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​Professor Euston Quah: 15 Years of Taking NTU Economics Forward

Published on: 02-Sep-2020

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Professor Euston Quah stepped down as the Head of Economics on 31 May 2020, after nearly 15 years. During his term as the Economics head, he transformed the division from a relatively obscure programme into what is now well-regarded not only in Singapore but also globally known. Economics in NTU was ranked 47 in the 2019 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject, and 65 in Times Higher Education’s 2019 World University Rankings by Subject, rising to the 52th position in 2020. Professor Quah identified three research areas which the programme should build on: Economics of Social issues (Environmental Economics, Urban Economics, Development Economics, Education Economics, etc); Quantitative Economics (Applied Econometrics, Applied Game Theory, Cost-Benefit Analysis); and Behavioural Economics. Today, NTU Economics has the largest group of researchers engaged in Behavioural Economics research in Singapore. In addition, Professor Quah initiated the Economics and Mathematics double degree programme which was offered to students up until Academic Year 2018/2019, as well as a double degree programme in Economics and Engineering.

Colleagues who have been with Professor Quah right from the beginning when the Economics programme was started in NTU in 2005 would know how difficult and challenging it was. Under his leadership, NTU Economics increased its pool of young professors—from only a few when the programme started, they now make up more than 60% of the Economics faculty today. These young professors not only received their PhDs from top universities; many are also Singaporeans. At the same time, Professor Quah built up the Economic Growth Centre (EGC), hosting international visitors and conferences. NTU Economics has also initiated research collaborations with major universities internationally, including The University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Zhejiang University (China), Fudan University (China), George Mason University (US), University of Nottingham (UK), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), Nagoya University (Japan), Korea University (Korea), Peking University (China). In 2017, EGC co-hosted the East Asian Environment and Resource Economics Conference, as well as the Western Economics Association Conference with Academia Sinica. Visitors hosted by EGC include distinguished economists from Ivy League universities, as well Nobel Laureates, Chief Economists of the Asian Development Bank and editors of leading economics journals.

Professor Quah's academic career in NTU has also included several senior leadership positions. He was Chair of the then NTU School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Earth Office, Chair of the Senate Committee on University Policies, and Member of the University Teaching Council. Prior to joining NTU, Professor Quah was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Deputy Director of the Public Policy Programme (now called the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), and headed the Department of Economics at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Along with these appointments, he is the only person to have headed the economics departments at both NUS and NTU. 

Professor Quah believes economics must be relevant to the needs of society. He is an advisor to several ministries in Singapore, as well as overseas organizations including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. He was a member of the Panel for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the Overseas Development Institute of London and has also served as a Board of Trustees member of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, the Energy Market Authority, and the Energy Studies Institute at NUS. He is presently serving as a board member of the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore and the Market Surveillance and Compliance Committee. He has been a member of the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) since its inception in 2016, in addition to being on the Singapore Medical Council’s Complaints Committee for the past decade. 

Professor Quah is a prolific and well-cited writer, having published over 100 articles in journals and lead opinion pieces in the media. He is also the author of the bestselling Asian edition of Gregory Mankiw’s leading textbook, Principles of Economics (now into its Third edition in 2020), and the internationally known book, Cost-Benefit Analysis, now into its sixth edition in 2020. He also wears multiple hats as Editor of the Singapore Economic Review (a Social Sciences Citation Indexed journal), President of the Economic Society of Singapore, and member of the prestigious European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Recognizing Professor Quah's outstanding contributions to NTU and society at large, NTU conferred him the title of Albert Winsemius Chair Professor of Economics in 2019. Most recently, he was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) at 2020 National Day Honours for his significant contributions to Singapore and service to NTU. Professor Quah gives his strongest support to the new HOD, Associate Professor Feng Qu, a well-published econometrician with expertise in the application of machine learning methods in economics and financial markets.

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