The American system of higher education has long been the envy of the world. For years now, American Universities have been exporting their higher education system in dribs and drabs through study abroad opportunities and exchange programmes, but rarely have they engaged in the wholesale building of branch campuses on foreign soil. Until now that is. In the past decade, several elite American Universities including NYU, Georgetown, and Cornell have established sizeable outposts in countries such as Dubai, China, India and Singapore. Yale is the latest to dip its toe into this growing market, partnering with the National University of Singapore to build that county’s first liberal arts college, the Yale NUS College. In conjunction with this, the College unveiled plans earlier this month for a new campus designed jointly by U.S. architects Kieran Timberlake and Pfeiffer Partners with Forum Architects of Singapore.
The 10.5-acre campus blends traditional elements of Yale’s college in New Haven, Connecticut and Singaporean architecture moderated for a temperate climate. But the big idea behind Yale NUS and what differentiates it from other U.S. schools with outposts abroad is the desire to replicate the residential life experience unique to certain American Universities, including Yale. As such, Yale NUS is designed around three residential colleges, each housing 300 students in a high rise structure organised around an enclosed quadrangle that will be the centre of student life. Students will live in and become active members of one of the three colleges throughout their four-year stay at Yale NUS. In addition to providing sleeping quarters, these colleges will house dining halls for students and faculty, meeting spaces, and spaces where student enterprises can be developed. They will also provide opportunities for students to interact with the greater community in University Town and NUS’s main campus through sports facilities, performing venues and places to dine.
In addition to the residential colleges, the Yale NUS campus will have the full range of facilities one would encounter at most every American University including a Performing Arts Center with a major performance hall, a black box theatre, music practice rooms and adjacent art studios; a Science Center with wet and dry labs and spaces for students to conduct independent research; a Learning Commons that will be a 24-hour study space equipped with a library, multi-media design labs, recording studios and virtual classrooms; and a Center for International and Experimental Learning where students will receive guidance on global learning, research, internship and career opportunities. The campus will also have a Gymnasium with a fitness centre and dance studio, as well as a student café and dedicated spaces for student organisations. If all goes according to plan, The Yale NUS College will admit its first students in 2013.
But whether it is a booming success remains to be seen. The wholesale exporting of American Education abroad is still in its infancy. Supporters of the idea say the upside is huge, helping American universities raise their profile, build international relationships, attract top research talent who, in turn may attract grants and produce patents, and gain access to a new pool of tuition paying students as the number of college age Americans is about to decline. But not everyone agrees. Some say such ventures are risky leaving universities to wonder whether they can deliver the same quality of education abroad that they do at home and whether such ventures would dilute the strength of the faculty at home. As concerning is what will happen if the relationship between the United States and the host country deteriorates and whether having foreign branches that spread American know-how abroad will ultimately hurt American competitiveness.