Story | Michelle Ong (she/her), Managing Editor
Photo | Xie Yihui
In an interview with The Octant last Monday, Prof. Simon Chesterman, Dean-designate of NUS College, said that NUS College will be an independent entity, and its relationship with University Scholars’ Programme and Yale-NUS College will be one of “collaboration, not integration.”
This comes after months of announcements from NUS calling the formation of the new college a “merger.” Chesterman said that the term “merger” was “misleading” when asked to clarify why this language had been used.
“Integration between students would make sense if this was a true merger into one thing now, but Yale-NUS programs will continue without change throughout [Yale-NUS] students’ candidatures.”
Chesterman explained that he wanted to push back against the merger language to assure current students that they would not miss out on the student experience they had been promised.
“I have no jurisdiction over or interest in having jurisdiction over the Yale-NUS experience,” he said. “But I have regular meetings with President-designate Roberts and we both want to support one another.”
When asked about his vision of the future relationship between NUS College and Yale-NUS, Chesterman stated that the two entities would be “partners, but not unified,” and that NUS College has a “strong interest in ensuring Yale-NUS succeeds” in the next few years.
NUS College will take elements from both USP and Yale-NUS, but will be an independent entity that is not a continuation of either program. As such, NUS College will have elements of a liberal arts education but, unlike Yale-NUS, will not run a full liberal arts program, according to Chesterman.
These elements include small class sizes, a common curriculum, and a residential program. At the same time, students will be able to pursue fifty majors across both traditional liberal arts subjects and professional degrees.
According to a report released to the NUS community last month, the NUS College Planning Committee has proposed an “interdisciplinary curriculum” of 14 modules, comprising seven foundational modules on “critical competencies” and “global orientations,” six elective modules, and a capstone project.
Chesterman said that most of the core modules would be developed under the leadership of one Yale-NUS faculty member and one USP faculty member.
Speaking about other aspects of student life, Chesterman said that all USP Interest Groups will formally cease to exist from next academic year, to allow NUS College students to create organizations from scratch.
“We don’t want to give the impression that NUS College is just a continuation of USP. USP students are entering NUS College in the same way as NUS College first years, so there will be a fresh set of organizations created at the start. There will be room for an entirely new slate of actors, though we fully expect overlap in the types of student organizations we will see.”
Meanwhile, Yale-NUS student organizations will continue in their current form. Chesterman said that there would be room for NUS College students to join Yale-NUS student organizations. However, Yale-NUS and NUS College students “are in different programs and subject to different rules and policies,” he said.
As had been agreed in the Student and Residential Life subcommittee of the New College Planning Committee, the orientation for the first cohort of NUSC students would be staff-led.
“Yale-NUS students will be invited, if they wish, to participate, and USP senior students may be invited to lead certain activities where the fact that they have been in NUS longer gives them expertise and perspective that is valuable for incoming students, such as academic mentorship,” he said.
Chesterman had also previously confirmed that the entire first cohort of NUS College students will be housed in Cinnamon College, which currently serves as the residential college for USP students who live on campus, to ensure a “cohesive experience” for students.
When asked about plans to maintain diversity in NUS College, Chesterman stated that there would be an explicit focus on admitting students from a range of majors and countries, but that other aspects of applicants’ backgrounds would also be considered.
Chesterman also said that NUS College hoped to enroll around 80 international students from 30 different countries out of 400 students in the first cohort. However, there would be no fixed quotas for admissions.
In addition to need-based bursaries and scholarships for Singaporean students, “international students would be offered strong merit-based financial aid,” Chesterman said.