Our Principal Jan Royall reflects on her visit trip to South East Asia in March this year. 

At the end of Hilary this year, I had the pleasure of boarding a plane to visit our alumni, friends and supporters in Asia.

While the schedule – taking in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong – might suggest a whistle-stop tour, I was hugely touched by the number of people who met with us, and the warmth of the conversations had.


I am exceedingly grateful to our Foundation Fellow and MTST supporter, Robert Ng and his family, for once again hosting us in Singapore, this time at the wonderful Fullerton Hotel.  In their Lighthouse reception room, with views over Marina Bay, over thirty alumni, students, donors and offer holders came to meet friends, share stories, and hear about College’s exciting plans. I was heartened by the support shown for our upcoming RISE Campaign and the shared enthusiasm for a resilient, inclusive, sustainable and excellent Somerville which it proposes.


While in Singapore, I met with ST Telemedia who have been supporting the Lee Kuan Yew – Thatcher Scholarships. They have funded five scholarships in all, and we look forward to how our partnership may develop. I also signed a gift agreement with Amee Parikh of Amansa Capital for four new scholarships for the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development. Thank you so much, Amee!

It would not be a visit to Singapore without a delightful meal with Liz Tran and her husband Ray – always a highlight of the visit.

I was honoured to be asked by Kelvin Ng (2004, History) to come and talk to his pupils at St Nicholas Girls School about Oxford and Somerville in particular. Their questions and curiosity were boundless, and I hope to see many applications from these impressive pupils in years to come.

The wonderful Swee Choo Yeoh and her husband Jen Shek Voon invited us to dinner with some alumni and current students. Their son, TJ, had prepared a veritable feast. Many thanks to Swee Choo, Shek Voon and TJ for a lovely and lively evening!


We left at dawn the next morning for Kuala Lumpur. Yuan Yeoh (2007, Engineering) very kindly hosted us during our stay, as well as hosting an Iftar for Somervillians and guests.

One of the guests was HE Ailsa Terry CMG, the British High Commissioner in Malaysia, who spoke warmly about Oxford and its deep links with Malaysia. She herself is an alumna of St Hilda’s College. It was lovely to meet alumni ranging from academics to bankers to entrepreneurs, and we all agreed that Malaysia should become a regular part of the College’s visits to Asia.

Hong Kong

Our visit concluded in Hong Kong where I met with our Foundation Fellow and benefactor to the Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Trust, Mr Robert Ng, his wife Yeoh Saw Kheng, and his daughter Nikki Ng. Through the Ng Teng Fong Foundation, Mr Ng has become a leading philanthropist, and it was fascinating to hear from him about the work of the Foundation (named for his father) especially the projects undertaken during the pandemic. Mr Ng and his family have been exceedingly generous supporters of Somerville in providing accommodation for our visits in their wonderful hotels.

In the evening, I was honoured to take part in a ‘fireside chat’ event at the Art Museum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, along with the Secretary of the Treasury and Finance of the Hong Kong government Christopher Liu (1993, Wadham). The event was arranged and hosted by Josh Yiu (2000, DPhil Oriental Studies), Director of the Art Museum at CUHK. We were so lucky to have Josh give us a tour of the Art Museum and to learn the history of some of the most exquisite pieces I have seen. 

The subject under discussion in the fireside chat was ‘Talent Expansion and Borderless Collaboration in a Versatile World.’ Also on the panel was Professor Suk-Yin Wong, the first woman Master of CW Chu College at CUHK, and it was moderated expertly by Professor Alan K L Chan, Provost of CUHK and JS Lee Professor of Chinese Culture. We discussed the difficulties of being young today, the vital importance of education, and the necessity of collaboration across borders.

The event was open to alumni, students and faculty members of CUHK, as well as to our Somervillian community in Hong Kong. I was so pleased to see Raj Nihalani, Jeremy Lai, and James and Stephen Liu there.

Serendipitously, Somervillian artist Naiza Khan (1987, Fine Art) was opening her exhibition in Hong Kong the following day, and we were able to attend the show along with alumna Elinor Tam. Hosted at the Rossi and Rossi gallery, Naiza’s Unruly Edges exhibition was as thought-provoking as it was beautiful. 

We then travelled further north with Elinor to the Chi Nin Nunnery, a green haven amidst the hubbub of the city. It was lovely to wander the gardens and admire the craftsmanship of the wooden buildings.

I feel fortunate to have met so many Somervillians during this visit, and truly heartened by the support and affection for our College. We all agreed that regular visits to the region, accompanied by some of my academic colleagues, is something that we must seek to make reality.

Thank you to everyone who came to see me, and to the extraordinarily generous hospitality that we enjoyed.

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