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Kenneth Paul Tan, PhD (Cambridge)
Talent100 Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies
School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University

An academic all-rounder.


An interdisciplinary scholar, with expertise in Political Science, Public Management and Policy Studies, Sociology, Urban Studies, Cultural Studies, Film and Media Studies, and Singapore Studies.


A multiple-award-winning educator and executive trainer, recognized for his scholarly and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary, socially transformative, and highly interactive teaching and learning, combining the best of liberal arts and professional modes of education.


A seasoned academic leader with deep experience in institution-building and educational reform.

Click here to download full CV

Kenneth Paul TAN is a tenured Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, which hired him under its Talent100 initiative in February 2021. He teaches and conducts interdisciplinary research at the Department of Journalism, the Academy of Film, and the Department of Government and International Studies.

Previously, he was a tenured Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He was its Academic Dean (Vice Dean for Academic Affairs) during the most rapid and critical years of its growth and served in its senior leadership team for almost a decade. Prior to that, he taught concurrently at the NUS Political Science Department (where he was Assistant Head) and the University Scholars Programme, the university's pioneering and cutting-edge liberal arts programme.

He has received numerous teaching awards over the years, including NUS's most prestigious Outstanding Educator Award. He was elected Chair of the university's Teaching Academy.

His books include Asia in the Old and New Cold Wars: Ideologies, Narratives, and Lived Experiences (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023), Movies to Save Our World: Imagining Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Destruction in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2022), Singapore's First Year of COVID-19: Public Health, Immigration, the Neoliberal State, and Authoritarian Populism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 新加坡模式:城邦國家建構簡史 (季風帶文化,2020), Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Governing Global-City Singapore: Legacies and Futures After Lee Kuan Yew (Routledge, 2017), Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension (Brill, 2008), and Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics (NUS Press, 2007).

He has also published numerous articles in leading international journals, reflecting an innovative and interdisciplinary research agenda that bridges Political Science, Public Management and Policy Studies, Sociology, Urban Studies, Cultural Studies, Film and Media Studies, and Singapore Studies.

He has held visiting fellowships, and honorary and adjunct professorships at the Australian National University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Georgetown University (on a Fulbright Fellowship), Griffith University, Harvard University, Sciences Po, INSEAD, the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the University of Hong Kong. In 1995, he received the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Postgraduate Scholarship to do a PhD in Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge, which he completed in 2000. In 1994, he obtained a First Class Honours degree in the Joint School of Economics and Politics at the University of Bristol on a Public Service Commission Overseas Merit (Open) Scholarship.

He is a member of the National Museum of Singapore’s Advisory Board. He was the founding Chair of the Asian Film Archive’s Board of Directors and the Chair of the Board of Directors of Singapore theatre company The Necessary Stage.

He is a trained musician and an enthusiastic marathon runner. He is married to Clara Lim-Tan, Director (Arts Education) at the Ministry of Education (Singapore).

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What people say about Kenneth Paul Tan:

"The master-educator of the LKY School … He’s done a truly remarkable job in his 5 years as Vice Dean. … If you don’t have someone who provides dynamic and outstanding leadership in the core critical areas of the School, the School will not have succeeded as much as it has. So to all who say that the LKY School has done exceptionally well in the last 5 years, I’d say let’s be honest about it. Thank you Kenneth Paul Tan."

Dean Kishore Mahbubani

Speech, 2 August 2017

"During my 50+ years of academic work in four continents, I have not encountered a single person in a senior position who has been always scrupulously honest, constructive, objective, full of integrity and supportive. This is in addition to your intellectual prowess."

Distinguished Professor Asit Biswas

Letter, 2 July 2017

"His peers call him 'a gentleman scholar as well as a bold intellectual' ... He is ... the very model of a new breed of a 'modern university leader' ... In his own way, he is pushing the boundaries to further open the space for public discourse in Singapore for 'better outcomes for all'."

Mint, 28 March 2014

" ... in our polarised and polarising societies ..., our academic institutions face unprecedented challenges. Their traditional roles as centres for independent scholarship and non-partisan dialogue, and as trusted sources of expertise are coming under threat. Increasingly, our post-modern societies question the value of universities’ neutrality and non-partisanship. More so than before, our universities need thoughtful, independent, socially impactful and critical minds to address society’s most vexatious and contentious problems. ... In this respect, I can think of no better scholar than Kenneth to meet this need. ... In these politically charged and fragmented times, our universities need more of these silo-defying, silo-busting scholars."

Professor Donald Low

Letter, 23 October 2019

"Prof Kenneth Paul Tan's departure [from the LKY School] will be a great loss to NUS and Singapore. Not only is he one of the most prolific and insightful scholars writing on Singapore politics and culture, he is also a tremendous teacher, having won numerous teaching awards and taught countless numbers of undergraduate and graduate students. I had the privilege of sitting in one of his graduate classes on Singapore policymaking at LKYSPP some years ago. It was a real treat seeing a master of his craft at work. And of course, he's one of the nicest persons I've met, cheering junior academics along whenever he can. I'm now thoroughly jealous of my colleagues in Hong Kong and HKBU."

Professor Elvin Ong

Facebook post, 4 September 2020

"Even after all these years I remember your classes and some of your lectures so clearly. What I absorbed most was your spirit of fearless enquiry, which is society's best bet to better itself. It was an honour to be your student."

Shriya Mohan, UNDP

Email,  26 May 2022

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