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backgroundRestructuring of Education, Youth, and Citizenship: an Ethnographic Study of Private Higher Education in Contemporary Singapore, 2013-2015 (DPhil, Oxford) Academic Advisor: Craig Jeffrey, Johanna Waters

This three-year study explores the ways in which Singaporean youth are creating meanings and identities as citizen-subjects through their participation in private degree education. (read more)

The role of private higher education in the reproduction of cultural and economic capital has not been addressed in existing scholarship on contemporary higher education in East Asia. Within Singapore, private institutions has a longstanding role to play within the state vision of creating a flexible and economically ‘viable’ workforce. Since the early 1970s, a few private institutes in Singapore have begun to serve as partner institutions under the government’s Vocational and Industrial training program (now known as Continuing Education and Training) for companies and organisations to upgrade their workers’ knowledge and skills. Across the 1990s, a ‘wave’ of private institutes began to burgeon as part of the state’s internationalisation strategy, alongside an increased privatisation of the local universities, thereby blurring of the private/public divide in the local higher education landscape (Marginson, 2010; Mok, 2008). Existing private institutes were encouraged by the government to attract international students, while new institutions such as overseas private colleges and branch campuses were introduced into the higher education landscape (Huang, 2007). By the 2000s, the private institutions have already become a significant presence in the Singapore higher education landscape. In the latest round of university restructuring, the state is beginning to acknowledge that the private sector plays a complementary role to the public universities in terms of meeting the growing demand for higher education (MOE, 2012). What might these shifting dynamics tell us about the contemporary state, educational restructuring, and youth in Singapore?

Using a single private institution as the ethnographic locus, my research addresses these questions by drawing on the perspectives of students who are between ages 18 and 25 and pursuing their first undergraduate degree at the institute. Drawing on Foucauldian notion of governmentality with a pragmatist interpretation of social practices, my study contributes to geographical scholarship on education and youth by (i) arguing for a bio-political analysis in higher educational student life, (ii) advancing a concept of value/s to study the actual production of neoliberal (‘learning’ and ‘caring’) subjects, and (iii) challenging an elitist notion of cosmopolitanism attached to higher education.


85bd62_69ad597610074901abc634698a00f5femv1At the heart of student migration: education, mobility, and the time-space production of everyday life, 2010-2012 (M.Soc.Sci., NUS) Academic Advisor: Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai

This study is about young people at the heart of the everyday, quotidian, and transnational geographies of education migration. Through exploring scholarly works surrounding young people’s class-travelling aspirations, youthful impulses, changing subject positions and identities, and the connectivities that bind them with people and places afar, I suggest there is a strong underlying concern with the social reproduction of young people’s everyday life. The thesis reflects on, and makes clear, how ‘time’ and ‘space’ are complicit in the production of student migrants’ intimate lives. First, I examine how spatio-temporalities shape the ways student migrants articulate their experiences of mobility. Second, I discuss how the complex geographies of intimacy are constantly made and re-made through their changing socio-spatial and temporal demands. My research is conducted in Singapore with 30 Southeast Asian overseas students through a variety of methods: in-depth semi-structured interviews, diaries/blogs, and informal (online) conversations.


st_20161113_plmarriagerr6b_2738194Constructing non-migrant husbands’ masculinities: transnational strategies and uncalculated encounters within international marriage, 2009-2010 (B.Soc.Sci., NUS) Academic Advisor: Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai

The departing point of the research takes issue with how current marriage migration and transnationalism studies have given weight to the examination of (women) marriage migrants. However, recent dialogues between scholars on gender and transnational migration have brought to attention the importance of uncovering men’s positioning and strategizing within migration regimes. The overarching objective of my thesis paper is two-fold. First, it seeks to address the empirical gap on studies of men within literature on marriage migration and transnationalism. Second, the contemporary spatialities of non-migrant husbands’ lives are viewed as connected to conditions of transnationality in order to unfold more complex stories behind the construction of masculine identities. Alongside scholars who espouse a more expansive approach towards ‘gender’ and ‘transnationalism’, I attend to the narratives of non-migrant men in the context of Singaporean-Vietnamese international marriages. In framing Singaporean husbands’ international marriage encounters as the ‘intended’ and ‘unintended’ actions and consequences arising from their marital lives, I argue that this group of non-migrant men responds to the ‘transnationalizing’ of their lives with ambivalence. Their experiences are often caught between embracing the transnational social and economic opportunities on one hand, and resisting certain (potential) changes to their identities and roles on the other.


Related Experience

Feb – Jun 2016 | Researcher (Part Time) | National University of Singapore :: Providing research support to Professor Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai across various projects

May 2010 – 2013 | Research Assistant (Casual Scheme) | National University of Singapore :: Assist Professor Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai in various projects (include Asian MetaCentre’s CHAMP-SEA project on transnational families and ‘left-behind’ children; Asia Research Institute’s ‘State boundaries, cultural politics, and gender negotiations in commercially arranged international marriages in Singapore and Malaysia’; ‘Globalizing Universities and International Student Mobilities’) in conducting literature review and co-authoring journal articles.

Jul 2009 – Jan 2010 | Research Assistant | Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore :: Conducted ethnographic fieldwork for research project ‘State boundaries, cultural politics, and gender negotiations in commercially arranged international marriages in Singapore and Malaysia’ (Principal investigator: Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai)

Aug – Sep 2008 & 2009 | Undergraduate Research Assistant | School of Business, National University of Singapore :: Conducted ethnographic fieldwork for research project on ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ auction dinners (Principal investigator: Tambyah Siok Kuan)

May – Jun 2008 | Research Intern | Transient Workers Count Too :: Conducted original research with male foreign workers and produced a report on foreign workers’ experience with Ministry of Manpower’s temporary job scheme, Singapore (Advisor: Russell Heng Hiang Khng)