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Workers' Party to raise questions in Parliament on 'regrettable' loss of Yale-NUS College: Jamus Lim

Workers' Party to raise questions in Parliament on 'regrettable' loss of Yale-NUS College: Jamus Lim

The Yale-NUS College building. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party (WP) will raise questions at the upcoming Parliament sitting about the merger between Yale-NUS College and the University Scholars Programme (USP), said MP Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang).

"The bottom line is that I find the loss of Yale-NUS regrettable, not only because it represented a tiny beacon of diversity in local education, but also because we now have one less avenue for informed debate (not to mention the poor students having their alma mater wiped out)," Assoc Prof Lim said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sep 1).

Parliament is scheduled to sit on Sep 13.

"Hopefully we will gain more insight on the decision-making process behind the closure," said Assoc Prof Lim.

It was announced on Aug 27 that Yale-NUS College and USP will be combined into a single new college from 2022.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) said students of the new college will read a new common curriculum, adapted from “the best of both the USP and Yale-NUS foundations”, enhanced with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) elements.

The merger of both programmes will provide students with "an immersive, interdisciplinary liberal arts education", said NUS.

It will also retain a feature of the USP, where students can access the full range of majors, second majors, minors and specialisations offered across NUS. 

Yale-NUS was established in 2011 as Singapore’s first liberal arts college. 

Small liberal arts colleges can be "amazing crucibles for fostering a love for learning", said Assoc Prof Lim. 

"Of course, as an educator and Singaporean, I very much wish for the new endeavour to succeed. But if I had my druthers, I would have rather seen the two institutions side-by-side. That’s how competition in ideas gets refined and enriched."

Assoc Prof Lim said he will ask Education Minister Chan Chun Sing several questions, including the main motivations behind the decision to merge the two programmes, whether financial factors featured in the decision and whether students and staff were consulted before the announcement.

He added that questions will also be raised about whether there will be a reduction in fees or an option for transfers if there is a "compromised experience". 

Fellow Sengkang MP He Ting Ru asked if other alternatives to the merger were considered, how much will be spent on the creation of a new college and about the impact on NUS’ and Singapore’s international academic standing.

WP's Aljunied MP Leon Perera said he has also filed questions on the matter, including the impact of Yale-NUS on the quality and quantity of admissions to NUS, whether there are plans for a dedicated liberal arts college going forward and whether "the nature of student activism on the Yale-NUS campus play(ed) any part in the decision".

"The announcement of the closure of Yale-NUS College has drawn a great deal of attention, due to the suddenness of the decision, what would seem to be a lack of transparency and consultation in the run-up to that decision and where that leaves liberal arts education and Singapore's reputation as a hub for global educational partnerships," Mr Perera said in a Facebook post.

 

PETITION TO REVERSE MERGER 

A petition has been started by NUS students, calling on the university to reverse its decision to merge Yale-NUS and USP.

It also calls for the reversal of another merger - between the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment to form the College of Design and Engineering.

"We contend that these mergers are not isolated events but are part of NUS’ standard operating procedure for years, as evidenced by the merging of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science to form the College of Humanities and Sciences," the petition read.

It said there should be "no more top down approaches" in such decisions.

"Inexcusably, the affected parties were only informed after the decisions were made. The mergers are ineffective, lacking in transparency, and undermine the welfare of the affected communities, the petition added.

Source: CNA/ng(gs)

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