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Chia Lin Sien, Fellow Institute of Southeast Asian Studies,
Lloyd C. Onyirimba, Centre for Information Technology Systems and Strategy (CITSS),
George S. Akpan, Research Scholar/Graduate Fellow National University of Singapore, Singapore
Over the past half-century, the Asian developing economies have undergone several shifts in business orientation – from import substitution to mass production of standardized products for restricted markets to more flexible production of differentiated products for much more diversified, and freer, global markets. Globalization can be seen as enhanced functional integration among internationally dispersed economic activities Wrigley, Wagenaar, and Clarke (1994; Thomas 1996). Globalization also takes the form of increasing networking of national economies involving consumers, suppliers, and markets. This is the result of multinational corporations operating on a world-wide scale taking advantage of the new international division of labor, in which the production process is spread over several countries to achieve economies from different types of labor and resource inputs Kini (1995).
All these international activities occur within a framework of enhanced technology that generates significant productivity gains while the traditional economy of traders is giving way to a world economy of international producers. In turn, globalization results in greater complexity of international trade as raw materials, parts, and products are shipped among multinational corporations' plants in different countries. Improvements in transport technology, particularly the bulking of goods and the introduction of containerization and intermodalism, further support the growth of this spatial division of labor by reducing the real cost of transport and improving the reliability of the logistics chain Wrigley, Wagenaar, and Clarke (1994).
Singapore has traditionally had a vital interest in the affairs of Southeast Asian nations arising from the focal position the republic holds as the entrepot port for commerce between countries of Southeast Asia and the developed nations as well as its role as a communications and financial centre of the region. The republic's interest in the region has been stimulated by the presence of significant ethnic Chinese communities in all the countries in Southeast Asia where cultural and commercial ties have been to some extent maintained. More recently the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the activities relating to political, cultural and economic cooperation have injected considerable interest in private and government bodies as well as in the academic community.
The University of Singapore (SU) and Nanyang University (NU) — now merged as the National University of Singapore — together with the more recently established Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) constitute the major strongholds of interest in Southeast Asian Studies. Apart from these, the South Seas Society established before the Pacific War represents a traditional focus of interest in the region's affairs on the part of the scholarly component of the Chinese community. The sections following will describe briefly the development of these institutions before dealing with their teaching and research activities.
The University of Singapore
The beginnings of the Republic's leading institution of higher learning, the University of Singapore, can be traced back to the King Edward VII College of Medicine which was first established as the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in July 1905 and subsequently changed to the King Edward VII Medical School in 1912. In 1921, the name was further changed to the King Edward VII College of Medicine after a period of substantial expansion. Quite separately, the Raffles College was established in 1929 primarily to train indigenous educators and civil servants. The Pacific War in 1942-1945 saw the closure of both institutions. However, they were reopened soon after the war.