National University of Singapore to merge Yale-NUS and University Scholars Programme into new college

The formation of these two colleges is the latest move in NUS’ efforts to transform the educational experience at Singapore’s flagship university. ― TODAY file pic
The formation of these two colleges is the latest move in NUS’ efforts to transform the educational experience at Singapore’s flagship university. ― TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 27 — This year’s batch of students to enrol in Yale-NUS College will be its last, the National University of Singapore (NUS) said on Friday (Aug 27), as it announced that the college will be merged with the University Scholars Programme (USP) to form a new entity.

This will end NUS’ 10-year tie-up with the United States’ Yale University, which saw the establishment of the first liberal arts college in Singapore, and one of the first in Asia.

Yale-NUS will remain open and continue running its academic, co-curricular and research programmes until the end of Academic Year 2024/25. 

Yale-NUS students who matriculated in Academic Year 2021/22 and who form the graduating Class of 2025, will be the final cohort of students in Yale-NUS. 

Students currently enrolled in the USP will transit into the new college from Academic Year 2022/23, when it will welcome its first intake of up to 500 students.

Students of the new college, which has yet to be officially named, will read a new common curriculum adapted from the best of both the USP and Yale-NUS foundations, enhanced with new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) elements, NUS said in a statement.

The new college will continue offering a liberal arts education, with broader and more specialised offerings through a deeper integration with NUS, it added.

It will be known for interdisciplinary teaching and learning, with emphasis on intense intellectual debate and engagement through small group teaching and a pedagogy where students are challenged on their analysis of real-world issues, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, NUS said. 

It will be open to all students applying for admission to undergraduate degree programmes at NUS.

A planning committee, chaired by NUS senior deputy president Ho Teck Hua and comprising leaders from USP and Yale-NUS, Yale, as well as NUS, will continue the development of the plan for the new college.

In a separate statement, Yale University said that its representatives will play no role in the oversight of the new college.

However, Professor Pericles Lewis, Yale’s vice-president for global strategy, who served as founding president of Yale-NUS College from 2012 to 2017, will join its planning committee. He will serve as a volunteer on its International Advisory Committee once the college is open. 

The statement added that the USP’s current director Kang Hway Chuan, who was a founding member of Yale-NUS, will help develop the new college, along with current Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong and executive vice-president of academic affairs Joanne Roberts.

The university said that the original affiliation agreement signed in 2011 between NUS and Yale “has always given either party the opportunity to withdraw in 2025”. 

“By announcing four years in advance its intention to withdraw, NUS is providing all current Yale-NUS College students the chance to complete their undergraduate studies as planned,” it added.

The university also assured that no staff will lose their jobs due to the consolidation and as the staffing needs at Yale-NUS decrease, staff will either be transferred to the new college or redeployed elsewhere at NUS.

According to Yale News Daily, an independent student newspaper published by Yale students, Prof Lewis said that questions of academic freedom were not a factor in the decision to close Yale-NUS.

He said: “The NUS people and the government have been very supportive of academic freedom at Yale-NUS. We’ve been very satisfied with the ability of Yale-NUS students and faculty to exercise their academic freedom and have a really great experience there. That has not been a problem from our point of view.”

Separately, NUS said the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment will merge to form the College of Design and Engineering.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said in the statement that university education must evolve quickly to prepare students for a world marked by ever greater volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. 

“Graduates need to be highly curious problem-chasers and innovative problem solvers, flexible and adept at connecting the dots across diverse disciplines to succeed in a future of rapid change and unpredictability,” he said. 

“The establishment of these two new colleges is part of our roadmap of educational innovations and curricular reforms to keep up with the needs and challenges of the global economy.”

Yale President Peter Salovey said: “Yale takes great pride in the accomplishments of Yale-NUS College — a pioneering partnership between two leading universities to create a residentially based liberal arts college.

“I want to offer my best wishes for the new college and express our gratitude for the generous support of the Government of Singapore in making it possible for us to partner in the creation of a model of liberal arts education that is regarded as one of the most innovative in the world — one whose DNA will live on, we trust, in new and exciting ways.” — TODAY

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