The decision to announce the merger of Yale-NUS College (YNC) and the University Scholars Programme (USP) as early as possible was discussed and jointly determined by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Yale University, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing told Parliament yesterday.
As to why current students and staff were not consulted, he said: "NUS did not do so because the decision involved discussions between the senior leadership of two universities, and with their respective boards, on sensitive issues of strategy and finances."
Elaborating on the timing of the announcement, Mr Chan said NUS had initiated discussions with Yale in early July, and Yale acknowledged NUS' vision to bring together both Yale-NUS and USP into a new college that would not bear Yale's name.
The Yale-NUS leadership was informed in the same month.
The NUS board of trustees endorsed the decision early last month, and the Yale-NUS governing board endorsed the transition plans late in the same month.
The announcement was planned for last month after the Yale-NUS governing board "considered and endorsed" the transition approach, he added.
Mr Chan explained that this allowed faculty and staff the maximum time to work through the details of the transition.
"While the partnership would only end in 2025, both parties felt that the responsible thing to do was to announce it early rather than hold back," he said.
"It would have been bad faith to delay the announcement and continue to admit students who would not be able to complete their education in YNC, or to continue to hire faculty, beyond this juncture."
He was responding to questions from MPs on the merger, which was announced on Aug 27. The move has sparked criticism from students and parents including over its timing, around two weeks after the academic year began.
"I understand the sadness and sense of loss and uncertainty they may feel, especially for those who have played a part in building up YNC over the past decade," he added.
In his reply, Mr Chan reassured students, parents and alumni that the stature of the YNC degree would not be affected even after the partnership ends in 2025.
"Beyond 2025, NUS will continue to provide supporting documentation to explain the context of YNC and what a YNC degree conveys, and provide letters of recommendation or referees, if alumni need them," Mr Chan said, citing that both universities are globally renowned and well-recognised by employers.
Mr Chan reiterated that NUS is committed to honouring all existing employment contracts, and the leadership of Yale-NUS has been engaging faculty members to hear their concerns and discuss options beyond 2025.
Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked if the Ministry of Education will facilitate assistance for Yale-NUS students enrolling next year who had to forgo other universities and now wish to change schools.
Mr Chan said NUS will help those who want to make alternative plans because of the merger. He added that he had spoken with student leaders from Yale-NUS and USP last week.
Mr Chan said: "I listened to their hopes and concerns, and encouraged them to work together on the journey ahead. I have every confidence that we will take forward together the legacy, spirit and communities of YNC and USP."