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The National University of Singapore (NUS) said its decision to merge its University Scholars Programme (USP) with Yale-NUS College was a ‘considered’ decision. — TODAY pic
The National University of Singapore (NUS) said its decision to merge its University Scholars Programme (USP) with Yale-NUS College was a ‘considered’ decision. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Sept 8 — Student leaders at Yale-NUS College have urged the administration of the National University of Singapore (NUS) to provide greater transparency and accountability on the decision to merge the college with the University Scholars Programme (USP).

In a statement released on Tuesday (Sept 7) by the college’s Student Government, an elected body of student representatives, called on NUS administration to:

Hold transparent dialogues with the college’s staff members and students, with NUS board members and NUS president Tan Eng Chye present

Provide a written account behind the decision on the merger, including:

A comprehensive timeline detailing the involvements and actions of various decision-makers

The level of involvement of Yale University’s and Yale-NUS’s leadership

Reasons why students and staff members of Yale-NUS were not consulted

How the merged college will improve the educational experience of future students

How the merger will affect higher education in Singapore

Pledge greater commitment to student voices and recognise student power when critical decisions involving them are made

It also criticised NUS administration’s “lack of consultation and transparency” throughout the decision-making process and added that concerns surrounding changes in the academic environment, student life and campus spaces have not been addressed more than a week after the initial announcement.

“This suggests that this failure to uphold transparency is one that is institutional and unbecoming of a world-class educational institute,” the statement read.

On August 27, NUS announced that this year’s cohort of students to enrol in Yale-NUS College will be its last, and the college will soon be merged with the USP to form a new college.

The announcement generated a furore among past and current students of Yale-NUS, many of whom have expressed their disappointment.

On the day of the announcement, the Student Government criticised the “top-down” nature of the decision.

In response to the initial criticism, NUS said on September 3 that the decision had been a “considered one” endorsed by the Ministry of Education and the NUS board of trustees.

Students from Yale-NUS College and NUS had earlier launched a petition highly critical of the merger, and calling for it to be reversed, among various other demands.

In the latest statement, the Student Government expressed its disappointment at what it perceives as the closure of Yale-NUS College, instead of it being a merger as termed by the NUS administration.

“We express our disappointment towards NUS’ unilateral decision, which was made with no consultation of key stakeholders — defined as students, faculty, and staff — who are both emotionally and materially harmed by this sudden announcement,” the statement read.

It also said that NUS has continued to “practise the same lack of transparency” when engaging with students and staff members on their concerns after the announcement.

For example, the students cited as an example how their quality of education would be affected when professors leave as a result of the college’s impending closure.

The student body also said that the cultures and traditions of Yale-NUS, which would be gone when the college dissolves, would have “serious ramifications” on the well-being and mental health of students and staff members.

“With no concrete roadmap ahead, our college community is left in a state of extreme anxiety and little confidence about our collective futures in the time that we have left in our college.” 

The Student Government added that any attempts by NUS to reassure students have been “unconvincing and vague,” although the administration told students during a town hall held on the day the merger was announced that students will enjoy the same experience over the next four years.

The unilateral decision made by NUS is a reflection of how the students’ voices were not heard because they did not matter, the student body said, adding that there are no safeguards to protect their interest.

“We are led under a false impression that we have a seat at the table, when the table has already been set.” 

It also added that students are concerned about how this episode would set a “dangerous precedent” for future decisions involving universities, polytechnics and Institutes of technical education.

“This decentring of stakeholders’ voices, financial investments, intellectual efforts, and other invaluable forms of attachment to Yale-NUS College will have huge repercussions on Singapore’s standing in the higher education community, both on the local and international scale.

“The disruption of the lives and futures of thousands of individuals without notice nor consideration in explanation leaves much to be said about our international reputation,” it said.

TODAY has sought comment from NUS on the latest Student Government statement. — TODAY

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