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I’ve migrated back down south — quiet south. I’m thrilled to share that since July 2023, I’ve become Associate Professor in Arts and Cultural Leadership at University of Southampton‘s Winchester School of Art.

The Russell Group University is ranked top 1% of universities worldwide. WSA was ranked 7th in subject area ‘Art’ in the Guardian University League Table 2019. My responsibilities are:

1) Conduct research in line with the School/Department research strategy and in keeping with an established research agenda in arts and cultural leadership

2) Teach arts and cultural leadership at postgraduate level and as specific expertise allows at undergraduate level, and to

3) Undertake leadership, management and engagement activities.

Both my parents left school by the age of 16 with no qualifications. My entry and continued presence in Higher Education had been a fluke. I was lucky to have won three full scholarships to study in Chicago, London and Tokyo, and to read Fine Art at that. I was 18 when invited to deliver my first lecture in a university (having won a national award). Since then, I’ve worked in 200+ universities worldwide. I moved North when hired by The Manchester Metropolitan University as a specialist in creative arts leadership 4 years ago. I’m pleased to be nominated for the National Teaching Fellowship Advance HE 2023, and MMU Staff EDI award twice. I’m proud to have developed the interdisciplinary MA Creative Arts Leadership as Programme Leader, which is likely one of few courses that teaches neurodiversity & LGBTQIA+ rights as leadership discourses.

I’m grateful for the critical friendship especially. from my mentees and students for pushing me. I’m honoured to be taught by leaders like Professor Ola Uduku with whom I co-curated the 75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations PAC75 for Black History Month 2020, which reached 18.2 million people. I’ve gifted an artwork to Becky Swain to thank Manchester Poetry Library for supporting Race Equity Activities Planning (REAP) and Anti-Racism Reading Group.

I’ve received many messages. Says Head of Department: ‘It’s with regret that we will see you leave partly because of all of your wonderful work but perhaps more importantly because of your critical commitment, innovation, pro-activity and spirit’.

Well, the spirited pro-activity & hyper-activity aren’t leaving.

In fact I’ll amplify my efforts to advance social justice in my new role, incl. opening doors for body-minds from working class, neurodivergent, global majority and migrant backgrounds like my own. I’ll end by quoting from my book Neuro-Futurising Leadership: An A-Z with Artful Movers and Shakers For 2050:

‘Many in the business of teaching — and esp. in teaching art — will agree that we do what we do, and continue to do what we do despite setbacks, are turbocharged by a shared understanding in the transformative power of art, education, higher education and the creative arts in higher education. We know that […] change takes time. That’s why we work with students, who will lead the following generations, find better strategies, ask better questions, and build better futures’.

Kai Syng Tan 2023

Above: Screenshot of session with poet Lemn Sissay MBE and leaders of tomorrow at the PAC75 October 2020.

Top: Wearing my heart on my sleeves: my lanyard and badges. See my Instagram post to learn more about my positioning.