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Law course dropped over lack of students

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 22, 2013

A LAW programme run by New York University and the National University of Singapore is being scrapped due to the poor take-up rate.

The schools said they had decided to stop offering the NYU@NUS postgraduate programme - which is based in the Republic - as it had failed to become self- financing.

It will take in its last batch of 21 students this month and be discontinued from next year.

The law programme - one of three run jointly by the universities - targets aspiring lawyers from around the world with an interest in international business.

Students receive Master of Laws degrees from both schools.

NYU released a statement saying the programme would need a "significant diversion of financial resources" from the partners if it were to continue.

When it started in 2007, it had an inaugural batch of 39 students.

Since then, it has been attracting an average of only 40 a year - despite originally aiming to enrol twice that number.

Tuition fees for the course, which is taught by faculty members from both schools, are about US$50,000 (S$62,600).

This is around double the cost of a graduate law programme offered solely by NUS, which has no plans to scrap the other two law courses offered jointly with its American partner.

In these undergraduate programmes, students study in the Republic for a law degree before heading to the partner law school in the United States.

There, they work towards a master's degree or a juris doctor qualification - a first degree in law in the US.

NUS said that about five or six of its students go on to study with the American partner every year.

Meanwhile, NYU - which is privately run - has recently come under pressure from its faculty members and students over its overseas commitments.

In its statement, however, it said the decision to discontinue the NYU@NUS programme was made only after careful deliberation.

"In the last few years, the cost of graduate legal education has risen significantly, and running the programme in Singapore has been made possible by a generous grant by the Government of Singapore to fund the numerous scholarships offered," it added.

Last year, the American university said it was closing down the Singapore campus of its celebrated film school, the Tisch School of the Arts, due to financial challenges.

Professor Simon Chesterman, Faculty of Law Dean at NUS, said the joint law programme was being scrapped following a "mutual decision" made in February.

He added that it had produced "outstanding" graduates.

Prof Chesterman said the school continues to build strong international relationships that create opportunities.

For example, it has signed an agreement with China's Tsinghua University Law School that will allow students from each institution to complete their studies at the other and earn a Master of Laws degree.

The Economic Development Board said that it had provided financial support to the NYU@NUS programme, on the understanding that it would be financially sustainable after a few years.

A spokesman declined to reveal how much money had been given to date, but said the board closely monitors the progress of schools that have been awarded financial incentives.

"However, similar to other businesses, the performance of educational institutions may vary over time as they are affected by changes in their industry and the broader economic environment."

sandra@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 22, 2013

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