Late last month, the National University of Singapore (NUS) announced that this year’s batch of students enrolled in Yale-NUS College (YNC) will be its last, as the college will merge with the University Scholar’s Programme (USP). The dissolution of Yale-NUS was initiated by NUS president Prof. Tan Eng Chye, who raised the idea to the Ministry of Education a few months back, in June.
This prompted an outcry from student leaders at YNC and USP, as well as their parents, who urged NUS’ administration to provide greater transparency and accountability on the decision to merge the college with USP, especially since it seemed like a decision that was made behind closed doors in a short amount of time.
The merger was discussed in Parliament
Responding to eight Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday (Sep 13), Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that NUS did not consult YNC’s student body or staff on the merger because the decision involved discussions of “sensitive issues of strategy and finances.”
One of the reasons – but not the main one – for the closure was the high costs of maintaining the faculty. Mr Chan said the cost of educating a student at YNC is more than double that of a regular NUS humanities or sciences student and that the college has “done its utmost in raising funds but […] has not reached its target” of $300 million. NUS president Tan Eng Chye said that YNC had only raised $80 million out of its original goal in endowment donations.
He iterated that the merger of YNC and the USP into the New College is part of NUS’s road map to more interdisciplinary learning. It comes after the recent creation of the College of Humanities and Sciences by bringing together the arts and science faculties.
According to Mr Chan, students and faculty from YC and USP have been invited to be part of the New College planning committee, and it will not have a separate governing board from NUS.
The college will remain open and continue running its programmes until the end of academic year 2024/2025, which the decisionmakers say is more than ample notice. However, this doesn’t give enough time for the latest (and last) batch of incoming students to decide whether or not to withdraw from the programme.
Addressing the credibility of the degree
With 2021 being its last intake of cohorts, current and former YNC are concerned about the credibility and stature of their degrees. Mr Chan responded that NUS is well-recognised by employers and postgraduate institutions, and that the Yale-NUS College degree will continue to be highly valued “even after 2025.”
He assured students that beyond 2025, NUS will provide supporting documentation to explain the context of Yale-NUS College, and provide letters of recommendation or referees, if alumni need them.
On the impact of academic freedom, Mr Chan says similar concerns were raised when YNC was first established and they prove unfounded, and that it was “grossly unfair” to NUS faculty to suggest that their work is less rigorous or less free than that of YNC.
Parents want answers
The sudden decision has also drawn criticism from parents about the decision-making process behind it.
NUS president Tan Eng Chye has agreed to meet parents of Yale-NUS students in a virtual town hall session this week, following a call by around 260 parents for a meeting to discuss the reasons for the college’s closure.