Concerns about academic freedom following Yale-NUS merger are unfounded: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE – Concerns that the merger of Yale-NUS College with the University Scholars’ Programme (USP) will have an impact on academic freedom in Singapore are unfounded, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Sept 13).

He said there were similar concerns when Yale-NUS was established 10 years ago, which also proved to be baseless.

Mr Chan said: “Few believed then that Yale-NUS would live up to its ambition… It is perhaps ironic and a testimony to National University of Singapore (NUS) and Yale-NUS’ efforts all these years, that Yale-NUS is now seen as a paragon of academic freedom in Singapore.”

He was speaking in Parliament after MPs from both the People’s Action Party and the Workers’ Party asked questions on the merger announced on Aug 27.

He also said that the faculties of arts and social sciences at NUS and other autonomous universities here have had a long history of teaching and research, sometimes on potentially sensitive and difficult topics, long before the establishment of Yale-NUS.

He said: “It would be grossly unfair to faculty members in NUS and other autonomous universities to suggest that their teaching or research is in any way less rigorous, of lower quality or less free than that of Yale-NUS faculty.”

Mr Chan added that Yale-NUS’ current policies on academic freedom were created by takingreference from NUS’ own practices, and that these practices have remained unchanged since then.

He also said that Singapore’s universities continue to seek out new partnerships with foreign universities where the Republic’s institutions can value-add meaningfully.

He said many of Singapore’s newer institutions were started in partnership with leading global universities, and these have evolved and matured and sometimes ended.

He said: “We have much more to learn from others, not just from universities in the United States, but equally from Europe, Asia and elsewhere. But to be an attractive partner for others, we too must have our own unique value propositions.

“We cannot and should not be a cloned version of others, no matter how successful they may be.”

Mr Chan added that Yale University – an Ivy League university in the United States – has been a longstanding friend to NUS and a visionary partner in the Yale-NUS College.

He said Yale has agreed to play an advisory role in the New College as a member of the college’s international advisory panel and that Singapore is open to exploring other collaboration opportunities with it in the future.

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