Will Yale University Bring a Liberal Arts Education to Singapore?
The trend of the globalizing university has been a exponentially growing phenomenon in American higher education as much as anywhere else. National ranking systems are no longer sufficient as international rankings are released by the likes of the Times Higher Education Supplement, among others. Often, this process involves setting up exchanges of students and faculty between one side of the world and the other.
Increasingly, however, this obsessive drive for internationalization has led to serious in-depth collaborations and even the construction of entire campuses in satellite locations: NYU in the U.A.E., Georgetown in Qatar, and Duke in China. Major research universities will likely seem incomplete, or inadequate, if they don’t have at least one alternate campus in another country (preferable in the global south). For the most part, these programs have focused on specific subjects such as business or foreign service.
Yet Yale University has now announced its plans to establish a unique liberal arts college in partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Such a program would not issue degrees from Yale but would incorporate the Ivy League style undergraduate experience, including the professors.
Singapore, and particularly NUS, has been adept at bringing in collaborations with top-tier American universities including MIT, NYU, and Duke. The most recent proposal for “Yale-NUS” has been met with mixed response in New Haven, with some eagerly embracing the opportunity to exoticize their Ivory Tower and others offering an outright rejection. Professor Haun Saussy wrote that “it will add to the internal diversity and richness of Asian societies” and “decide what a meaningful education is in Asia and in the world over the next century or two.”
Faculty, students, alumni, and others have voiced their concerns in the Yale Daily News. Members of a variety of departments from Political Science to Classics raised concerns ranging from caning to book banning. Alumnus Eric Weinburger reiterated the hesitation of many over the lack of academic freedom as evidenced most recently by the case of Alan Shadrake, in an article published by The New Republic. Even a leading local socio-political news blog in Singapore wrote an open letter warning that saying Singapore limits free speech is an “understatement.”
In any case, Yale President Richard Levin seems unmoved by such arguments even though the University of Warwick (UK) already turned down the same offer in a faculty vote. In fact, according to YDN, he has indicated that he is “unconcerned about the quality of academic expression in the country.” Not so unconcerned on the other hand, is the editorial board at the Yale Daily News which released its position in an editorial on Friday; their conclusion: Keep Yale out of Singapore. They point out that off-limits issues will include “the regime’s death penalty, jailhouse torture, homosexuality prohibition, [and] its censorship.”
While nothing has been finalized as Yale waits for a consensus on the details of the budget, the editors end by exhorting their classmates that they “must stop Yale in Singapore, while we still have the chance.”
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TAGS: Education • Liberal arts in Asia • Liberal arts in Singapore • Singapore • Singapore education system • Yale NUS
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