The National University of Singapore (NUS) today announced it will establish a provisionally named “New College” that in 2025 will merge Yale-NUS College with NUS’s University Scholars Programme, a popular interdisciplinary initiative within NUS. This is part of a larger reorganization of NUS’s academic offerings.
The aim of this change is to provide a greater number of Singaporean students access to an immersive, interdisciplinary liberal arts education. The New College will feature small-group teaching, a common curriculum, and at least two years of residential living for a yearly intake of up to 500 students. The merger is part of a slate of ongoing educational innovations at NUS that include the creation — also announced today — of the College of Design and Engineering.
In consequence of this change, Yale-NUS College will cease in 2025, after its current first-year students have graduated. The original affiliation agreement signed in 2011 between NUS and Yale has always given either party the opportunity to withdraw in 2025. By announcing four years in advance its intention to withdraw, NUS is providing all current Yale-NUS College students the chance to complete their undergraduate studies as planned.
Yale-NUS College, a pioneering partnership between two leading universities to create a residentially-based liberal arts college, opened in 2013. Since then, it has become one of the most highly selective institutions of higher learning in the world. Its innovative Common Curriculum has drawn wide attention and has served as a model for further innovation at NUS as well as at other colleges throughout Asia and the world. Its faculty compares favorably to those of the very best liberal arts colleges in the United States, and its graduates have an exceptional record of placement in employment and in leading graduate and professional schools.
Yale-NUS will provide current students, about 250 per cohort, a full array of programming and courses through their graduation, but will not admit a new cohort for the 2022-2023 academic year. Current students will experience the college’s innovative common curriculum with the same small class sizes on the current campus in Singapore. Their financial aid will be unaffected. Yale-NUS graduates will continue to be international affiliates of the Yale Alumni Association.
As part of a statement regarding today’s news, Yale President Peter Salovey wrote, “Given our great pride in Yale-NUS College and our love and respect for the faculty, students, and staff who compose its extraordinary community, we would have liked nothing better than to continue its development. We are very proud of what we have accomplished together. I want to offer my best wishes for the new college and express our gratitude for the generous support of the Government of Singapore in making it possible for us to partner in the creation of a model of liberal arts education that is regarded as one of the most innovative in the world — one whose DNA will live on, we trust, in new and exciting ways.”
In 2009, NUS invited Yale to help it design a new liberal arts college on its campus with the goal of conceiving “a new model of residentially-based liberal education to serve all of Asia and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” as then-Yale President Richard Levin and then-Provost Peter Salovey stated in a message to faculty announcing the partnership.
The establishment of a college with a broad liberal arts program represented a departure from the prevailing approach to undergraduate education in Asia, where undergraduate students entered directly into specialized courses of study, such as medicine, law, economics, or engineering. The Yale-NUS model has been the subject of sustained attention by educators around the world, and liberal education has blossomed amid the development of new curricular pathways at NUS, the founding of many sister programs at other Asian universities, and the creation of the Alliance of Asian Liberal Arts Universities in 2017.
Yale-NUS College evolved Yale’s approach to undergraduate residential and extracurricular life into a distinctive model. The common curriculum spans Western and Asian cultures and perspectives, and the college prepares students to succeed in an interconnected global environment, introducing modes of inquiry, fostering core intellectual skills, and instilling a respect for open discourse. The New College’s common curriculum will draw heavily on Yale-NUS’s groundbreaking program, according to the NUS administration.
“The New College will not bear Yale’s name, but I trust Yale’s spirit will be infused throughout its academic and residential life,” said Pericles Lewis, Yale’s Vice President for Global Strategy, who served as founding president of Yale-NUS College from 2012 to 2017. “NUS President Tan Eng Chye has underscored that the principles that supported the establishment of Yale-NUS — a commitment to critical thinking, respectful discourse, and outstanding scholarship across a breadth of subjects — will inform the New College’s approach.”
NUS and Singapore’s Ministry of Education have borne the costs associated with the establishment and operation of Yale-NUS, supplemented by generous donations. Over the course of the collaboration, more than 200 Yale University faculty members have participated in planning Yale-NUS programs or visiting its campus to engage with the college’s faculty and students. Several have taught at Yale-NUS for a semester or longer. Charles Bailyn, the head of Benjamin Franklin College and the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics, served as founding dean of faculty at Yale-NUS. Bailyn was succeeded by Jeannette Ickovics, the Samuel and Liselotte Herman Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. David Post, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is the current dean of faculty.
The college receives more than 8,000 applicants annually, admitting between 3% and 7% per year.
Tenured Yale-NUS faculty will keep their tenure at NUS and will move to an appropriate department in one of the NUS faculties. NUS will honor the contracts of non-tenured faculty, and tenure-track faculty will be eligible for consideration for tenure at NUS.
“We are proud of the quality of the Yale-NUS faculty, deeply appreciative of their dedication to the students, and pleased that they will have the option to continue teaching at NUS and participate in the development of the New College,” Lewis said. “We plan to continue faculty and student exchanges between Singapore and New Haven over the next four years.”
The Yale-NUS Governing Board and administration will maintain their full responsibilities through 2025. No staff will lose their jobs due to the consolidation. As the staffing needs at Yale-NUS decrease, staff in good standing will either be transferred to New College or redeployed elsewhere at NUS, Singapore’s flagship research university. Yale will work in cooperation with NUS to provide current students with the full Yale-NUS experience and to ensure a smooth and successful transition for the faculty and staff.
Yale representatives will play no role in the oversight of the New College, but Lewis will join its planning committee. Once the college is operating, he will serve as a volunteer on its International Advisory Committee. Yale College graduate Kang Hway Chuan ’83 B.S., who was a founding member of the Yale-NUS College faculty, currently directs the University Scholars Programme and will help develop the New College, along with current Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Joanne Roberts.
NUS President and Yale alumnus Tan Eng Chye ’89 Ph.D. said: “NUS and Yale have enjoyed a strong friendship and bond since 2001. Our successful decade-long partnership in pioneering liberal arts education in Singapore and Asia has drawn both universities even closer. We are extremely proud of what Yale-NUS has achieved in the past 10 years, and this experience has contributed to a re-imagining of undergraduate education at NUS. Our strong belief in the importance of interdisciplinarity, forged through our valuable partnership, has led to the establishment of the New College.”
“The New College,” President Tan added, “will offer students the opportunity to benefit from an immersive, interdisciplinary liberal arts education that very importantly offers greater access to multiple pathways, disciplines and specialisations across the NUS ecosystem. We’re delighted that Yale will continue to play an advisory role in the NC as a pioneering member of its international advisory panel. Yale has been a visionary partner in Yale-NUS College. We look forward to continuing our friendship, and exploring bilateral opportunities in research and education.”