Calm down everyone: Yale-NUS appoints new deans

A lot of fuss over not very much news?

I must admit to being both amazed and slightly peeved at the level of publicity generated by the Yale-NUS development in Singapore which is still a year from opening. It is also fascinating how much money seems to be being poured in and the kind of staff being appointed in advance of the first intake of students. An earlier post noted some previous news about the new College.

The latest update comes courtesy of Yale Daily News which reports that Yale-NUS has appointed some new deans and gives us some diverting information about their family circumstances:

Former Jonathan Edwards College Dean Kyle Farley will serve as the inaugural dean of students at Yale-NUS College, the school announced Thursday evening.

Farley left Yale in fall 2011 to work at Academies Australasia, an educational group that serves international students studying in Australia. At the time, Farley said his move was partly motivated by his wife’s desire to return to Australia, where her family lives. The day before Wednesday’s announcement, Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said the new dean of students will be expected make decisions about how to address Singapore’s restrictions on political parties and public protests, and address any “gray areas” that might be found in Singaporean law.

Yale-NUS also announced Thursday that Anastasia Vrachnos — former executive director of the Princeton in Asia program, which Lewis compared to the University’s Yale-China Association — will serve as the college’s dean of international and professional experience.

During her tenure at Princeton in Asia, the program doubled its endowment, tripled its participants and started programs in 12 new countries.

“Being dean of international and professional experience, it’s really about outreach and placing people off campus,” Lewis said. “She’s placed a whole lot of Princeton students in very good situations that have been very valuable to them.”

In addition to Farley and Vrachno, Yale-NUS has two other appointed deans: Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn and Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan.

In other news the Vision and Mission of the new College is pretty ambitious:


A community of learning,

Founded by two great universities,

In Asia, for the world.


Yale-NUS College, a residential college located in Singapore, aims to redefine liberal arts and science education for a complex, interconnected world.

Modest enough I guess. Further details of the venture can be found at its website here.

There has been an awful lot of fuss over the new College and it is undoubtedly one of the more high profile international campus developments for US or European universities. But it still seems a striking level of coverage when the first intake, which will only be 150 students, is a year off and the total student population is likely to be around 1,000. On the other hand many of the staff, from the President downwards, do have great names.

Yale-NUS – high stakes higher education in Singapore

A lot is riding on the Yale-NUS development

A very upbeat report from the National University of Singapore on progress in the Yale-NUS partnership:

As the first liberal arts college in Singapore offering a proactive education through residential living and learning right here in the heart of Asia, we are breaking ground on multiple dimensions,” the inaugural President of the College said. The ceremony also symbolically lays the foundation for an inspiring and innovative community of learning, he added.

To align with the School’s educational mission, the Yale-NUS campus architecture will highlight the collaborative nature of the venture through the joint expertise of two world-class architects – Singapore’s Forum Architects and US-based Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

Distinctive features such as the syncopated skyline and special materials derived from Yale architecture are married with Asian courtyard landscapes to meld cultures, traditions and styles of Singapore, America and Southeast Asia. The East-meets-West setting will reflect the openness, energy and optimism of the College’s curriculum.

This residential model builds “nested communities” in the Yale tradition of supporting lifelong learning in liberal arts and science by integrating academic, intellectual, social, athletic and artistic life. Three residential colleges, each conceived as a “social home”, will house students and faculty.

The pioneer batch of Yale-NUS students will begin classes from August 2013 at UTown before the new campus officially opens in 2015. The location of the College on the same site is expected to provide opportunities for Yale-NUS undergraduates to interact with the NUS community in co-curricular, sports, the arts and other social settings.

They will undoubtedly have some impressive buildings when the new campus opens. But will the development really break ground in “multiple dimensions” and will the ambitions of the architecture be mirrored in the academic enterprise? We’ll have to wait and see but, with the extensive media coverage of the new college, you would be forgiven for thinking that Yale-NUS had already opened and had thousands of students enrolled and that no other western university had opened a campus in Asia before. I do hope the new venture works and there is certainly enough money and good will behind it to ensure things do come together. However, the hype surrounding Yale-NUS College could mean that expectations are perhaps unreasonably high. And given the forthright views expressed by Yale faculty about issues from academic freedom in Singapore to the impact on their workloads caused by the need to support the new college it could be an interesting couple of years.

Are US universities retreating from international ventures?

It seems there is a “new caution” for US universities overseas

Seattle P-I has a piece on what looks like a slowdown in the international activities of US universities:

High-profile and expensive failures of Middle East branch campuses run by Michigan State and George Mason were a wake-up call. Suffolk University recently closed a campus in Senegal after concluding it would be cheaper just to bring the students to Boston. The University of Connecticut dropped plans for a campus in Dubai amid criticism of the United Arab Emirates’ policies toward Israel. Plans for a University of Montana campus in China never panned out, and Singapore’s government shut down a Johns Hopkins University biomedical research center.

Even elite schools still pushing forward, like Duke, Yale and New York University, have faced resistance from faculty concerned about finances, quality and whether host countries like China, Singapore and the UAE will uphold academic freedom.

The result: a new era of caution, particularly toward a model that once looked like the wave of the future. Some experts say branch campuses — where a U.S. university “plants a flag,” operates its own campus and awards degrees in its own name — are falling from favor.

“The gold rush mentality of the 2000s is over,” said Jason Lane, a professor and co-director of the cross-border education research team at the State University of New York-Albany. His data show 60 U.S. institutions with 83 overseas campuses in 39 countries. But the number of new international branch campuses peaked at 11 in 2008 — just before the financial crisis — and only four have opened since.

Caution is certainly advisable. However, the real caution here is against a view of internationalisation of university operations which sees it as a “gold rush”. No institution should see developing a presence in another country as an income generating activity as a response to a time of financial challenge. Whilst some universities have been extremely generously supported by host governments, most notably NYU and the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, for most the dowries are much smaller. And, as previously argued here, internationalisation, and the establishment of an international campus in particular, is a long game. There are no get rich quick schemes here. The article goes on to note that:

Instead, schools like UCLA and the Universities of Michigan and North Carolina have opted for more of a soft-power approach — a range of partnerships often starting on the departmental or school level where the home university is less invested but also offering an easier exit strategy if things go south.

But surely such partnerships are part of the everyday life of internationally engaged universities – it’s not about choosing one strategy over another but rather different facets of a genuine approach to international partnership. Again, this is about building long term and enduring partnerships which will, ultimately, be of benefit to all.

Latest Asian University Rankings

Latest Asian University Rankings

QS have just published their latest rankings of universities in Asia. No huge surprises in the top 20 but a few ups and downs. Hong Kong, South Korean and Japanese institutions dominant but NUS seems to have had an impressive leap. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the full QS world rankings.

Ranking 2010 (2009 ranking in brackets)

1 (1) University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2 (4) The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

3 (10) National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

4 (2) The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

5 (3) The University of Tokyo, Japan

6 (8) Seoul National University, Korea, South

7 (6) Osaka University, Japan

8 (5) Kyoto University, Japan

9 (13) Tohoku University, Japan

10 (12) Nagoya University, Japan

11 (9) Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

12 (10) Peking University, China

13 (7) KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea

14 (17) Pohang University of Science And Technology (POSTECH), South Korea

15 (18) City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

16 (15) Tsinghua University, China

17 (15) Kyushu University, Japan

18 (14) Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore

19 (25) Yonsei University, South Korea

20 (19) University of Tsukuba, Japan

Full Asian university rankings available here.

Australian mediocrity?

From the Chronicle

Good news for UK HE?

Mediocrity Threatens Australian ‘Brand’ in Higher Education, Official Warns

Australia has lost its edge as a leader in the global-export education industry as universities in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia discourage their students from indulging in a “sun, surf, and sex” experience down under.


Mr. Gallagher, who leads the Group of Eight, told the audience at a colloquium at the University of Sydney that an Australian education was associated more with a “beer-and-beaches holiday” than a valuable learning experience. His speech amplified fears among the nation’s elite universities that Australian education exports have pursued a bulk rather than a quality strategy, to the point that an Australian degree is perceived as the educational equivalent of one of the country’s cheap chardonnays.

Growth in the international-education sector, the nation’s fourth-largest export industry, which does $9.81-billion (U.S.) of business a year, has stalled in the wake of a rising Australian dollar and diminishing demand in some traditional markets, coupled with the public-relations catastrophe of the University of New South Wales’ recent withdrawal from Singapore.

Whereas there might be a way to make the surfing experience attractive and exclusive, the UNSW problem really seems like it will have long term consequences.