UNIVERSITIES IN SINGAPORE

UNIVERSITIES IN SINGAPORE

About 27 percent of Singaporean students who finish high school enter public universities, a figure expected to increase to 30 percent by 2015. Education commentators say it is a rate similar to that in most advanced economies. Lawrence Wong, a Singaporean education official, told the New York Times that while Singapore’s public universities were largely research-intensive, other countries had a more diverse mix of research institutions and applied universities that were more “practice-oriented.” [Source: Liz Gooch, New York Times, August 27, 2012]

Singapore has two public universities: the National University of Singapore, founded in 1905, with 31,735 undergraduate and graduate students in academic year 2005–6; and Nanyang Technical University, founded in 1955, with 25,715 undergraduate and graduate students in academic year 2005–6. National University of Singapore is the result of the 1980 merger of Singapore University and Nanyang University. A third, government-funded, privately managed institution, the Singapore Management University, was established in 2000 and has grown to more than 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students in 2005–6. Together, these three universities enroll in excess of 61,250 students. Singapore has four other institutions of higher education: Sngapore Polytechnic Institute; Ngee Ann Polytechnic; the Institute of Education; and the College of Physical Education. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Tuition at the National University of Singapore for the 1989-90 academic year ranged from S$2,600 per year for students in the undergraduate arts and social sciences, business administration, and law courses to S$7,200 per year for the medical course. The university-level tuitions were intended to induce prosperous families to bear a share of the cost of training that would lead to a well-paying job, but a system of loans, needbased awards (bursaries), and scholarships for superior academic performance meant that no able students were denied higher education because of inability to pay. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

In 1987, Singapore six institutions of higher education—National University of Singapore (the result of the 1980 merger of Singapore University and Nanyang University); Nanyang Technological Institute; Singapore Polytechnic Institute; Ngee Ann Polytechnic; the Institute of Education; and the College of Physical Education— enrolled 44,746 students, 62 percent male and 38 percent female. Enrollment in universities and colleges increased from 15,000 in 1972 to nearly 45,000 in 1987, tripling in fifteen years. The largest and most prestigious institution was the National University of Singapore, enrolling 13,238 undergraduates in 1987. Only half of those who applied to the National University were admitted, a degree of selectivity that in 1986 brought parliamentary complaints that the admission rate was inconsistent with the government's objective of developing every citizen to the fullest potential. *

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High Ranking of Singaporean Universities in International Surveys

Ranking of university education in 60 nations: 1) Finland; 2) Israel; 3) Singapore; 4) Switzerland; 5) Iceland; 6) Canada; 7) Belgium; 8) Australia; 9) Ireland; 10) the United States. [Source: International Institute for Management Development (IMD)]

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University are two of Asia’s top universities. The National University of Singapore was ranked second in the U.S. News & World Report Best Universities in Asia ranking in 2013. It was forth in 2008. Nanyang Technological University in Singapore was ranked 17th. NUS ranked 31st in the 2010 survey of universities by London-based QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd., 16 places above Peking University, China’s highest-placed institution. Yale was third, trailing the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Singaporean universities are not performing as well in some international rankings as they used to. Seah Chiang Nee wrote in Yahoo News, “The rapid intake of foreign students and professors, many of whom are poor in English, may have been one cause for the drop in rankings of Singapore's two top universities. The National University of Singapore had fallen from 18th in the world in 2004 to 34th in 2010, according to Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. And Nanyang Technological University dropped from 50th to 174th position. There are other reasons, for Singapore's decline. One is the fast improvements of other universities in Asia, including China. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Yahoo News, March 27, 2012 +*+]

Curriculum and Goals of Singapore’s Universities

The Ministry of Education tried to coordinate enrollments in universities and polytechnic institutes and specific degree and diploma courses with estimates of national manpower requirements. At the university level, the majority of the students were enrolled in engineering, science, and vocationally oriented courses. The Ministry of Education and the government clearly preferred an education system that turned out people with vocational qualifications to one producing large numbers of general liberal arts graduates.

The ministry attempted to persuade students and their parents that enrollment in the three polytechnic institutes, which offered diplomas rather than the more prestigious degrees (a common distinction in the British system of higher education), was not necessarily a second choice. In promoting this choice, the ministry pointed to the good salaries and excellent career prospects of polytechnic graduates who were employed by large multinational corporations. Similar arguments were used to persuade those who left secondary school with respectable O level level scores to enroll in short courses at vocational and technical training institutes and to qualify for such positions as electronics technicians or word processors that were beyond the capabilities of those who had been directed into vocational schools after the primary grades.

Almost all of the graduates of the demanding four-year Honors Degree Liberal Arts and Social Science program at the National University of Singapore were recruited into the upper levels of the civil service. Many graduates of the ordinary three-year arts, social science, and science programs were steered into teaching in secondary schools.

Classes in Singaporean universities are generally in English, with a few classes in languages of the ethnic groups that live in Singapore. There is a strong emphasis on studying job-related subjects. Students who study economics and business are given scholarships while those who study English and political science are not. The names of scholarship holders who break their agreements have their names publicized.

Singaporean universities have been accused of producing good mid-level managers and engineers and not much more. As is true in grade school obedience and doing well on tests is valued. The founder of a software company told he New York Times, “In Singapore they tell you your courses, they tell you your schedule and tell you what books to buy.” He said when he started at an American university he was shocked when his counselor asked him what classes he wanted to take.

Closure of Singapore’s Chinese -Language University

The closure of Chinese -language Nanyang Chinese University in 1978 provoked a strong, reaction among Singapore’s Chinese-speaking community. Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “In 1956, the Chinese university was inaugurated in a burst of resurgent pride among ethnic Chinese in Singapore, Malaya and Borneo in their language and culture following the birth of the People’s Republic of China. It drew spontaneous support of the Chinese merchants in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Hundreds of thousands of common folk contributed funds – rickshaw-riders, coolies and hawkers contributed a day’s earnings. “This meant more political problems because, without English, the graduates would be unemployable,” said (then) Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, October 20, 2002 *^*]

Nanyang Chinese University “had three colleges teaching arts, science and commerce – but the courses were in Chinese. Difficulties notwithstanding, it remained a powerful symbol of Chinese language, culture and education although it churned out graduates the economy could not use. The government had to find a solution but it was an impossible task; changing it into an English varsity was difficult because the staff members were all Chinese-educated, Lee said. *^*

“Most of his Cabinet colleagues were against government intervention as it was politically too costly. Why stir a hornet’s nest? Lee said: “What finally propelled me to action was a report by the Peoples’ Association that when applying for jobs, Nantah students had produced their school certificates (equivalent to O-level) and not their Nantah degrees,” he said. When he acted, it was drastic. In 1978, the whole Nantah – staff and students – was moved into the National University of Singapore (NUS), taught in English and given NUS degrees. The university disappeared, except in name. *^*

“But emotional opposition came from the Nantah alumni. The Malaysian alumni considered it an act of betrayal. In 1992, it was given the status of university and called Nanyang Technological University. In this way, as Lee said after Nantah’s closure, “we had stopped breeding successive generations of disadvantaged graduates.” *^*

Too Many Graduates in Singapore

Local media in Singapore have reported the market is unable to absorb the large number of graduates coming onstream. One report quoted a McKinsey & Co study as saying that almost half of the graduates are holding jobs that do not require a degree. The over-supply is having a dampening effect on graduates’ salaries (again no mention of the foreign arrivals), it added. In the past 10 years, undergraduate numbers have doubled.

According to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by an Education Ministry official in Singapore told a US diplomat that Singapore did not plan to encourage more students to study in university, and the campus enrolment rate would stay at 20 percent-25 percent. The comment was made in 2012 by director of planning Cheryl Chan. She suggested capping the graduate enrolment rate at 20 percent. The reason, she said, was: “The labour market does not require too many graduates.” She also admitted that only 23 percent of Singaporean students who entered primary school would ever complete a four-year tertiary education, a figure far below that of the United States (50 percent) and Taiwan.

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “This gave confusing signals to a worried population, which probably ranks as one of the most enthusiastic in Asia about getting a degree for their children. Many continue to make great personal sacrifices to help their children and are unlikely to abandon this just because of what the government says. The new emphasis is for multiple skills and drive. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, May 25, 2013 ^~^]

“So far, the government has not reduced the places in university but has instead increased them. The number of universities were raised to five with a total enrolment of about 13,250 students, with about a third being foreign students. Cutting down tertiary education is obviously not in the cards – but “discouragement” is now taking place. The ruling party is dependent on the scholarship system to recruit its future leaders, and it is still bent on attracting bright foreign students to its shores. In addition, nearly 18,000 Singaporeans are studying in foreign institutions, mostly in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. ^~^

Downplaying the Significance of a College Degree in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A number of political leaders have appealed to Singaporeans not to place too much faith on university degrees in an apparent effort to manage public expectations. This is the clearest sign yet that the authorities are expecting a sustained period of relatively low economic growth and slower employment opportunities. Singaporeans, especially parents, who have long regarded the university degree as a key to a good life will likely be shocked. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, May 25, 2013 ^~^]

“Having a large number of graduates, once thought crucial for Singapore’s prosperity, is now considered not conducive to the changing manpower market, at least in Singapore. However, none of the political leaders – the Prime Minister and three ministers – has mentioned another reason for the excess of graduates – the mass intake of foreigners. ^~^

“Led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, the leaders are now advising Singaporeans to consider non-university routes to success. Khaw said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.” He added that Singapore could not have an entire nation of graduates. “Can you have a whole country where 100 percent are graduates? I am not so sure. What you do not want is to create huge graduate unemployment,” he said. ^~^

“Then it was the turn of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who said that a good qualification alone does not guarantee a career, let alone a job. Thirdly, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said it is not the degree or diploma that is most important for graduates, but the ability to learn a different set of skills. “The soft skills in life have to be acquired and have to be continuously refreshed. If not, even with the best degree from the best universities in the world, we may find ourselves obsolete one day.” ^~^

“They were taking the cue from Prime Minister Lee who had earlier told polytechnic students that getting a degree is not the only option. He encouraged them to work for a few years or start their own business. “You will gain experience and understand yourself better and then be better able to decide what the next step will be,” he said at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s 50th anniversary celebration.” ^~^

“The effort to get Singaporeans to abandon the paper chase for their children is almost like mission impossible. Many have begun to spend thousands of dollars a month on private tuition for their kids starting as young as seven years old. What is the new drive aimed at? One possibility is that it is trying to reduce the number of below average students from joining the paper chase but still encouraging the bright ones to carry on. “So what work can non-graduates do? One suggestion from Prime Minister Lee is: “Become hawkers.”Singapore plans to build 10 large hawker centres. It’s a chance to develop entrepreneurial skills in a business no Singaporean customer can avoid for long – if the products are good.” ^~^

Singapore Learns from U.S. Universities

In August 2004, the New York Times reported: “A delegation of education officials from Singapore visited Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan, at the Ann Arbor campus. They took over a conference room, set up computers and peppered her with questions about tuition policy, fund-raising, governance and research, Dr. Coleman recalled. They wanted to know how Michigan became a prominent university, and how it was run today. "Eventually they'll reap the benefits of this work," Dr. Coleman said. "Singapore will create world-class universities. Other countries are taking the same approach. We're going to have enormous competition. We'd better be prepared for it." [Source: New York Times, December 21, 2004]

A 2008 statement from Singapore’s education ministry said a liberal-arts college would “inject more diversity into the publicly funded university sector.” Last year, 78 percent of Singapore’s graduates were from science, medicine, engineering, technology or business backgrounds, according to education ministry data.

Lawrence Wong, chairman of the Committee on University Education Pathways Beyond 2015, which is investigating options for expanding the sector, told the New York Times that as the country’s economy grew, more Singaporeans with high-level skills would be needed. “We also want to meet the strong aspirations among young Singaporeans for a degree education,” Mr Wong, who is also the minister of state for education, said in a statement. “The committee is looking at ways to expand the university sector in Singapore to cater to a wider spectrum of students, while maintaining quality and standards.” “The committee believes there is scope to develop a new university model in Singapore — one that is teaching-focused and practice-oriented, with close industry ties,” he said. The committee is also studying how to involve the private sector. [Source: Liz Gooch, New York Times, August 27, 2012]

Singapore Universities Raises Money from the Rich

In May 2012, Suzy Nam wrote in Forbes, “at an opening of the new Singapore University of Technology & Design, a collaboration with MIT, Chairman Philip Ng was able to raise $10 million for scholarships in less than two hours. Long a reluctant public figure even as he headed the wealthiest local family’s Far East Organization, Ng—now ranked No. 1 with his brother Robert—rounded up donors like popiah king Sam Goi (No. 14), who contributed $800,000. No coincidence: Philip Ng is an MIT grad. He has also been a trustee of Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. The Ng family fortune is listed under him and Robert as coexecutors of their late father Ng Teng Fong’s estate, which is still in probate. [Source: Suzy Nam, Forbes, July 25, 2012]

“Meantime, chairing a new joint program of Yale and NUS is Kay Kuok Oon Kwong, cousin of Kuok Khoon Hong (No. 7) and niece of Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s richest man. Real estate magnate Chua Thian Poh (No. 31) pledged $4 million for another NUS program. “There’s a strong ethos in the Chinese culture of giving to education,” explains Laurence Lien, third generation of the Lien family (No. 18), who chairs the family foundation. In 1953 entrepreneur Tan Lark Sye set the trend, giving $4 million and persuading Singapore’s Hokkien association to donate 500 acres to start Nanyang University, which later became NUS. The main university has been chaired since 2006 by Wong Ngit Liong, founder of Venture Corp. and a former rich lister. And Singapore Management University’s chair is Ho Kwon Ping (No. 40).

Foreign Universities in Singapore

As of 2007, sixteen colleges from other countries had a a presence in Singapore, attracting 86,000 students from 120 nations in 2007, according to the government’s Economic Development Board. Yale, Duke University, the University of Chicago, Imperial College London and France’s INSEAD among the colleges that have to set up campuses in Singapore. The University of Chicago offers an executive master’s degree in business administration. Johns Hopkins Medical School helps train doctors and researchers without awarding a degree.

Simeon Bennett and Oliver Staley of Bloomberg wrote: “The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School started classes in 2007, and Imperial College London said last month it planned to set up a medical college at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, creating the U.K. university’s first foreign campus. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, said in January it will help set up the new, publicly funded Singapore University of Technology & Design. “The U.S. remains the dominant force in higher education, but the balance of power is shifting,” QS said in the report, citing budget cuts and endowment declines. “The beneficiaries of recession in the West, in ranking terms, may be the rising academic powers of Asia.”[Source: Simeon Bennett & Oliver Staley, Bloomberg, December 14, 2010]

“In 2005 the U.K.’s University of Warwick said it scrapped plans to establish a campus in Singapore because of concern that academic freedom may not be sufficient.” Administrators from Yale “said New York University’s law school, which has run a law program at NUS since 2007, shows that university instructors in Singapore “are free to teach any topic and share their perspectives in the classroom.” [Ibid]

Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School

In 2005 Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and the National University of Singapore signed an agreement to partner in establishing a new medical school in Singapore. The school will have a curriculum patterned after that of the Duke University School of Medicine. The Singapore government is making a significant investment in the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School as part of a national strategy to become a leading center for medical research and education. The partnership also presents a valuable strategic opportunity for Duke to expand its global reach and research. [Source: Duke University]

The school admitted its first class in the fall of 2007. It is part of the National University of Singapore system, but unique in that it is overseen by a Governing Board, including a Duke representative who has veto power over any academic decision made by the Board. R. Sanders Williams, MD, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, was named founding dean of Duke-NUS in August 2005. Victor J. Dzau, MD, chancellor for health affairs at Duke University, serves as Duke's representative on the Board.

In 2007, Duke reported: “Duke and the National University of Singapore have announced $104 million (S$160 million) in donations to the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, the Triangle Business Journal reports. In January 2013 the universities received $52 million (S$80 million) from the estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, a wealthy Singapore businessman who died in 2004. The donation, the largest single gift awarded by the Khoo estate, will be used to fund biomedical research initiatives at the school and will be matched by the Singapore government. In recognition of the gift, the medical school will name its signature building the Khoo Teck Puat Building.[Source: Duke University, January 23, 2007]

"[Tan Sri Khoo's] advice to business associates and friends had always been that 'there is no secret to success — just hard work and effort'," said professor Tan Ser Kiat, Group CEO of Singapore Health Services and a member of the school's governing board. "He also believed that an achievement is not just an end in itself but a milestone to greater things. This guiding philosophy, coupled with a keen business acumen, saw him attain one remarkable achievement after another throughout his lifetime. He has left a lasting legacy and there is still much we can all learn from him."

Yale-National University of Singapore College

Yale-NUS College is a liberal arts college in Singapore set to open in August 2013. A collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS will be the first liberal arts college in the island-nation and one of the few in Asia that offers four-year undergraduate degrees on a residential campus that integrates learning and living. Established in 2011, Yale-NUS will eventually have a student body of 1,000 and a faculty of 100. Admission to the inaugural batch of 2017 began in 2012 and took place over three rounds with an acceptance rate of less than 5 percent making it more selective than both Yale and NUS as well as other top colleges like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, Duke and MIT. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote: “ Reuters reported: “Working with the National University of Singapore, or NUS, Yale is building a comprehensive liberal arts college from scratch. The school will offer majors from anthropology to urban studies, electives from fractal geometry to moral reasoning, and a rich menu of extracurricular activities -- sports, drama, debate, even a juggling club. Opened in the summer of 2012 with 150 students, it is slated to grow to about 1,000 undergraduates living in a high-rise campus now under construction.” [Source: Stephanie Simon, Reuters, December 29, 2012 ***]

“The Yale venture, which targets top students from around the globe, is an unusual hybrid. It will be called Yale-NUS College. It will draw some faculty -- and its inaugural president, Pericles Lewis -- straight from New Haven. Students will spend the summer before freshman year in New Haven, attending seminars with Yale faculty. When they graduate, they will be welcomed into the Association of Yale Alumni. Yet Yale officials are emphatic that the new school is not a branch campus. The degrees it issues will not be Yale degrees. "It is not Yale," said Charles Bailyn, an astronomy professor on leave from Yale to serve as the founding dean of Yale-NUS.” ***

“The new college is be funded entirely by the Singapore government, which also subsidizes tuition. Singapore citizens pay about $18,000 a year, including room and board. International students pay about $43,000 unless they secure a discount by committing to work for a Singapore company for three years after graduation. ***

Each student will graduate with either a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours or a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from Yale-NUS College, which will be awarded by NUS. Students will be able to major in 15 fields of study including Economics, Physics and Psychology. It is the first institution outside New Haven, Connecticut, that Yale University has developed in its 300 year history and the first Ivy League school to establish a college bearing its name in Asia. Like both Yale and NUS, Yale-NUS has also adopted a need-blind admission policy and promises to meet the full-need of all accepted students. +

Yale-NUS's vision is articulated as: "A community of learning, founded by two great universities, in Asia, for the world." Sections of the Yale faculty and alumni have expressed their discomfort with the lack of freedom in Singapore and have urged that for liberal-arts to thrive at Yale-NUS the campus must be free from political interference. With its strong connections to the business community of Singapore, many employers, such as American Express, American Museum of Natural History, GE, Chanel, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Santander, Singapore Airlines,Yale University Press have already committed to providing internships for Yale-NUS students. +

Yale in Singapore

Simeon Bennett & Oliver Staley of Bloomberg wrote: “The first Chinese citizen to earn a degree at a Western college went to Yale in 1850, according to the university. Now Yale is joining the return trip to Asia. Yale University set up its first foreign campus in Singapore to gain a foothold in a region that provides some of its brightest students, while the liberal-arts institution brings the Yale brand in Singapore’s quest to build a regional center of learning, Peter Salovey, Yale’s provost, said in an interview. Three of every 10 higher-education students worldwide now enroll in Asian colleges, according to the United Nations. [Source: Simeon Bennett & Oliver Staley, Bloomberg, December 14, 2010 <=>]

“There is no doubt that the future of Yale and other great universities is to have a global presence,” Salovey said. “We would like to be in parts of the world that represent important crossroads with increasingly thriving intellectual cultures.” “A Yale-style liberal-arts college, whose entire purpose is to get people to question and criticize everything, is very much a change,” said Ann Florini, director of the NUS Centre on Asia & Globalisation, and a fellow of the Washington-based Brookings Institution. <=>

“Yale President Richard C. Levin and Salovey said on Sept. 12 in an eight-page prospectus to Yale’s faculty that “of special concern in an international venture of this type is the degree of academic freedom for faculty and students.” “I feel shame for the university,” said Victor Bers, a 66-year-old professor of classics who’s been at Yale since 1972. “It cannot be done with a reliable assurance of what we understand by academic freedom.” <=>

“Degrees from the new college would be awarded through NUS, not Yale, while the U.S. institution would have authority to hire faculty and set curriculum and admission policies, the university said in the prospectus. Yale officials are “trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Garry Rodan, a professor at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, who has written or edited 10 books on Singapore and Southeast Asia. “They get the opportunity to develop and expand without having at the end of it to say that well, yes, it’s a Yale degree.” The NUS administration has worked to address any qualms Yale administrators have about harming the U.S. university’s reputation, Salovey said. “Our NUS colleagues are very sensitive to Yale’s needs and concerns and worries,” Salovey said. “There’s risk involved in any venture but we have a partner in NUS who is willing to work with us to reduce those risks.” <=>

“The NUS partnership isn’t Yale’s first venture in Asia. In 2001, it joined with Peking University to open a plant-genetics research center in Beijing. Yale also sends undergraduates to Peking University to study with Chinese students.In Asia, where students typically concentrate on one subject, a liberal-arts curriculum such as Yale’s is seen as the “secret sauce” for creativity and analytical ability, said Ben Wildavsky, a fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Missouri, and the author of “The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World” (Princeton University Press, 2010). <=>

“NUS and Singapore’s government will bear the costs of establishing and running the college, Yale said in a statement on its website. Singapore’s government has approved a “very generous allocation to subsidize the college’s operating expenses,” Levin and Salovey said, without disclosing the amount. Tuition fees would be comparable to those at U.S. state universities, the officials said. In-state tuition averages $7,605 for the 2010-2011 academic year in the U.S., according to the College Board, a New York organization that promotes college attendance. “If you’re trying to create a great university from scratch, the way you do it is to have a lot of money, to bring in all the talent you can, and through partnerships,” Wildavsky said. <=>

Yale Criticized for Its New Campus in Restrictive Singapore

Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote: “For more than 300 years, Yale University has prided itself on training top students to question and analyze, to challenge and critique. Now, Yale is seeking to export those values by establishing the first foreign campus to bear its name, a liberal arts college in Singapore that is set to open this summer. The ambitious, multimillion-dollar project thrills many in the Yale community who say it will help the university maintain its prestige and build global influence. But it has also stirred sharp criticism from faculty and human-rights advocates who say it is impossible to build an elite college dedicated to free inquiry in an authoritarian nation with heavy restrictions on public speech and assembly. [Source: Stephanie Simon, Reuters, December 29, 2012 ***]

"Yale's motto is 'Lux et veritas,' or 'Light and truth,'" said Michael Fischer, a Yale professor of computer science. "We're going into a place with severe curbs on light and truth ... We're redefining the brand in a way that's contrary to Yale's values." Yale President Richard Levin describes the new venture as a chance to extend Yale's tradition of nurturing independent thinkers to a dynamic young nation at the crossroads of Asia. In the 19th century, Yale scholars fanned out to launch dozens of American colleges, Levin noted in a 2010 memo presenting the concept to faculty. "Yale could influence the course of 21st century education as profoundly," he wrote. ***

“Levin, who spent years expanding Yale's campus in New Haven before initiating the Singapore project in 2010, has announced plans to retire at the end of the academic year. His successor, Yale Provost Peter Salovey, also supports the Singapore venture. Yale and Singapore will get an equal number of seats on the new college's governing board -- but Singapore's education minister must approve all the Yale nominees. The arrangement exposes Yale to risk because its name is on the college, yet the university does not have control over the end product, said Richard Edelstein, who studies trends in higher education at the University of California at Berkeley. One angry member of Yale's faculty, Christopher Miller, a professor of French and African American studies, has dubbed the venture "Frankenyale." ***

“Those involved in the project say the novel structure is a boon that will enable educational experimentation, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary seminars and student research. It's a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a new college program from the ground up," said Yale anthropologist Bernard Bate, who has signed on to teach in Singapore. He and others say they will bring the best of their new approach back to New Haven. And they contend that fears about censorship in Singapore are wildly overblown. ***

“That issue came to the fore last spring, when Yale faculty voted 100 to 69 for a resolution raising concern about the venture in light of "the history of lack of respect for civil and political rights" in Singapore. Human Rights Watch, the international advocacy group, subsequently accused Yale of "betraying the spirit of the university." This month the American Association of University Professors weighed in, expressing concern about the project's implications for academic freedom. ***

“In the name of stability and security, the government restricts public demonstrations to a corner of one park and heavily regulates news and entertainment, according to the U.S. State Department. Last year a British author was jailed for writing a book critical of Singapore's judiciary. This spring the government prevented an opposition politician from leaving the country to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum. ***

“Still, Yale faculty working on the new college said they had spoken with foreign professors teaching on other campuses in Singapore and came away convinced that academic freedom would be respected. George Bishop, a Yale PhD who been teaching psychology at the National University of Singapore since 1991, says he has never felt restricted. In a class on the AIDS epidemic, he and his students freely discuss how Singapore's anti-sodomy laws hinder the nation's public-health response. "We criticize the government all the time in class," said Bishop, who has joined the faculty of the new college. ***

“Yet Yale-NUS will not be free and open in the way American students may expect. Singapore bans speech deemed to promote racial or religious strife. As long as they toe that line, students will be free to hear speakers and express views inside campus buildings. But many outdoor assemblies will require a government permit, Yale-NUS President Lewis said. Singapore law defines "assembly" quite broadly, to include a single protester holding a sign or an open-air debate. "Can you march on City Hall?" asked Bailyn, the Yale-NUS dean. No, he answered -- but said that didn't trouble him, as "that's not really an educational matter." Bailyn said he had been promised complete freedom with "the core mission of the college -- researching, teaching, unfettered discussion." ***

“Indeed, Yale-NUS faculty say they expect Singapore to be cautious about interfering with the new college for fear of provoking an incident and prompting Yale to withdraw its name. "We know what a liberal arts education is, what intellectual freedom is," said Keith Darden, a professor of social sciences at Yale-NUS, "and we'll accept nothing less than that for ourselves and our students." ***

“Under the philosophical questions lies a pragmatic one: Will the new college succeed? For all its wealth, Singapore has not always proved an ideal marketplace for higher education. Australia's University of New South Wales opened a campus in Singapore in 2007 -- only to shut it after one semester because of low enrollment. This fall, NYU announced it would close its graduate film school in Singapore because of financial trouble. Interest in Yale-NUS is running high. Almost 2,600 students from around the globe have applied for the initial 150 spots. Several dozen have already been accepted -- among them, Singaporean students who suggest Yale's faculty might do well to back off the criticism and trust in the value of the liberal arts education they hold so dear. ***

"Ideological purity and moral righteousness from these critics will not make Singapore a free society, but education and the spread of ideas will," Jared Yeo, a Singapore native accepted to Yale-NUS, wrote on the college's blog. Perhaps the most pointed critique of the New Haven protests came from E-Ching Ng, a Singaporean who earned an undergraduate degree at Yale and remained on campus to study linguistics. In a column in the Yale Daily News last spring, she urged faculty to respect the rules Singapore has developed to maintain public order. "Qur'an burning is illegal in Singapore, and we like it that way," she wrote. "We prioritize our values differently, and different doesn't mean wrong. At least, that's what I learned from a Yale liberal arts education." ***

Singapore Aims to Attract over 150,000 International Students by 2015

Singapore wants to attract 150,000 international students by 2015, increasing the contribution education makes to Singapore’s gross domestic product to 5 percent, from 3.2 percent in 2009. “Education is not very sexy when we compare it to the export of electronics or pharmaceuticals, but it’s beginning to be one of those important small areas which is providing a source of future growth,” said Song Seng-Wun, an economist at CIMB Research Pte. in Singapore. [Source: Simeon Bennett & Oliver Staley, Bloomberg, December 14, 2010]

As of 2007, there were 90,000 foreign students representing over 120 nationalities in Singapore. "Our vision is to develop Singapore as a compelling global hub for business, investment and talent," Jonathan Lim, Head Education of Economic Development Board (EDB) said. "To achieve this, our mission is to create a sustainable GDP growth for Singapore with good jobs and business opportunities for its people," Lim added. [Source: PTI, The Hindu, September 21, 2008]

According to The Hindu: “The EDB and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) together in 2003 launched Singapore Education, a multi-government initiative to highlight the unique educational experience that expat students can get in Singapore. Of the total students in Singapore, 75 percent are foreigners. Indians form a major chunk of this student population. High standards of living at reasonably affordable prices and a cosmopolitan city with traditional Asian values are some of the factors that attract students to Singapore.” [Ibid]

As Singapore Globalizes its Universities Locals Worry

"This is how our society treats us and our parents who pay taxes,” read a post in 2012 on The Thinking Fish Tank, a Singapore-based blog. “They’d rather give scholarships to others than their own.” Liz Gooch wrote in New York Times, “The writer, who identifies herself as G.T. and an engineering student at the National University of Singapore , is not the only one complaining online that international students, some of whom receive scholarships, are squeezing Singaporeans out of public universities. [Source: Liz Gooch, New York Times, August 27, 2012 |+|]

“Universities around the world have made attracting international students a fundamental goal. And Singapore has been successful in its pursuit, with foreigners representing 18 percent of the undergraduate student population. Yeow-Tong Chia, a lecturer at the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, said there was great demand for university education in Singapore, illustrated by the strong growth of the private education sector. “It’s quite obvious that there’s a demand and partly because of the culture of East Asia, the Confucian culture of this reverence for education — the thinking that having a higher education will provide you with a better life,” Mr Chia, a Singapore native, said. But the globalization of the country’s higher education sector has some Singaporeans concerned that bringing in more international students may have come at a cost to citizens, despite a rise in the number of Singaporean students attending universities in recent years. |+|

“The government has capped the number of international students at 20 percent of the undergraduate intake for the past decade. In 2011, they made up 18 percent, with most coming from China, India and other Southeast Asian countries, according to the Ministry of Education. The ministry said in a statement that it would maintain current levels “to facilitate better integration between Singaporeans and international students.” Mr Chia said that criticism about the number of foreign students — which reflects broader concerns about the government’s bringing in foreign talent to bolster the work force and economic growth — had been growing since the 1990s, but that concerns became more obvious as people turned to the Web to air their opinions. Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged the issue in his National Day speech in 2011, stating that “one unhappiness is the feeling that maybe foreign students have taken the place of locals in the universities.” He emphasized that places for foreign students had not come at the expense of Singapore citizens, as university places for local students had actually increased. |+|

“Mr Chia, the University of Sydney lecturer, said that the government should provide more places for Singaporean students but that “the question is how much more.” He said the government needed to consider whether graduates would be able to find jobs. “It’s kind of a balance that the government has to do but, having said that, there’s also another imperative of university education that is not just for economics but for education itself,” Mr Chia said. “What higher education is all about is also the training of the mind. That is also important.” |+|

Singapore a Scholarship Haven for Foreign Students?

In February 2012, the government that at least 2,000 scholarships worth S$36mil are awarded each year to overseas students.Seah Chiang Nee wrote in Yahoo News, “Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann said that most of these scholars served out their bonds and the few who defaulted were made to pay liquidated damages.But dishing out so many pre-tertiary and university scholarships to foreigners is becoming a sensitive issue. Getting a degree has always been a life-long dream of most Singaporean parents and youngsters, many of whom spend thousands of dollars in private tuition every month. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Yahoo News, March 27, 2012 +*+]

“Former Minister for Education, Tharman Shanmugaratnam said several years ago: "We must continue to take in foreign students from all over Asia, and the world. Each of them brings a different bit of the world into our schools, and into Singapore." They are required to serve a three-year bond after graduation, but to locals this is a double blow since they'll have to compete also on the job front. +*+

“Why are Singaporeans objecting so vehemently? Mainly, people are annoyed over the loss of opportunities and salary undercutting by these newcomers from poorer countries. Besides, as former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once admitted, the majority came to enjoy the scholarships, not to settle down. They use Singapore as a jumping-off point for the West. Lee once remarked that if only 20 percent settled here, the government would be satisfied. As a general rule, taking in foreign students adds value to tertiary studies. "Besides, some scholarship students return home to assume top posts in the government or private companies, which can help smooth bilateral relations with Singapore. +*+

“Critics point out that a limited number of top foreign students is generally an asset to any university, but few are subsidised the way they are in Singapore. In the United States, the premium institutions set very strict entry requirements and charge foreigners higher fees than locals. "Compared with other countries, Singapore likely has a larger proportion of scholarships taken up by foreign students as compared to locals," said David Loong. Opposition Reform Party politician Lim Zi Rui criticised the government for treating Singaporeans as second, and even third, class citizens when it comes to education. He said: "Our local students lose out, lose the chance, even though they are of the same calibre." +*+

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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