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Yale-NUS College: Its beginnings and push to provide liberal arts education in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Touted as the first liberal arts college in Singapore and the region at a time when there were early controversies over its academic freedom, Yale-NUS College has seen 626 graduates don its batik-inspired graduation gown ever since it took in its first academic cohort in 2013.

SINGAPORE — Touted as the first liberal arts college in Singapore and the region at a time when there were early controversies over its academic freedom, Yale-NUS College has seen 626 graduates don its batik-inspired graduation gown ever since it took in its first academic cohort in 2013.

Here is a chart of its developments and the debates on academic freedom that it has attracted along the way.

January, 2009: National University of Singapore president Tan Chorh Chuan meets Yale University president Emeritus Professor Richard Levin at the World Economic Forum in Davos and suggests the formation of a liberal arts college in Singapore with Yale.

September 2010: Both universities sign a memorandum of understanding to create a liberal arts college in Singapore. Then Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the Government supported the decision, which will attract top students to a model contextualised to suit Singapore and Asia.

April 2011: Final agreement signed to launch Yale-NUS College, witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Education Minister Ng Eng Hen.

February 2012: Yale-NUS College begins admissions process.

July 2012: Yale-NUS founding president Pericles Lewis is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that political parties and political protests are forbidden on campus, which led to international outrage over constraints on freedom of expression and assembly.

December 2012: The Association of American University Professors expressed concern over academic freedom of Yale-NUS College in an open letter.

June 2013: Yale-NUS College takes in its pioneer batch of 157 students from 26 countries at its interim residential campus in NUS’ University Town.

April to May 2015: New concurrent degree programmes with Yale School of Public Health and with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy are launched.

July 2015: Yale-NUS College’s faculty grows to 100 members. The college moves into its new campus at 16 College Avenue West near University Town.

October 2015: The new campus is inaugurated by PM Lee. The college hosts its first Symposium on International Liberal Education.

July 2017: The first cohort of 119 students graduate.

January 2018: Yale-NUS College starts a new liberal arts and medicine pathway with Duke-NUS Medical School.

February 2019: A new concurrent degree programme with NUS School of Computing is launched.

September 2019: A one-week course titled Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore, led by playwright Alfian Sa’at, is cancelled. That sparked new concerns about the college’s academic freedom. Yale University explains that the decision was made due to concerns over the proposed module.

August 2021: NUS announces that it will merge Yale-NUS College with its University Scholars Programme to form a new college. The college, in its current form, will cease to exist in 2025.

Related topics

Yale-NUS liberal arts education merger NUS

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