story Jessica Teng Sijie
*The author is a student currently enrolled in the DDP of Class 2018.
Conceived to provide a “broad liberal arts education in addition to professional training in law” as stated on the Yale-NUS College website, the Double Degree Program (DDP) with the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Law is having trouble meeting student aspirations. Mounting concerns about the DDP structure and perceived lack of communication between key stakeholders have surfaced as Yale-NUS prepares to enroll another cohort of DDP students in the next academic year.
Of the five DDP students interviewed, four cited the inability to declare a Liberal Arts major as a chief concern. According to Assistant Professor of the Humanities and interim DDP advisor Matthew Walker, DDP students cannot take up a major at Yale-NUS, although they can choose a minor. Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn said the option to major was “squeezed out” so DDP students can take the courses necessary to complete both degrees in five years. “You get the breadth of the liberal arts college experience, but not the depth. Because the depth is happening on the law school side,” he said.
Some DDP students claimed such information was not clearly communicated to them from the beginning. Lu Zhao Boyu ’18 said there was a lack of clarity on the Yale-NUS website, which states that DDP students will be awarded a “Bachelor of Arts (with Honors)” and a “Bachelor of Laws (with Honors)”. “I was [therefore] under the impression that I’d get to […] fill in the brackets that follow the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major or specialization,” she said. This would be similar to other NUS DDPs, where students declare two majors. Walter Yeo ’17 added that the Yale-NUS Admissions Office had “at certain points” also suggested the possibility of DDP students double-majoring.
Several DDP students interviewed felt that they should be given the choice to choose a Yale-NUS major. Lu ’18 said that the current policy disadvantages DDP students who intend to pursue careers that are not “explicitly law-based”. She gave the example of Criminal Psychology, for which a Psychology major would be helpful, in addition to a Law degree. Cephas Tan ’18 suggested that modular credits earned from summer school courses and additional courses could help interested DDP students fulfil major requirements. “We are students of Yale-NUS after all, and should be given a choice to do a major like every other student,” he said.
Another point of frustration was a perceived lack of communication between Yale-NUS and the Faculty of Law. This has manifested itself in timetabling problems, including a clash between examinations for the Singapore Law In Context and Foundations of Science courses. Daniel Ng ’18 added that it remains unclear if the Faculty of Law will recognize pro-bono activities that students conducted with Yale-NUS student organizations and law-related courses taken at summer school.
Furthermore, when DDP students sought advice from their academic advisors, the latter were “often at a loss as to what to do with law students”, according to Yeo. Mr. Walker said discussions were underway to develop “a long-term system for DDP student advising”, and noted that DDP students can meet with David Tan, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the Law Faculty, from next semester onwards.
In the meantime, DDP students have asked for a permanent DDP coordinator with a law background to assist them with academic and professional advice. Presently, Mr. Walker and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law Sheila Hayre serve as interim bridges between Yale-NUS and the Faculty of Law. Ms. Hayre is also the wife of President Pericles Lewis. Ng highlighted the provision of freshman housing during the Law Special Term as an example of the administration’s receptiveness to feedback while Natasha Sim ’17 noted the arrangement of transportation to the Law campus.
Although Yeo said Ms. Hayre in particular “has been very helpful”, he noted that she is limited by her informal connections to Yale-NUS and cannot represent students in an official capacity. The need for specialized personnel to manage the DDP was brought up in a recent Student Government meeting, and Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) Tan Tai Yong assured students that he is looking to hire someone for this position.
There are eight DDP students in the Class of 2017 and thirteen in the Class of 2018.
Chan Li Ting contributed reporting to this story.