Light & Verity

Yale-NUS College will close in 2025

The Singaporean government opts out of the joint venture.

Yale-NUS College

Yale-NUS College

The campus of Yale-NUS College in Singapore. The government there has decided to close the college and merge it with another program at the National University of Singapore. View full image

Yale’s largest and most ambitious international expansion program, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, will close its doors in 2025 after 12 years of operation. The National University of Singapore (NUS), Yale’s partner in the establishment of Yale-NUS, announced in August that the college would be merged with its University Scholars Program to create a liberal arts division of NUS called New College.

The decision came as something of a surprise to Yale officials. The deal that created Yale-NUS gave either party the option to end the partnership in 2025, but Yale had expected the discussion to happen closer to that deadline. NUS says it decided to act now and announce its plan so that current Yale-NUS students could finish their degrees.

“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,” said Yale president Peter Salovey ’86PhD in a statement on the day of the announcement.

Yale-NUS was envisioned as an opportunity to build a globally focused liberal arts college in Asia, which has traditionally embraced more specialized higher education. Yale faculty and administrators helped develop the structure and curriculum of the college, while the Singaporean government funded the venture. The college opened in 2013; a new campus in the midst of NUS was completed in 2015.

From the moment it was announced, the college was the subject of controversy, especially among some Yale faculty who were concerned about academic freedom in a country that limits speech and political expression. Some observers have speculated that political activity at Yale-NUS played a part in Singapore’s decision. Linda Lim ’73MA, an emerita business professor at Michigan and Singaporean national who follows the country closely, cites a 2019 episode in which a planned Yale-NUS short course on dissent in Singapore was canceled, as well as a student effort to reach out to young people off campus with a nonpartisan political education campaign before the 2020 Singaporean elections.

Another factor in the decision, apparently, was the cost of operating Yale-NUS. Pericles Lewis, a Yale professor who became Yale-NUS’s founding president and is now a vice president and vice provost at Yale, says the Singaporean government was spending three times as much per student at Yale-NUS than elsewhere at NUS. Yale-NUS was working on raising an endowment to cover more of that cost, but the $320 million raised so far was less than needed.

Lim says the cost of the program—and the fact that 40 percent of the students and 90 percent of the faculty were from outside Singapore—caused resentment. “This will not be an unpopular decision in Singapore,” she adds.

Although Lewis says he’d “have loved to see it continue on its trajectory,” he is hopeful that the example set by the college will influence the development of New College, for which he will be an adviser. Asked about the college’s legacy, he says, “It’s had a good impact on thinking about and practice of liberal arts education in Asia. And we can feel very proud of the 1,800 students and alumni. I don’t think it was for naught.”

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