Committee called for radical changes at Nantah

A committee set up to review courses at Nanyang University - opened in 1956 to cater to Chinese-medium students - called for radical changes to raise not only the institution's academic standards but also its usefulness to a multiracial society.

In September 1965, the committee released its recommendations - which included streamlining various courses, opening up the university to students of all streams, having a language centre to ensure that graduates would be bilingual if not trilingual, and providing better pay scales to attract good staff.

In its report, the committee - headed by Professor Wang Gungwu, then of the University of Malaya - noted that Nanyang seemed to have "served only a limited purpose" up to that point.

"Attention has been paid to producing large numbers of graduates without adequate consideration of the prospects of employment for the graduates, or high standards of teaching and research, or the fundamental objectives of higher education in a plural society," the committee pointed out.

PUNISHMENT FOR STEALING

Remove his trousers when you get home,and give him three strokes of the cane on his bare buttocks.

DISTRICT COURTJ UDGEK. T. ALEXANDER,asking a father to give his 16-year-old son a good thrashing after the latter pleaded guilty to breaking into a school canteen to steal soft drinks and cakes with three other boys

The recommendations, however, sparked unease among graduates of the university, also known as Nantah.The graduates' association said in a statement that the university should cater mainly to students from the Chinese stream.

University vice-chancellor Huang Ying Jung clarified that Chinese would still be the main medium of instruction at Nantah.

Even so, some students were unhappy that the review committee had sought to change the character of the university. Protests were held, which saw the expulsion of 85 students for unruly behaviour.

A three-week boycott of classes was held as well, in November 1965, and police had to be called in to break up "human walls" of agitators, who were blocking entrances to lecture halls, so classes could resume at end-November.

Nantah - which saw falling enrolment in the 1970s as Chinese-medium schools became less popular - was merged in 1980 with the University of Singapore to become the National University of Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'Committee called for radical changes at Nantah'. Print Edition | Subscribe