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Kai Syng Tan

Associate Professor in Arts and Cultural Leadership, University of Southampton

Kai Syng Tan PhD PFHEA @kaisyngtan: Kai (she/they) is a tentacular and hyperactive artist-academic-agitator. Her creative research seeks to catalyse conversation and action for a more equitable and creative future. Drawing upon her background as a neurodivergent migrant woman from a working-class background (where both parents left school by 16), Tan mobilises art, artistic processes and 'artfulness' to propose practices and paradigms centring creative neurodivergent leadership, inclusivity and anti-colonialism.

Kai is an experienced academic developer and teacher (PFHEA, National Teaching Award 2023 nomination after having taught in 200 universities worldwide), trans-disciplinary research innovator (being 'the person who has done the most' to re-imagine running as a creative arts and humanities discourse).

She is also an award-winning creative practitioner (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change Award; San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Film Award). Her portfolio ranges from being being Biennale of Sydney artist representing her country of origin (2006), to being an invited juror for the prestigious Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan (2023).

As curator and creative director, Kai has instigated festivals and events ranging from £0 to £4.8m (including the 75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations to mark Black History Month that reached 18.2 million people worldwide, and the opening and closing ceremonies of Asia’s Paralympics praised as ‘game-changing’ by disability groups). 

Kai has delivered over >900 keynote lectures and commissions on an international level (e.g. Museum of Modern Art, Sydney Biennale), been awarded £500,000 in research funding (including Japan Foundation and Singapore National Arts Council), and has featured in >40 publications (e.g. Routledge, University of Minnesota Press). Tan has also founded and/or (co-)led 6 global research networks (totalling >500 members) to nurture and amplify the work of other marginalised artistic researchers.

Kai us Associate Professor on the MA in Arts and Cultural Leadership, University of Southampton. She is working on three books currently to explore ways to diversify, decolonise, neuro-queer, 'futurise' and re-imagine ‘leadership’ as a creative practice (Palgrave MacMillan 2024, Routledge 2025, World Scientific 2025)

Instagram, LinkedIn, ORCID, Skype: @kaisyngtan


  • 2023–present
    Associate professor, University of Southampton


  • 2014 
    UCL Slade School of Fine Art, PhD in Fine Art