Singapore — Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) said that he and his WP colleagues will be asking questions in Parliament concerning the closure of Yale-NUS College as well as the merger that will be taking its place.
The MP, who is an associate professor of economics at ESSEC Business School, called the loss of the liberal arts college “regrettable” in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sept 1).
Last week, on Aug 26, Yale University made the announcement concerning Yale-NUS’ planned closure, twelve years after it opened.
Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, had written in a statement that Tan Eng Chye, the present of the National University of Singapore, had informed Yale last month that it intended to merge Yale-NUS with its existing University Scholars Program “to form a new and larger liberal arts college that will not bear Yale’s name.”
Assoc Prof Lim noted that “the average Singaporeans” would regard the closure of Yale-NUS as “no big deal.”
“The idea of the liberal arts is also alien to most Asians. Asian universities tend to focus most on science, technology, and other professional fields that are perceived to contribute most to economic output (and yield jobs for graduates),” he wrote.
However, he pointed out that the “liberal arts mindset has also given rise to amazing innovators” including Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Assoc Prof Lim also commented on the upcoming interdisciplinary College of Humanities and Sciences that will take the place of Yale-NUS, saying that as both an educator and a Singaporean, he wishes the new endeavour success.
“I would have rather seen the two institutions side-by-side. That’s how competition in ideas gets refined and enriched,” he added.
He explained that he finds the closure of Yale-NUS regrettable “not only because it represented a tiny beacon of diversity in local education, but also because we now have one less avenue for informed debate (not to mention the poor students having their alma mater wiped out).”
Assoc Prof Lim and his fellow WP MPs will be asking questions to understand better the decision-making process that brought the closure, and the resulting merger, about.
He asks Chan Chun Sing, Minister of Education, the motivations being the closure and merger, as well as whether there were financial factors that were part of the decision and if the faculty and students were consulted before it was made.
His fellow Sengkang MP, Ms He Ting Ru will ask, “what were the other alternatives considered and why were these options not taken, when was the decision for merger made, and what is the assessment on the impact on NUS’ and Singapore’s international academic standing from this decision?”
WP MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) also has a number of questions on the merger, including whether there are plans “for a dedicated liberal arts college going forward,” as well as plans from the government “to take any new steps to manage the impact of this episode on Singapore’s reputation for quality tertiary education partnerships with overseas institutions.”
Moreover, Mr Perera will ask Mr Chan if “the nature of student activism on the Yale-NUS campus play any part in the decision.” /TISG
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