.e. human movement, is primarily driven by the desire to create authentic art work for the simple sake of creating it – letting the artwork speak for itself.

It is yet to be seen what impact my research work may have on my chosen field of study. Hopefully it holds potential to add to the dialogue which exists concerning the nature of practice as research in the arts, in relation to knowledge acquisition, transmissibility and the ability to gain new knowledge from areas where we continue to lack information.

In my current choreographic work, I continue the investigation of movement as my chosen communication medium. The PhD I’ve earned will benefit my career by hopefully opening doors to academia as well as avenues to other aspects of society for which the PhD stands as representative of a level of achievement that is respected in many quarters. The study I conducted while at NUS serves as a model for future investigations I plan to continue to make into my chosen field.

As I leave the CNM Department and FASS, I would like to thank all those who made my journey possible and meaningful!

Invitation to Apply – SG100: The Think Future Programme

Welcome to the next phase of SG100: The Think Future Programme!

Through the Think Future Programme, you will be able to experience being a policy maker, identify a policy problem and work on it with your group on potential solutions. Each work group will be assigned academic, practitioner and operations mentor, who will serve as resource persons for your team in the process. At the end of it all, the winning team from each of the 4 main groups will present your findings at the Think Future Forum in January, and advocate your policies to your peers as well as an expert panel. Furthermore, the winning team will receive a certificate of distinction from the Guest of Honor, while all other participants will receive certificates of merit. Along the way, participants may also be asked to take on volunteer roles for the Think Future Forum.

There are 4 topics that you can choose from to be involved in. We have provided some guiding questions for you to think about the key issues as well. You are also more than welcome to develop other policy problems within each of the broad topic choice.

  1. Jobs and economy
  • How do we help our workforce stay relevant and productive amidst fast paced technological and global developments?
  • How can Singapore nurture an entrepreneurial core, which will create better paying and interesting jobs in Singapore?
  • Should the education sector make changes to the education system or curriculum to better prepare younger Singaporeans for the future?

2. Family and demography

  • What policies can help Singaporeans to better prepare for their retirement?
  • What policies can better support families to cope with raising a family and looking after their aged?
  • How can we introduce more work-life balance and redevelop models of care to allow for a more family-centric environment?

3. Society and identity

  • What is it to be “Singaporean”? Is there a common set of values and norms we can point to?
  • How should we introduce national education in the curriculum for students?
  • How do we ensure a sense of belonging given our growing foreign population?

4. Liveable cities

  • What policies will make Singapore a home that Singaporeans love?
  • What infrastructure should we develop to allow Singapore to continually support its population?

The indicative commitment level is as such:

  1. Policy Workshop (22 Aug)
  2. 1 -2 lecture(s) by Thought Collective on the topic you have chosen (TBC)
  3. 4 month mentorship programme (with a minimum of 3 physical meetings with your mentors from Aug-Nov)
  4. Think Future Forum in January (TBC)

To register, click here. Selected participants will be contacted.

Home Away From Home

The appeal of studying at two locations – Singapore and London – for my PhD was the main reason I chose the NUS-King’s College London Joint PhD programme.

I began my PhD at NUS, under the supervision of A/P John Phillips, which allowed me to be close to my field of study in local religious practices. After completing my local fieldwork, I moved to London to begin my writing process. There, I received supervision from Dr. Kélina Gotman and was part of the Performance Research Group of the English department.

Having two supervisors gave me fresh perspectives on my research and I was able to develop my thesis in ways that I had previously not considered. I was able to scrutinise my arguments more thoroughly and learnt how to articulate my ideas and theories to readers from different positions.

Strand Campus, King’s College London, Autumn 2012
Strand Campus, King’s College London, Autumn 2012

London life was eye-opening too; a cultural capital where a variety of performances, cultural events, and academic talks are constantly held. I developed an enjoyable routine where I would take rides in the notorious tube service, arrive at Dr. Gotman’s office (situated along a narrow corridor), where we would discuss various topics and tangents stemming from my thesis. After this, I went either to the theatres or spent the evening figuring out how to make Chinese food with the ingredients I could get from Tesco or Chinatown.

My wife and I: Gone shopping at Harrods during the Christmas period, 2012.
My wife and I: Gone shopping at Harrods during the Christmas period, 2012.

My work also became more multi-dimensional. Having two institutions meant that I had access to two libraries, worked with two supervisors who had very unique points of view, and became part of a network of international scholars, academics and practitioners who possessed noteworthy experiences I could learn from.

The past four years in the programme have broadened my worldview, and I returned with more knowledge and experiences that have come to redefine me as a researcher, and most of all, as a person.

The greatest advantage of this joint initiative is being able to interact with various people and research communities, and share our thoughts and interests with each other. There are opportunities to meet other graduate students as well. Both universities run short courses and skills-based workshops where students from different disciplines meet. I learnt how to shift from one paradigm to another, switch from one language to another, apply different skills in different situations and immerse in cultures both familiar and unfamiliar. The intercultural exchange between the two institutions and cultures benefitted me most.

Being away from my comfort zone and home was the biggest challenge. I had to learn how to adapt and adjust to my surroundings. Sometimes I would face issues that were very foreign to me and I had to learn to react accordingly. Completing your postgraduate studies is like running a long marathon race, and at certain points, you might find yourself alone in your journey. Thankfully those moments were rare and few in between, due to the large number of international students in both institutions. There were really basic problems to confront like finding a plumber to fix my boiler that broke down during the long and harsh winter!

Somerset House, which is next to my department building, Winter 2012. The whole space is converted to an ice skating rink every December.
Somerset House, which is next to my department building,
Winter 2012. The whole space is converted to an ice skating rink every December.


Maughan Library, King’s College London, Spring 2013.
Maughan Library, King’s College London, Spring 2013.

The Maughan library near the Strand campus is a massive labyrinth that houses an impressive collection of books, and was one of my favourite places to spend time in. My dual library accounts gave me access to digital versions of international journals and e-resources from the catalogues of both libraries. As a UK student, I could also access the British Library. I cannot stress how invaluable that is for a researcher.

It has been a really humbling and enriching experience as a whole. I feel incredibly fortunate to have gone through the Joint PhD at two outstanding institutions and I do hope prospective doctoral students would consider joining such a remarkable programme.

At Stratford-upon-Avon with friends from Japan, 2013.
At Stratford-upon-Avon with friends from Japan, 2013.

Contributed by: Alvin Lim, a Joint PhD student with King’s College London, who just graduated in July 2015.

Congratulations Class of 2015!

As you embark on a new journey of endless possibilities and opportunities, let us look back and celebrate this milestone with the people whom have all played a part in your journey here at FASS.

Here’s a short video proudly brought to you by NUS Students’ Arts and Social Sciences Club (FASS Club) and the Dean’s Office (External Relations & Student Life):

Our heartiest congratulations to all our graduates again!