Yale Daily News

Once a bright beacon of the University’s international-facing mission, Yale-NUS will close its doors in 2025, when its last class of students graduates. 

Yale-NUS will be replaced by “New College,” which National University of Singapore President Tan Eng Chy GRD ’89 announced in July, 2021. Tan added that Yale-NUS College will merge with the NUS University Scholars Programme, or USP, and that Yale’s name will be dropped from the institution. While NUS has not announced the particular reasons for the decision to remove Yale from the name, they have made it clear that New College will be a liberal arts institution, like Yale-NUS. 

The announcement came as a surprise to Yale officials, who said they were not consulted on the plan before it was finalized. Students and professors also expressed dismay over the partnership’s end. 

​​“I think this is a strategic mistake on their part,” Charles Bailyn, Yale professor and inaugural dean of the faculty at Yale-NUS, wrote in an email to the News. “Singapore has gone to great lengths to create a world-class higher education system, and they would greatly benefit — educationally, commercially, and culturally — by leveraging that investment to bring in as many top-notch students from the rest of the world as possible.” 

“Yale-NUS has been exemplary in that regard, and appears to have been punished for this success,” Bailyn added.

Yale-NUS was founded in 2013 as a collaboration between Yale and the Singaporean government, aiming to create a unique opportunity for a liberal arts education in Asia. The school creates a smaller learning community within the wider university and features Yale hallmarks such as residential colleges and butteries. 

Founded by Pericles Lewis, now Yale’s vice president for global strategy, the school quickly gained prominence and fostered a flow of faculty and students between New Haven and Singapore. Some criticized Yale, however, for partnering with the government of Singapore, which has restricted freedom of speech as well as marriage equality. 

Still, University President Peter Salovey has continually underscored Yale’s pride in having its name on the university. 

“Yale takes great pride in the accomplishments of Yale-NUS College — a pioneering partnership between two leading universities to create a residentially based liberal arts college,” Salovey wrote in a statement in August 2021. “In the eight years since the College admitted its first class, it has become one of the most highly selective institutions of higher learning in the world.” 

Yale-NUS was consistently gripped with protests and civil disobedience from students, which disapproved of the restrictive laws put in place by the Singaporean government. Singapore ranked 160th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, out of 180 countries. 

However, students and faculty and Yale-NUS were not happy with the “top-down” decision. Petitions to keep Singapore’s first liberal arts college reached Parliament and garnered over 15,000 signatures. 

“I am upset, confused, hurt, angry and still shocked by this decision,” Suman, a current Yale-NUS student who asked to be identified by her first name due to fear of government retaliation, wrote in an email to the News in October. “In a matter of months, our fate was etched onto stone for us, and without our input or any say.” 

Yale has explained that it is taking an active role in preserving jobs during the merger, ensuring that no Yale-NUS faculty will lose their positions once the Yale name is removed. In total, Yale-NUS employs approximately 350 faculty and staff. Chua Loo Lin, director of the Office of University Communications at NUS emphasized that the staff will also retain their jobs after the split. 

New College has already shared its curriculum plans for the 2025-2026 school year. In addition to classes for individual majors, students will all study a common curriculum. Students will be expected to take 14 of their 40 required courses at the College, with the rest being at the NUS school relevant to their major. The core curriculum will draw from courses currently offered at Yale-NUS and USP. 

“The NUS College curriculum retains about half the Yale-NUS Curriculum,” Lewis said. “In fact, a lot of the same material is covered but it is divided up differently and the courses have new names.” 

This did not ease student upset at the closing of Yale-NUS, however. Many students lament the lack of communication and consultation with the student body in making the decision. The planning for NUS College included a planning committee that was supported by seven groups, focusing respectively on: admissions, common curriculum, student and residential life, facilities management, communication, faculty appointments and staff appointments. 

Around 20 students from both USP and Yale-NUS were part of these committees, but students remain largely unhappy with the decision. 

“I feel like the administration’s promises were just made to superficially satisfy the backlash after the closure announcement, and they know that they can get away with a mockery of a participatory process because there aren’t any real checks and balances we can effect on them,” said Avery Yale-NUS ’25, whose last name has not been included due to fear of retribution from the Singaporean government. 

“It just seems like the administration is putting up this masquerade of seeking student input and discarding it to give a bit more legitimacy to whatever they were planning to do in the first place,” Avery added.

Avery attended some of these working groups, and reported that student participation and input was limited. Additionally, the recommendations from the groups were non-binding, so many students were surprised at the decisions ultimately made by NUS, such as housing all students in a single building, which students reported was never discussed in the facilities and housing group. 

Each opportunity that NUS gave students to contribute to the decisions resulted in few changes made to the plans. Yale-NUS students expressed concern over how these groups were being run as a result, especially considering it was primarily the small handful of Yale-NUS students in the groups who did the outreach with other students. 

“They promised to involve us, but I don’t feel involved,” said Ryan Yeo, Yale-NUS ’24, managing editor of Yale-NUS’s student newspaper The Octant and publisher of a survey that the newspaper ran on student opinions on the split.

The student body at-large, Yeo added, felt like the community that they came to call home was being torn apart without their input or concern for their opinions whatsoever. 

Yale-NUS is currently the only liberal arts institution in Singapore. 

Janalie Cobb is an Audience Editor for the News and a former University staff reporter. She is a junior from Chicago in Davenport College double majoring in political science and psychology.