Story | Suman (she/they), Staff Writer
Photo | Raphael Hugh (he/him)
After much anticipation from freshmen and sophomores in the student body, on Feb. 17, Assistant Dean of Curriculum Dr. Steven Green released a tentative list of courses that will be offered every academic year until 2025 at Yale-NUS. In previous dialogues with freshmen and at Student Government meetings, Dean of Faculty Dr. David Post had repeatedly promised to try and provide the full Yale-NUS experience with respect to the majors, minors, and courses that would be offered until 2025.
Uncertainty in Course Planning Continues
As promised when the closure was announced, all of the planned majors and minors will continue to be offered until 2025. But the uncertainty of planning for the next three academic years poses difficulties. In the dialogue with first-year students, Dr. Post had said that since he does not know who is leaving and who will be hired, it is reasonable to expect some alterations from whatever future plan they decide in 2022 now. In his email, Dr. Green reiterated this sentiment and wrote that “the course lists may be affected by faculty movement and transition plans, study leaves, or teaching relief to compensate for taking on a large administrative portfolio; on the other hand, there will be new courses taught by new faculty (in the process of being hired) and visitors from Yale and NUS, and there may also be courses cross-listed from cognate majors.”
It is too early to understand and predict both student and faculty migration from Yale-NUS. While NUS had promised to honor tenure and contracts for all current staff and faculty at Yale-NUS, the veracity of this is yet to be confirmed, especially with a lack of real equivalent departments at NUS.
A key tenet of Yale-NUS’s liberal arts education is the offering of a wide variety of majors from across various disciplines. Compared to majors offered in the greater NUS and in other Singaporean higher education institutions, Yale-NUS offers new and niche course tracks like Urban Studies, Global Antiquity, and more. For these majors and minors, there are no real substitutes offered in NUS. The closest NUS substitute for Urban Studies would be Real Estate or Geography, which, though these are distantly related and much broader alternatives, has rather troubling implications. It is a major overreach to consider that Real Estate and Urban Studies, two fundamentally different courses, should be considered equivalent to one another. With the closure of Yale-NUS for NUS College, such niche majors, already rare in Singapore’s higher education scene, are practically going extinct.
For such niche majors, Urban Studies in particular, will offer up to 25 courses every academic year until 2024, with 17 planned courses for the final academic year of Yale-NUS in 2025. However, 10 academic courses every year from now on will be new elective courses offered by newly hired faculty. This may very well change how major requirements are structured for the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025, depending on what will still be offered then. If students are hoping to study a certain course, Dr. Green mentions “to sign up for desired courses at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid disappointment.” By the time the major declaration exercise for current freshmen occurs in 2023, most will be expected to have an idea of what major they want. However, a key aspect of a liberal arts education is the liberty and freedom to explore between various disciplines, and with major/minor requirements combined with pursuing other interests, this will be difficult with caveats posed by the uncertainties.
Uneven Decline in Course Offerings Across Majors
For more popular majors like Mathematical and Computational Sciences (MCS), the variety of courses offered also decreases incrementally every academic year. There are 39 courses and a Historical Immersion (HI) offered next year, and only 33-34 courses offered the year after.
However, for less popular majors such as Arts and Humanities, the decline of course offerings is more substantial. Next year, the Arts and Humanities track will offer 28 courses and 6 HI courses, but the year after, it falls to 24 with 4 HI courses and finally 19 courses with 5 HI courses. Considering that the major has few students in its discipline, it is reasonable to assume this trend would continue for the cohorts of 2024 and 2025 as well.
The wide disparity in courses offered in 2023 to 2025 between popular and less popular majors proves the earlier caveat true: for interested students, the earlier they take said courses, the better. Even more important to consider is that for majors like Urban Studies, Economics and History, many of the courses planned are to be new or remain undecided, as they will be taught by yet-to-be-hired faculty.
|Arts and Humanities||28 (6 HI)||24 (4 HI)||19 (5 HI)|
|History||27 (7 HI)||23 (8 HI)||25 (8 HI)|
|MCS||39 (1 HI)||34||33|
|Philosophy||24||17 (2 HI)||15|
A possible reason for this decrease can be attributed to the removal of introductory modules in the future academic years. Many introductory modules for courses, such as Introduction to Anthropology or Introduction to Environmental Studies, are slowly eliminated over the years and are unavailable in the final year. It is recommended that students interested in the major/minor take them early to fulfill any requirements and prerequisites.
While students would still be able to switch majors up until the end of their third year, the lack of introductory modules would make it difficult to switch that late. The caveat, once again, rings true. Despite Yale-NUS’s promise to offer a liberal arts education until its closure, the removal of introductory modules makes it difficult for the latest cohorts to switch majors.
A student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they found it “a pity.” They added that, “a liberal arts education is really this idea of embracing new disciplines… the disappear[ance] of intro mods, that’s really upsetting.” They mentioned a junior in one of their classes who is done with their major requirements and now has the liberty to explore other disciplines for possible minors, or even a major switch, which is a common practice amongst many upperclassmen. With the loss of this system, it cannot be denied that a fundamental part of Yale-NUS is going to be missing for the final cohorts. Even now, there are many upperclassmen who take introductory modules during their junior or senior year, and try out new minors or switch majors drastically as they delve deeper into new disciplines. It is a shame that such liberties will not be available to the cohorts who graduate in 2024 and 2025.
While it is unrealistic to expect a fully planned list of offered courses to be finalized three years in advance, the loss of introductory modules detracts from the variety offered to Yale-NUS students until 2025. From the beginning, the cohorts most affected by the closure, the freshmen and sophomores, were promised that the closure would not take away from the full Yale-NUS experience that was promised to them. However, as options become more and more limited, this promised ‘Yale-NUS’ experience, with respect to the holistic liberal arts education, begins to ring untrue.