With budget set, Singapore proceeds

The finalized budget for the Yale-NUS project allocates money to expenses like campus dormitories, such as those of Prince George Park at NUS above, faculty salaries and financial aid. The project should be finished by Fall 2013.
The finalized budget for the Yale-NUS project allocates money to expenses like campus dormitories, such as those of Prince George Park at NUS above, faculty salaries and financial aid. The project should be finished by Fall 2013. Photo by Christian Vazquez.

Six months after announcing plans for a jointly-operated liberal arts college in Singapore to the Yale faculty, Yale and National University of Singapore administrators have finalized a budget that will make their plans a reality.

Yale and NUS signed the official agreement to create the college on Monday, formalizing the memorandum of understanding the universities had agreed upon in September. University President Richard Levin said now that administrators are satisfied with the budget the Singaporean government has proposed, they will proceed with plans for the college.

“The facilities and faculty support packages will be adequate to ensure that the college will be strongly competitive in attracting outstanding faculty and outstanding students,” Levin said in a Wednesday interview. “We’re thoroughly satisfied.”

In September, University officials said they would wait for the government to offer sufficient funds before finalizing plans for the college. Though administrators hoped to agree upon the budget in December or January, negotiations over financial aid for international students took longer than anticipated.

Issues arose because the Singaporean government will subsidize tuition for both Singaporean and international students, and has typically required foreign students who receive financial aid in Singapore to work in the country after graduation. Deborah Davis, a Yale sociology professor who has served as an advisor on the project, told the News earlier this month that the work requirement ensures Singapore’s “investment” in its students remains temporarily within the country’s bounds. At Yale-NUS College, international students will have the choice of either working for three years in the country or for a Singaporean company overseas after graduation, or taking loans to repay the government for the tuition subsidy, Levin said.

The financial aid packages for both Singaporean and international students at the college will be competitive with those offered by top American liberal arts colleges, Levin said.

The budget allocates money to campus construction and faculty salaries as well as financial aid and other things, Provost Peter Salovey said. Levin declined to comment on the exact total of the budget but said administrators and government officials fully resolved the disagreements that had delayed its release.

The portion of the budget that will pay for the construction of the school’s physical plant will fund the creation of three Yale-style residential colleges, Salovey said. Each college will house about 330 students, and Yale-NUS will have about 1,000 students once it reaches full enrollment in 2016-’17.

Levin said the campus is slated for completion in 2014, and the school will use temporary buildings on the NUS campus in its first year of operation, when only 150 students will be enrolled.

Though the budget and official agreement for the college have at last been finalized, Yale and NUS have many steps to complete before the college can usher in its first wave of students in fall 2013.

Haun Saussy, a literature professor and co-chair of the college’s curriculum committee with astronomy professor Charles Bailyn, said specifics of the curriculum will ultimately lie in the hands of the faculty.

Yale and NUS will hire about 100 faculty over the next three to four years to teach at the new college, Levin said, with a core group of 30 to 35 “founding faculty members” recruited to the program by 2012. Bailyn, who will serve as the inaugural Dean of the Faculty, will lead the faculty searches.

Bailyn, Levin and Salovey all said they expect to find strong candidates to fill the faculty positions in Singapore. Salovey said the new college will provide a full tenure process overseen by the provosts of Yale and NUS, while Levin said the college will seek to hire a range of academics, from recent Ph.D graduates to senior faculty members. The liberal arts college, Levin said, will hire faculty dedicated to both research and teaching.

“It ought to be a really appealing sell,” he said. “NUS has excellent research resources.”

The college will be the first of its kind in Singapore, and has few precedents in Asia. Administrators from Yale and NUS will design the new college’s liberal arts curriculum from scratch, and Salovey said innovative successes in Singapore could eventually come back to New Haven.

“I think that we’re trying to better higher education, which then has local benefits at Singapore and local benefits in New Haven,” Salovey said.

Administrators have said the new college’s curriculum will strive for integrated learning: mixing eastern and western perspectives, and merging extracurriculars with academics. While NUS has traditionally focused on pre-professional education — requiring students to choose their life paths as young as age 18 — Salovey said the new college will focus on educating students for critical thinking, rather than for a specific vocation.

“The idea that a decision made at age 18 is going to carry you forward for years is problematic,” Salovey said. “People need to learn to learn… problem solve, communicate, work in teams: that’s going to solve the pressing problems of the planet.”

When plans were announced for the college in September, four Yale faculty members raised concerns about academic freedom in the island nation. Salovey said Wednesday that Yale administrators remain confident that faculty and students at Yale-NUS will be able to pursue a full range of topics in research and scholarship, from human rights to queer theory.

The Yale-NUS campus will cover 10.5 acres in Singapore.

Comments

  • rr22

    i think this is a really good idea. as far as i can tell from the singaporeans i know (and my own visits there), the restrictions on academic freedom are generally not enforced. maybe this will help them get the laws off the books altogether.