photo: nus.edu.sg

NUS boosts students’ confidence by promising to bring in quality lectures despite mass resignations of staffs and cancellation of modules

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has promised undergraduates in the communications and new media course that it will bring in “high quality academic staff” after a series of lecturer resignations.

As reported by TODAYonline, the renowned university has also discontinued several modules this year “due to an ongoing curriculum revision to ensure the course content remains relevant to academic and industry trends.”

This news came to light after the university sent an email of reassurance to its students last Monday (24th December), a day after TODAYonline ran a story on “a slew of resignations among lecturers at the communications and new media department – eight in as many months – which has resulted in some modules being discontinued.”

The lecturers left due to difference with the department’s new head Professor Audrey Yue, who began her position on June 13, after taking over Prof Mohan Dutta who resigned in March and left NUS in June.

With the sudden departures of these academicians, it had left students worried as some of them had to change “majors and thesis topics as lecturers with the relevant expertise had left.”

The Monday’s email, which had a message from Prof Yue and Prof Robbie Goh who is the dean of the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), looked at addressing these worries.

Prof Goh commented that resignations are “not unusual” and “part of the periodic coming and going of faculty at the university.”

He further added: “Please be assured that FASS is working closely with the communications and new media department on the appointment of high quality academic staff who will bring the Department’s teaching and research to greater heights.”

In order to help students to go through the transition period with not much difficulties, Prof Yue wrote that they will be bringing in new staff who will have “a new set of expertise, perspectives and knowledge to match the new curriculum which will be rolled out.”

She further said that the revision on the curriculum is being conducted in consultation with an industry advisory council, which comprises of experts from the media and communications industries.

“The proposed revisions will provide student with clearer industry specialisation pathways to equip you with industry relevant skills and enable you to be adaptable when you join the workforce.”

According to TODAYonline’s article, students raised their concerns that some of the interesting modules like social media, photography, videography and news writing had been discontinued, but Prof Yue reassured in the email that these modules, which are “popular and industry-relevant” will still be offered.

She concluded by saying that these changes “will be progressively rolled out in subsequent semesters.”

Upon reading on this issue, many netizens has raised their concerns as well. Facebook user Toh Ong commented that “unlike in the US, our lecturers are not tenure.”

On the other hand, Jaykishen Sookun feels that this incident took place because the university is “chasing the metrics.”

In fact, based on an article that we recently published, Singapore has an obsession with ranking which has resulted to national universities discussing to hire individuals with a starting pay of US$200, 000.

“NUS, with the intention of strengthening their global research rankings, is offering their new President’s Young Professors (PYP) programme to ‘outstanding young researchers and scholars with a strong research profile and trajectory’ for a tenure-track assistant professorship. This packages includes a generous salary rate of US$200,000 a year, a start-up research grant of up to $S750,000, scholarships for PhD students, S$250,000 for discretionary spending, and support for spouses in securing employment.”

This new hiring scheme is often targeted to international individuals with glowing publication credentials.

However, this package marginalises teaching in favour of research “which in turn will affect the morale of local existing faculty members.” As such, it will “bring little to no benefit to Singaporean students, the national economy and society, and is likely unsustainable in the long run.”

In truth, students will be badly affected as “the diversion of resources into the PYP programme could lead to the hiring of more short-term, lower-cost instructors with heavy teaching loads. In the end, the students are the one who would have to bear the brunt of this superficial race to the top of the ranking.”