A little over a month after Yale announced its plans to partner with the National University of Singapore to build a liberal arts college in the small Asian country, an administrator from NUS came to Yale to speak with students.
Timothy Dwight Master and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel invited Kishore Mahbubani, dean of NUS’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Singapore’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to speak about his views on the shift in world power from West to East, Brenzel said in an e-mail to the News. University President Richard Levin said as the influence of Asian countries has grown in recent years, the University has focused on developing programs in China, India and other parts of Asia. Yale-NUS College would be the University’s largest international endeavor yet.
“[Mahbubani] has not been closely involved in planning the college,” Levin said, adding that Mahbubani’s visit was not related to the proposed college. “But we’ve talked to him a number of times along the way and gotten his advice.”
In an interview Tuesday, Mahbubani said he fully supports the joint venture. He added that he believes a liberal arts model of education represents the best approach to the changing world. Yale hopes the collaboration with NUS will serve as a model for other liberal arts colleges in Asia, Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said September 10.
Members of the Yale community have raised concerns about the Singaporean government’s tendency to restrict free speech. Singapore is not a democracy, and sometimes imprisons or exiles political dissenters, or bankrupts them through litigation, Sterling professor of political science James Scott said September 28.
But, Mahbubani said that during his six years as a dean at NUS, he has faced no restriction on free academic expression. He said he does not expect the proposed campus to face any restriction itself.
“There is no way a University can grow and succeed without academic freedom,” he said, adding that NUS was established over one hundred years ago.
The topic of Mahbubani’s talk was the current rise of the “Asian Century,” during which Mahbubani predicts rapidly developing Asian nations will supplant the United States.
“The last 200 years of world history have been a major historical aberration, and all aberrations come to an end,” Mahbubani said, referring to Asia’s dominance over Europe for the nearly two millennia before the Industrial Revolution.
He pointed to seven keys that have combined to create more rapid growth in some Asian countries than has ever before been witnessed. The last of these keys, Mahbubani said, is the growth of a highly educated population across East and Southern Asia, later adding in an interview that international partnerships like the proposed Yale-NUS college will help to smooth over the changing world order. By helping to establish the campus in Singapore, Mahbubani said he hopes the Yale community will gain a greater understanding of Asia’s rise to power.
“If you’re going to understand the Asian Century, you have to live in Asia for some time,” he said.
Mahbubani is a member of Levin’s international advisory committee, a group of 60 to 80 prominent international figures and Yale alumni invited by Levin to meet annually and discuss Yale’s internationalization efforts, Levin said. Brenzel met Mahbubani through the committee when Yale was just beginning to investigate the possibility of working with Singapore on a liberal arts college.
The proposed Yale – NUS college to be based in Singapore would open in 2013.