New activities kick off Tunku centenary celebrations

Wednesday 19 October 2022


St Catharine’s is proud kick off celebrations marking 100 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, joined the College to study law. The Tunku received not only his undergraduate degree but also an Honorary Fellowship from the College. St Catharine’s is now home to an incredible range of scholars from Malaysia thanks to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Fund, which was established in 2003 by the Government of Malaysia and St Catharine’s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tunku’s birth.

Dr Liana Chua (2021), the Fund’s Director and Tunku Abdul Rahman University Assistant Professor in Malay World Studies, commented:

“As part of a year-long programme of activities to mark this important centenary, the College will host two small events in Michaelmas Term 2022: a special ‘research showcase’ highlighting the work of some of our Malaysian postgraduate students, and a research seminar exploring the Tunku’s efforts to reshape national and international relations in the era of global decolonisation and the Cold War. I look forward to welcoming attendees from St Catharine’s, the wider Cambridge community and beyond to both events.

“Our programme doesn’t just commemorate the Tunku’s life and work. More importantly, it also celebrates the College’s long and rich connections with Malaysia, particularly through the Tunku Scholarship programme, as well as the talented Malaysian alumni who’ve passed through our doors of whom we’re incredibly proud and our lively community of Malaysian students in the present day.”

St Catharine's Tunku Abdul Rahman Fund exists to “encourage the development of the humanities and the social sciences in Malaysia” by offering grants and studentships for the country’s most promising scholars to study for a postgraduate degree in Cambridge. The Tunku Scholarship has supported an incredible range of scholars, and served as vital bridge between Cambridge and Malaysia – one that’s grown stronger every year. Find out more about our scholars.

Malaysians at Catz: a Research Showcase

26 October 2022, 12:00–13:15 (McGrath Centre, St Catharine’s College)

As part of the College’s Postgraduates’ and Fellows’ seminar series, four Malaysian students at various stages of their PhD journeys will discuss their research and field questions. Sandwiches and Malaysian cake to follow!



Tan Chee­-Yong, a Development Studies PhD student at St Catharine’s

The Malayan Dilemma: Race, Power and State-building in Malaysia

Cynthia L. James (2018, Education), an alumna who has returned to St Catharine’s for a PhD also in Education

Teachers and Technology in Rural Malaysian Classrooms: Insights from the T4 Global Survey

Wong Shu Ling, an Education PhD student at St Catharine’s


Why do Malaysian adolescents use social networking sites? A preliminary analysis

Chan Shun Wen, a History PhD student at St Catharine’s

British Commercial Perspective during the Second-Sino Japanese War (1937–45)

For further information about this seminar, please contact Barbara Neto-Bradley, Education Officer on the St Catharine’s MCR Committee, ( or Dr Liana Chua (

Commonwealth man through and through: Tunku Abdul Rahman and the decolonisation of the global order

Muhammad Suhail Bin Mohamed Yazid (History)

17 November 2022, 17:00-18:30 (Ramsden Room, St Catharine’s College)

While commonly remembered as Malaysia’s first prime minister and its preeminent nationalist, Tunku Abdul Rahman was many things. He too was an ardent believer of the British-led Commonwealth of Nations. How did he use Malaysia’s emplacement in this fraternity of nations to define his politics? In trying to strengthen his political position in Malaya (Malaysia after 1963), the Tunku creatively employed a Commonwealth-based internationalism to shape power relations within and beyond the nation-state. Three projects in particular demonstrate how he made this internationalism serviceable for power: the struggle for Malayan self-determination, the isolation of apartheid South Africa and the establishment of an international pan-Islamic organisation. Operating in the context of global decolonisation and the Cold War, the Tunku adapted the liberalist idioms of the post-war Commonwealth and harnessed the association’s networks to pursue these ambitious projects. Each one of these projects contains a story of Malaya’s uneven relationships with other Global South states, even as they built solidarities to flatten hierarchies in the postwar global order. By looking closely at the Tunku's efforts to reformat national and international relations, the Tunku can be recasted as a ‘worldmaker’.

Muhammad Suhail is PhD Candidate in History and Prince of Wales Student at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and was previously a Research Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute). His doctoral dissertation focuses on the intersections of anti-colonial nationalism and internationalism in postwar Singapore and Malaysia.

Please contact Dr Liana Chua ( for further details about this event.