Nanyang University was created as an institution of higher learning that aimed to preserve and promote Malayan Chinese culture. It was the first Chinese University outside China. To fundraise for the university, the local Chinese community from all walks of life, including hawkers, multi-millionaires, dance hostesses, and trishaw riders, donated time and money for the building of the school.
The institution's first lessons were held in 1955 and international students also registered to study Mandarin, adding diversity to the school. Meanwhile, the set up of a Department of Malay Studies in 1968 drew in Malay students.
The school opened up opportunities for employment for many Jurong residents. Thereby, Nanyang University brought changes to the socio-economic landscape of Jurong. In 1980, following the Sir Federick Dainton Report, Nanyang University merged with the University of Singapore to form the National University of Singapore.
Today, three focal points; the Nanyang University Gateway Arch, the Library and Administration Building, and the Nanyang University Memorial, have been gazetted as a national monument.