It appears that the decision to dissolve Yale-NUS in 2025 and merge the college’s programme with the existing National University of Singapore University Scholars Programme in a “New College” was made without input or consultation from Yale.
A report by Yale Daily News — the oldest college daily newspaper in US — on Tuesday (7 September) said that university officials were surprised by the decision to push Yale out of the joint college.
It was also reported that four Yale-NUS professors and administrators said that the decision for the merger, and leaving Yale out of it, comes against a “political backdrop of rising meritocracy and anti-elitist sentiment”. They said this could have sparked tension over the exclusive programme offered at Yale-NUS within the broader university structure.
Vice President for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis was reported saying that NUS leadership wanted to open more spots for Singaporeans students and allow them to take courses in all NUS majors
The dissolution of Yale-NUS is based on a clause in the founding of the college back in 2011 which allows either party to unilaterally pull out of the collaboration in 2021.
Richard Levin, Yale-NUS co-founder and Governing Board member said to Yale Daily News: “I don’t think we really had an opportunity to keep the college going on its own terms.”
“It was stated pretty clearly that NUS was going to exercise its option to withdraw.”
Mr Levin added that the founders of Yale-NUS had inserted the clause on the understanding that Yale might remove its name from the venture and pursue other international projects but that the college itself would continue on.
Instead, an unofficial transcript of a USP town hall seen by Yale Daily News reportedly indicates that NUS had been pushing for the merger of Yale-NUS with its existing USP for 18 months before the decision was announced.
About a year ago, NUS began considering ways to ensure a smooth transition, according to the transcript.
However, the article noted that an NUS spokesperson has disputed the transcript’s timeline, saying that the broader restructuring of the institution began in December 2020 while the idea to shut down Yale-NUS came later.
Professor Lewis, however, had said that the idea to dissolve Yale-NUS came from NUS President Tan Eng Chye as part of a broader restructuring of Singapore’s educational landscape which he was pursuing since 2018.
Yale Daily News reported an NUS spokesperson saying that Mr Tan approached the Ministry of Education (MOE) and NUS Board of Trustees in late June this year with the plan to close Yale-NUS. Once approval was given, Mr Tan contacted University President Peter Salovey with the news in July.
It was only later that the Yale-NUS leadership was told of the decision to end the college, according to the Yale-NUS student newspaper, The Octant.
“He definitely made the decision that that was going to happen, and I think he probably had gotten the approval of his trustees for that,” Professor Lewis reportedly told Yale Daily News, adding that it was “mostly a surprise”.
Though both Mr Levin and Professor Lewis said that they were aware of the new vision for NUS over a year ago, they didn’t think at the time that the changes would include the end of the Yale-NUS partnership, said Mr Levin to the Yale Daily News.
According to Mr Lewis, Mr Tan made his decision clear and that there was no chance for a counteroffer.
Instead, Mr Tan’s contact with Mr Salovey in the following weeks was on how to make the merge effective and maintain the Yale-NUS experience for current students.
Professor Lewis added that Yale was clear on its intention to continue with Yale-NUS, however, the decision had been made by Mr Tan and Mr Salovey ultimately respects it.
The full governing board was informed of the plans to merge Yale-NUS and the USP on 23 August by Mr Tan, said Mr Lewis.
Yale Daily News added that Yale has pledged that the Yale-NUS faculty and staff will keep their positions post-merger and that students will continue to get the same education experience in the next four years until the college closes.
Members of Parliament from Workers’ Party have filed questions for the upcoming Parliamentary sittings to gain “more insight” into the decision-making process behind the closure of Yale-NUS College.