Yale-NUS successor shares plans for new program

Asha Prihar, collaborating photographer

The National University of Singapore College, the successor to Yale-NUS, plans to revamp the Yale-affiliated college’s common liberal arts curriculum but retains many of its core elements, the college’s designated dean said on Wednesday.

Announced last August, NUS College is the result of the merger between Yale-NUS and the NUS University Scholarship Program, or USP, and is slated to open later this year — three years before Yale-NUS closes. Building on the stand-alone model of its predecessor, NUS College is a four-year honors program for undergraduate students enrolled at the National University of Singapore, the College’s largest apex university. The new program will provide a common curriculum complementary to a student’s major at NUS, with the expectation that enrolled students will take 14 of their 40 courses at the College and the rest at the NUS school corresponding to their major.

“Our joint curriculum is rigorous and challenging, but must also accommodate the diverse pathways available to [NUS College] students,” Simon Chesterman, the designated dean of NUS College, told The News.

Chesterman was named the inaugural dean of NUS College on January 4 and will take office on July 1. He will continue his role as Dean of NUS Law, a position he has held since 2012. Chesterman will also take up the concurrent appointment of Vice Provost of Educational Innovation at NUS later this year.

The 50 majors offered by NUS College will include traditional liberal arts subjects as well as a number of professional degrees. The College’s career offerings will extend to those provided by Yale-NUS, where options are limited to a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s degree in environmental studies. Although applicants to NUS College are asked to indicate their intended major when applying, they will be allowed to change majors until their fourth year of study.

The new core curriculum will consist of common courses that draw on existing courses at Yale-NUS and USP, Chesterman said. These include ‘Global Narratives’, ‘Understanding our Social World’, ‘Global Social Theories’ and ‘Science and Society’, which evolved from Yale-NUS Joint Curriculum courses such as ‘Philosophy and Political Thought’ , “Literature and Human Sciences”, “Comparative Social Inquiry”, “Modern Social Thought” and “Scientific Inquiry”.

A January 25 article in the Straits Times, Singapore’s flagship daily, reported that NUS College intends to drop the Yale-NUS liberal arts program. When approached by the News, Chesterman and Pericles Lewis, vice provost at Yale and founding president of Yale-NUS, clarified this.

“The NUS College curriculum retains about half of the Yale-NUS curriculum,” Lewis said. “In fact, a lot of the same material is covered but it’s divided up differently and the courses have new names.”

Lewis served as President of Yale-NUS from its inception in 2011 to 2017. He currently serves on its Board of Trustees and in an advisory role on the NUS College Transition Committee, in addition to his roles as Vice President. for Global Strategy and Vice President. provost for academic initiatives at Yale.

Lewis added that there were some differences between the two schools’ core curricula, however, such as a greater influence on digital literacy and data at NUS College.

“I am pleased that NUS College is adapting several features of the liberal arts curriculum we pioneered at Yale-NUS,” Lewis wrote. “That said, the purpose of NUS College is different from that of Yale-NUS – NUS College is an honors college for the whole of NUS, so it will have students majoring in areas other than arts and sciences , and I think the committee adapted the program. so that it can fit well with the studies of students in engineering, business or law as well as arts and sciences.

According to Chesterman, classes at NUS College will reflect the liberal arts tradition of small, discussion-based classes that are already the norm at both Yale-NUS and USP. The College will offer a range of elective courses in the humanities, social sciences and STEM fields that will build on existing USP classes. New electives will also be created on top of existing Yale-NUS classes and by faculty transferring into the new College.

“There’s a lot about this program that draws on the experience of Yale-NUS as well as the University Fellowship Program (USP) — and also elements that are completely new,” Chesterman wrote.

NUS College will also offer a new Global Pathways program and Global Experience courses, which share common features with the Yale-NUS Learning Across Boundaries courses, but will rely heavily on the global networks of the NUS Overseas Colleges program. The new curriculum will also include the addition of the Impact Experience Project, a new capstone course that will incorporate experiential learning, interdisciplinarity, and impact on the wider community. According to Chesterman, these offerings will be fully implemented in the 2023-2024 academic year.

The program has been developed over the past six months, Chesterman said, alongside the work of the NUS College planning committee. He pointed out that much of the faculty who helped develop the program had taught courses in the joint Yale-NUS curriculum and at USP.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing collaborative effort of Yale-NUS and USP faculty, as well as the goodwill and contributions of various members of the Yale and NUS communities to make the [NUS College] possible course,” wrote Chesterman. “We are currently consolidating ideas and feedback through consultation with the wider NUS community, and will finalize plans in the coming months.”

The NUS College Planning Committee Curriculum Working Group is chaired by Joanne Roberts, the incoming Yale-NUS President and is comprised of faculty and students from NUS, USP and Yale-NUS. Roberts was named the next and final president of Yale-NUS in November 2021 and will take office in July. Having joined the school in 2017, she currently serves as the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Yale-NUS.

NUS has seen a significant shift in its general education model in recent years, Roberts wrote. The university announced the adoption of a common curriculum for its engineering, design and environmental students from fall 2021 and introduced a common curriculum for students from the colleges of humanities and NUS – a merger of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty. science.

“This interest in strengthening and deepening liberal arts and science education in Singapore will no doubt continue for years to come,” Roberts said. “I believe Yale-NUS has played a significant role in this re-prioritization – to make liberal arts and science education more inclusive, broad, interdisciplinary, and accessible.”

Yet student reactions to NUS College’s planning process remain mixed.

A December survey by The Octant, the Yale-NUS student newspaper, found that less than 5% of 600 respondents were satisfied with the planning process for the new college. Yale-NUS and USP students expressed low confidence that NUS College would be able to provide an interdisciplinary, accessible, flexible, and inclusive education to incoming students.

“Given the pride our community feels in what we have built, many of our students, staff and faculty wanted to be part of the development of NUS College to see the legacy of Yale-NUS continue there. “, said Roberts. “It will be difficult to say goodbye to Yale-NUS, but I hope we can share what we have learned and developed here.”

Yale-NUS is Singapore’s first liberal arts and science college, and its establishment made Yale the first Ivy League school to establish a college bearing its name in Asia.


Miranda Jeyaretnam is the reporter covering the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and developments at the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS for the YDN University office. She was previously an Opinion Editor for the Yale Daily News under the 2022 YDN board and wrote as a columnist for its opinion column “Crossing the Aisle” in Spring 2020. From Singapore, she is a student second year at Pierson College, majoring in English. .

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