Three years after Yale-NUS opens in fall 2013, students at the Singaporean liberal arts college will have the opportunity to earn a Yale degree through the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Administrators at the Yale and National University of Singapore jointly-operated college announced Friday two professional degree programs that Yale-NUS students will be able to pursue in addition to their undergraduate studies: a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s degree in environmental studies. The environmental studies program will require students to spend one semester at the environment school in New Haven during their junior year, and then a full year at the school after graduating from Yale-NUS. The bachelor’s of law degree will be completed in five years at Yale-NUS alongside the liberal arts curriculum and be awarded by the NUS law school.
When Yale-NUS College was announced in September 2010, administrators said one of its goals was to demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education in a country where colleges traditionally focus on professional training. Rather than diverging from that approach, University President Richard Levin said last week that the newly-announced programs will help further that mission.
“There’s a lot of interest in Singapore, in particular, that students get vocationally useful degrees, so we’re trying to prove this can lead to professional degrees,” Levin said. “We thought having a few automatic linkages to professional programs would be a good way to demonstrate this.”
The new professional school tracks will not affect the liberal arts focus of Yale-NUS as the college’s core curriculum will remain intact, said Charles Bailyn, a Yale astronomy professor and inaugural dean of the faculty for Yale-NUS. Students will have to complete the same class requirements regardless of whether they are pursuing an additional degree, Bailyn said. The environmental studies program is expected to accept roughly two to five Yale-NUS students each year, Levin said.
Though a major selling point of Yale-NUS for University administrators was that the overseas college would not grant Yale degrees, Levin said the decision to have Yale award the degree for the joint environmental studies program in New Haven was not a deviation from initial plans.
“It’s completely consistent with our original plans,” Levin told the News on Thursday. “In fact, this was foreshadowed in the original letter that Peter Salovey and I wrote to the community in September 2010 where we mentioned the possibility of dual degrees and students at Singapore coming to our professional and graduate programs.”
John Wargo, chair of Yale College’s environmental studies major, said in a Sunday email that the program at Yale-NUS followed from the choice to make environmental studies one of the college’s first 15 majors and was modeled off the five-year joint degree program available to Yale College students. The environmental studies master’s track in Singapore will initially be open only to students who are environmental studies majors at the college.
Wargo, who has helped shape the environmental studies program at Yale-NUS, said the program will benefit both the college in Singapore and the environment school.
“Yale-NUS College hopefully will provide a gateway for Yale faculty and students at all levels of training to develop research, field and teaching opportunities,” Wargo said. “The cultural and ecological diversity of the region is enormous. In many ways it is the ideal location to study a suite of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.”
Levin said administrators did not consider creating a similar joint master’s program with Yale Law School largely because of the school’s selectivity and recent tendency to admit students with experience beyond an undergraduate education. FES was a more viable candidate, he said, since many of the school’s professors have expressed interest in the Yale-NUS project and southeast Asian ecology.
The bachelor’s degree in law will be awarded by the NUS law school to prepare students for practicing law in Singapore after passing the nation’s bar exam, Bailyn said, noting that law programs in Singapore typically grant bachelor’s degrees. Program participants will be required to complete a project that incorporates work from both their liberal arts and law studies during their senior year, he said.
Both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the New York University Law School also have dual degree programs with NUS, according to Levin’s and Salovey’s letter, which grant masters degrees in engineering and law, respectively.