Story | Linh Ha Nguyen (she/her), Contributing Reporter and Ryan Yeo (he/him), Managing Editor
Photo | National University of Singapore
It was revealed in a town hall last Tuesday (Nov. 16) that “NUS College” is the tentative top choice for the name of the New College.
The town hall was held to clarify the New College’s Common Curriculum and transition process. The name options for the New College, which would be used in the college’s first admissions cycle, were also publicly addressed for the first time by Simon Chesterman, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Law and member of the New College Planning Committee.
According to Prof. Chesterman, “NUS College” is the top choice as it suggests an “exclusive program within a comprehensive university,” and follows the tradition of other major universities such as Harvard College and Yale College.
The other frontrunner for the college’s new name is “Honours College.” Chesterman said that while this was a “neutral” name that was “easy to explain,” it was not favored because it sounded too “generic.” He added that it might cause confusion as not all students in the college would have an honors degree.
Chesterman said that the naming of the college would run simultaneously with “a more elaborate process” that determines the college’s vision and mission.
The New College Planning Committee has hired Kantar Public, a consultancy group, to conduct focus group discussions with potential and current students on the naming and branding of the New College, he said.
Some takeaways from the focus groups conducted by Kantar Public included clarifying tangible aspects of student development and identifying specific ideas of what the college would be.
Chesterman added that some logo mockups were already created and presented to the Planning Committee as well as the NUS Board of Trustees.
For now, the placeholder name would remain as “New College” until official announcements are made in the future, he said.
Other name candidates
Chesterman said he was briefed that keeping the name “New College” was a “non-starter.”
Instead, he said the new name needed to be sufficiently specific in order to give the New College a “basic identity” that was distinguishable from other NUS residential colleges and faculties.
At the same time, the name also needed to be general enough that it would not “constrain the development of the New College.”
Apart from Honours College and NUS College, Chesterman revealed that some other candidate names the team considered included Scholars College and University College.
However, Chesterman said that Scholars College sounded “a bit too academic,” while University College was too generic. He added that the branding of the name “University College” would be difficult: “It was always going to difficult if you had to say ‘National University of Singapore University College.’”
Meanwhile, other candidate names such as College of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Liberal Arts Studies, Casuarina College, and Merdeka College were rejected for being too specific, which could constrain the evolution of the college or cause confusion with other residential colleges.
Chesterman said that some students gave feedback that the proposed new names for the college were “all pretty meh.” According to one student, Chesterman said, the NUS College name “might just look like we’ve lopped the ‘Yale’ part off of ‘Yale-NUS College.’”
However, he added: “This is not a democracy. A few years ago, there was a proposal to name a new Antarctic exploration ship in Britain. The number one most popular name was Boaty McBoatface.”
“They ended up naming it the Sir David Attenborough.”
Reactions from students: Generic, uninspiring, uninformative
Students from Yale-NUS College and the University Scholars Programme (USP) who spoke to The Octant reacted to the proposed names with disapproval.
Kim ‘25 said: “What in tarnation is ‘NUS College?’ NUS already has NUS Overseas Colleges, NUS College of Humanities and Sciences, and so on. There is just no individuality. I guess they really just didn’t care about what the college truly is.”
A third-year USP student who wished to remain anonymous said: “This is a generic, uninspiring, and uninformative name that is ill-suited for the university’s premier interdisciplinary program.”
Another USP student from the same year simply said: “I suddenly prefer ‘New College.’”
Elsewhere, a post by an anonymous user on NUSWhispers shared a similar sentiment of disapproval towards the names and suggested that the NUS administration should have sourced for ideas from students instead.
“Seriously, they should have just asked the students. I bet we can come up with much better ideas,” the anonymous user said.
“I think NUS management really need[s] to talk to their students more. They didn’t ask us about the merger, and then they came up with this name all on their own (which are both not great ideas). They can end up with something way better if they just did some giveaway for students who give suggestions and do some voting thing.”
The name has also become a subject of mockery.
The Mocktant and USNonsenseNews, the satirical newspapers for Yale-NUS College and USP, respectively, released headlines on the same day of the town hall, mocking the generic nature of the “NUS College” name.
Meanwhile, The Shiok Shack, a buttery run by Yale-NUS students, temporarily renamed themselves “FOOD STORE” for the week to commemorate the proposed name.