Yale Plans To Create Liberal Arts College In Singapore

September 14, 2010

Singapore skyscrapersIn an effort to broaden its international influence, Yale University has entered into a joint agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to open a school adjacent to the NUS campus.

According to the New York Times, Yale's creation of a liberal arts college in Singapore could create a new leading educational model for higher education throughout Asia. Says Yale Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer to Yale Daily News, "We have a chance to influence the world. And if we are identified as a shaper, better students will apply here."

Expanding Yale's global brand is at the forefront of the decision, but cost is a leading factor as well. While the college will bear the Yale name (Yale-NUS College), it will not be funded by the New Haven University but by Singapore's government. Bloomberg News reports the Singapore government has set aside significant allocations to fund the college.

Yale President Richard Levin and Provost Peter Salovey noted to Bloomberg News that Singapore's government has endorsed "a very generous allocation to subsidize the college's operating expenses." Although no specifics were provided, but tuition would be similar to rates found at U.S. state universities.

The New York Times notes degrees would not be issued by Yale University, but by the National University of Singapore. However, Yale University will be responsible for curriculum development and hiring 100 professors to teach an estimated 1,000 students at Yale-NUS.

Replicating the Yale experience could be difficult, but Yale-NUS will include more faculty in residence, more classrooms, and include student living suites with their own common facilities and spaces. Fostering this atmosphere should trigger a shift towards deeper breadths of study and encourage critical thinking and discussion--two focuses Asian educators believe their schools currently lack.

In a recent press conference, NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan hopes the new Yale-NUS will help students to think as individuals. He says, "We want to create and nurture people with different skills and approaches, who can see connections across disciplines."

President Levin echoes the same sentiment in the New York Times, "In a world that is increasingly interconnected, the qualities of mind developed through liberal education are perhaps more indispensable than ever in preparing students to understand and appreciate differences across cultures and boundaries, and to address problems for which there are no easy solutions."

On the surface, the educational rhetoric seems promising, yet there are a number of concerns from both sides. William Summers, a radiology and history of medicine professor at Yale, believes it could be difficult to convince Singapore's general population about the benefits of a liberal arts education.

Says Summers to Yale Daily News, "Singapore is already very 'credential oriented.' That mentality may make education for its own sake a difficult cultural hurdle."

Cultural differences are also a concern for Yale faculty members. The New York Times reports that some Yale faculty members have issues with the university partnering with a foreign government that is known to limit free speech and disallows public demonstration.

Haun Saussy, a professor of comparative literature and East Asian languages and literatures at Yale tells the New York Times that "We've had a lot of discussion groups, and a lot of people said, 'Wait a minute; are we carrying water for restrictive, repressive regimes?' It's a real concern."

Differences aside, Yale University and NUS have signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to move forward with campus planning, scheduled to open in 2013. Yet, before any plan is finalized, Yale leaders are garnering faculty responses before a final vote by the governing board at Yale.

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"Yale Plans to Create a College in Singapore," nytimes.com, September 13, 2010, Lisa W. Foderaro

"Yale, Singapore plan new liberal arts college," yaledailynews.com, September 13, 2010, Nora Caplan-Bricker

"Yale to Start Singapore Liberal Arts College as City Burnishes Reputation," bloomberg.com, September 13, 2010 Simeon Bennett

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