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The polytechnic that almost never came to be


Ngee Ann College at the Ngee Ann Kongsi’s Tank Road Teochew Building.

“Policy rift halts Ngee Ann College extension”, “Ngee Ann Board of Governors quit in protest”, “Ngee Ann students start two-day boycott of classes”, “Ngee Ann Students reject the Thong report”, “Jail for all 7 Ngee Ann students”, screamed the headlines of the 1960s.
Even as we celebrate our 45th anniversary, we chronicle how Ngee Ann was born.

Nanyang University, better known as Nantah, is set up with donations from Chinese of all walks of life, who had the common dream of a Chinese university for Chinese throughout Southeast Asia. Mr Lien Ying Chow was one of the founders.

Some of the professors and leaders at Nantah start to realise that their dreams were far from being accomplished. Academic performance was poor, donor millionaires struggled for power, and communist elements had set in. Dr Lien Ying Chow, Professor Liu Yin Soon, and other senior staff break away from the university to establish Ngee Ann College.

1963 May
Ngee Ann College is inaugurated and is meant to be an alternative to Nantah—an institute of higher education for the Chinese not controlled by communists. The 1,000-strong student population started classes in the temporary Tank Road campus, and shared it with Tuan Mong School. Space at the Teochew Building was so tight, only three lectures could be given each day. Yet the Board of Governors, at that time, had hoped for the College to develop into a university: Ngee Ann University.

1964 Oct
Work on the College’s Department of Technology begins at Clementi Road. The Ngee Ann Kongsi was divided on the construction. But the head of its Board of Governors, Mr Lien Ying Chow, pressed on with the expansion programme.

“The building projects mean life and death to us. If we don’t have our own buildings, we will eventually stifle to death.”

- Mr Chua Ah Foh
Student Union Chairman
(The Straits Times, June 5, 1965)

1965 May
Construction work is suspended. The College’s Student Union holds a protest meeting in the College’s auditorium to persuade the Kongsi to resume work, and called for the College to be developed into a full-fledged university as soon as possible.

1965 June
All 1,000 students boycott classes for two days in protest over what they called the Kongsi’s “evasive attitude”. After a three-hour emergency meeting, the Kongsi decided to proceed with the construction. Students held a victory meeting, but just two weeks later, said the Kongsi was “insincere” and declared an indefinite boycott on lectures. Their second boycott lasted 27 days, and during this time students tried to protest outside the Ministry of Education.

1966 Oct
The Thong Saw Pak Report recommends that the College be re-organised under its own council, and not restrict itself to Chinese as the language of instruction. According to The Straits Times, Oct. 11, 1966, the students said: “The recommendations are retrogressive, and if implemented will cause the degradation and demotion of the college into a junior college.”


1964 Nov
Ngee Ann College students marched to City Hall to protest against the Thong Saw Pak report.

The College accepted the Thong Saw Pak report and decided to redirect its focus to diploma-level technical programmes.


The Council of Ngee Ann Technical College at the entrance in 1968. Block 73, to be demolished next year to make way for the Arts Hub, was the first building on campus.

The College moved from Tank Road to its current Clementi Road campus, with over 10 hectares of land donated by the Kongsi (today the campus stands on over 60 hectares). It was also renamed Ngee Ann Technical College (now Ngee Ann Polytechnic).

Researched and compiled by Lee Xian Jie, Editor. Photographs scanned from The Ngee Ann Story, The First 25 Years (1963-1988). With thanks to the Singapore Press Holdings Information and Resource Centre.

CORRECTION APPENDED NOV. 25 2008: 1965 May and 1965 June were typed as 1964 May and 1964 June. We are sorry for the error.

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3 comments for “The polytechnic that almost never came to be”

  1. Do you really chronicle how Ngee Ann was born in this website?


    Is there any mistake in the dates stated above?

    D Tam

    Posted by Dennis Tam | November 25, 2008, 11:27 am
  2. I posted a comment for “The polytechnic that almost never came to be” this morning.

    I am surprised to see this statement shown in your Discussion section-
    No comments for “The polytechnic that almost never came to be”.

    My question: The dates listed in your “The Polytechnic that almost never came to be” article are not in chronicle order. Why?
    Please amend.

    Nov 25,08PM

    Posted by Dennis Tam | November 25, 2008, 5:23 pm
  3. Thank you for noticing the error. We have made corrections to the error.

    As for the earlier comment, it was not recorded by the system. The system accidentally marked it as spam. I have marked it ‘not spam’ and should appear in this post.

    Posted by Lee Xian Jie | November 25, 2008, 5:38 pm

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