Workers' Party MPs file parliamentary questions on merger involving Yale-NUS

NUS said last week that Yale-NUS will merge with NUS' University Scholars Programme to form a new college. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Several Workers' Party MPs have filed parliamentary questions on the National University of Singapore's (NUS) decision to merge Yale-NUS College with its University Scholars Programme (USP).

Associate Professor Jamus Lim, an MP for Sengkang GRC, said the loss of Yale-NUS is "regrettable, not only because it represented a tiny beacon of diversity in local education, but also because we now have one less avenue for informed debate".

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sept 1), Prof Lim said he will be posing a number of questions in the upcoming sitting of Parliament on Sept 13 on the matter, including the motivations behind the decision and whether the Yale-NUS faculty and student body were consulted before the decision was announced on Aug 27.

With the merger of Yale-NUS and USP to form the New College - a placeholder name - the liberal arts school will stop taking in new students, and its final batch will graduate in 2025.

The announcement was met with dismay and anxiety from students who said they had concerns over their future.

Some Yale-NUS students had told The Straits Times that they feel short-changed that the college will soon cease to exist, having turned down places at prestigious universities with long histories.

Ms He Ting Ru, also an MP for Sengkang GRC, said she has also filed a number of questions on the subject, including on what alternatives to the merger were considered, and why those options were not taken.

She said in a Facebook post on Wednesday: "While we hear about the merger and discourse surrounding its pros and cons on both social and mainstream media, it has been unclear as to what were the considerations that led to the merger, with confusion on the timeline of the decision-making processes.

"This is important, given that students and various stakeholders who are affected by this change have been caught unaware and now have to face the task of reconfiguring their next steps."

She added: "Understanding the new directions the New College will take is vital for us to ensure that concerns that students have are addressed, and public institutions are transparent with their decision-making processes."

Mr Leon Perera, a WP MP for Aljunied GRC, said he filed questions on the key performance indicators of NUS and the Education Ministry vis-a-vis Yale-NUS, and what was assessed to be the performance on those metrics.

Other questions are on topics such as plans for a dedicated liberal arts college going forward, as well as whether the nature of student activism on the Yale-NUS campus played a part in the decision.

More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition calling on NUS to reverse its decision to merge Yale-NUS and USP.

It also calls for the reversal of two other mergers - between the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment to form the College of Design and Engineering; and the one between the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science to form the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The decision to merge the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment was also announced on Aug 27, while the one to merge the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with the Faculty of Science was announced last year.

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