SINGAPORE : Singapore's first liberal arts college is all set to take in its pioneer batch of students in two years' time.
The Yale-NUS College will open its doors to the first batch of 150 students.
More details were released on Thursday after Yale University and the National University of Singapore finalised an agreement which had been delayed.
Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS), said: “What will be distinctive about this college would be the fact that it will bring together some of the best elements of liberal arts education that is already present in Yale (and) take some strengths from NUS and develop a new curriculum that really blends the ideas and contexts of the West with ideas and contexts of Asia.”
This is the promise of the new Yale-NUS college – the curriculum will be broad-based, involving the arts, humanities, sciences and mathematics.
And after four years, students will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or Science with Honours, awarded by the National University of Singapore.
Professor Tan said: “This is a school in NUS, and what I think is the important and valuable element here is that Yale will be very, very involved in the curriculum, and jointly recruiting faculty (members) and jointly bringing in students.
“And what they bring to this partnership is a deep understanding, knowledge and experience with liberal arts education at its highest level.”
The size of a typical classroom will be capped at 18 students, and this is to promote interaction and an emphasis on critical thinking.
Another feature that will set Yale-NUS apart is the presence of three residential colleges that will house about 330 students each.
Professor Lily Kong, vice-president of university and global relations at NUS, said: “The residential model is, I think, by far one of the most exciting features of this college. It will entail students living on campus with some of their professors.
“What it will mean is that students will take the learning out of the classroom into the dining hall. They will continue their discussions and debates, share ideas with one another.”
NUS said the fees are expected to be higher than courses offered by NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Science Faculty.
The agreement between Yale and NUS was reached despite reservations among some Yale faculty members. They had voiced concerns on what they saw as “the lack of academic freedom” in Singapore.
But administrators from NUS said such opinions were not shared by the majority.
“They have looked quite closely at what we do in university and I think they are fully satisfied that the faculties here can do research in areas that they choose, and that they teach the topics that they cover without restrictions,” said Professor Tan.
NUS explained that there was a three-month delay in finalising the agreement, which was due late last year, because it took longer-than-expected to iron out many aspects of the agreement.
Professor Kong said: “They were all just different aspects of work that needed to be done. They needed more time than we had budgeted for, in a sense.
“Amongst those things would be working out the financials – because we needed to make sure the college would be on sound footing. It was also getting the agreement in legal terms worked out.”
Now that they have been settled, the new college has begun its search for 100 “passionate and innovative” faculty members.
After the initial intake of 150 students, the number will grow to 250 every year. So the four-year course will see the college take in a total student population of about 1,000 from Singapore as well as other countries.
Professor Kong said: “The academic quality is a given. But more than that, these must be interesting individuals who bring diverse interests and backgrounds to the classroom,” said Professor Kong.
“We don't just want Singaporeans only, because part of that diversity and that interest in the classroom is also to have some international students. So as far as what the proportion will be exactly, much depends on that diversity that steps forward. But certainly, up to 80 percent will be Singaporean students,” she added.
Yale-NUS will begin its outreach programme at junior colleges from July.
Channel News Asia