Yale-NUS College

Yale-NUS College is a liberal arts college in Singapore. Established in 2011 as a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore, it is the first liberal arts college in Singapore and one of the few in Asia. Yale-NUS is the first institution outside New Haven, Connecticut, that Yale University has developed in its 300-year history, making Yale the first American Ivy League school to establish a college bearing its name in Asia.

Yale-NUS College
Kolej Yale-NUS  (Malay)
耶鲁-新加坡国大学院 (Chinese)
யேய்ல்-சிங்கப்பூர் தேசிய பல்கலைக்கழகம் (Tamil)
MottoA community of learning,
Founded by two great universities,
In Asia, for the world
TypeLiberal arts college
EstablishedApril 2011[1]
EndowmentS$402 million[2]
PresidentTan Tai Yong
Academic staff
101 [3]
Undergraduates981 [4]
1°17′44″N 103°46′36″E
CampusUrban, 9.07 acres (0.0367 km2)
ColorsBlue and Orange          

Yale-NUS is predominantly a four-year, fully residential undergraduate institution. The first class, the class of 2017, consisted of 157 students entering in 2013. Over several years, the college intends to increase its student body to 1,000 students and its teaching faculty to about 100.[6][7] Students select their majors (currently there are 14[8]) at the end of their second year, after going through two years of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum, which is "built from scratch by the inaugural faculty, draws on the strengths of established liberal arts traditions, while introducing our students to the diverse intellectual traditions and cultures of Asia and the world". Students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours or a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from Yale-NUS College, awarded by NUS.

The College's first graduating class (Class of 2017 – excluding those who are still completing their concurrent degree programmes, amongst others) comprises 119 students. One hundred three students graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours and 16 with a Bachelor of Science with Honours. The top five majors of choice amongst the students were Arts and Humanities; Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Environmental Studies; Psychology; and Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences. As of September 29, 2017, over 90% of the students had secured jobs or university places to pursue graduate studies. Students who received job offers are working in sectors such as science and research (12%), consulting (14%), and the public sector (17%). Others industries include education and engineering, finance, technology and startups, communications, and consumer and lifestyle.[9]

About 60% of students at Yale-NUS are Singaporeans and 40% are international students. Yale-NUS College receives more than 8,000 applications annually and the admit rate is usually 3% to 7%.[10] Apart from Singapore University of Technology and Design, Yale-NUS is the only other college in Singapore to follow a holistic admissions process similar to that followed by Yale and other American universities. Like both Yale and NUS, Yale-NUS follows a need-blind admission policy and offers financial aid on a full-need basis. Yale-NUS also distributes scholarships to some admitted students based on academic merit.[11]


Under the presidency of Richard Levin, Yale University began developing a "internationalization" strategy that included expanding financial resources for international students and study abroad programs, founding the Yale World Fellows and the Center for the Study of Globalization, and joining the International Alliance of Research Universities.[12] Administrators at Yale began considering international campus expansion in 2006,[13] and initially approached the United Arab Emirates about establishing an arts institute on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, developed in collaboration with the university's arts professional schools.[14][15][16] After Yale indicated that it was not willing to offer Yale degree programs at the proposed institute, the project was dropped.[17][18]

Levin and National University of Singapore President Tan Chorh Chuan discussed the concept of a joint liberal arts college at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,[19] and eighteen months later, Levin and Yale Provost Peter Salovey circulated to the Yale faculty a prospectus for a liberal arts college in Singapore. Among the given reasons for the initiative were "develop[ing] a novel curriculum spanning Western and Asian cultures" and better preparing students for "an interconnected, interdependent global environment".[20][21]

Yale-NUS College was officially launched in April 2011. In July 2012, the College held its ground-breaking ceremony;[22] it enrolled its first class of students in 2013.[23] Yale-NUS inaugurated its campus on October 12, 2015. The event was attended by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Acting Education Minister (Higher Education) Ong Ye Kung and the presidents of Yale and the National University of Singapore.[24] The College held its inaugural graduation ceremony on May 29, 2017. The certificates were presented by Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of the Republic of Singapore, and Richard Levin, former President of Yale and Chief Executive of Coursera, was the guest speaker.[25]

The guest speaker for 2018's graduation ceremony will be Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Senior Advisor (University & Global Relations) and Professor in Practice of Policy at the National University of Singapore[26].

In 2012, Yale-NUS published its policy on academic freedom and non-discrimination, which states that “the College upholds the principles of academic freedom and open inquiry, essential core values in higher education of the highest calibre. Faculty and students in the College will be free to conduct scholarship and research and publish the results, and to teach in the classroom and express themselves on campus, bearing in mind the need to act in accordance with accepted scholarly and professional standards and the regulations of the College.” The College is also “committed to basing judgments concerning the admission, education, and employment of individuals upon their qualifications and abilities.”[27]

Leadership and faculty


  • President, Professor Tan Tai Yong,[28][29] Professor of Humanities (History) and previously Vice-Provost (Student Life) at National University of Singapore[30]
  • Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), Joanne Roberts, Professor of Social Sciences (Economics) at Yale–NUS, and previously on the faculty of the University of Calgary.[31]
  • Executive Vice President (Administration), Kristen Lynas,[32] University of Chicago MBA '90
  • Yale-NUS College's Founding President from 2012-2017 was Pericles Lewis,[33] Professor of comparative literature and English at Yale University.


As of August 2016, Yale–NUS lists over 100 faculty members from leading colleges and universities around the world.[34]

Governing board

The governing board is composed of trustees half-appointed by Yale, and half-appointed by NUS.[35] The board is chaired by Mdm. Kay Kuok Oon Kwong.[36]


Yale-NUS has a no-loan policy and provides need-blind admission to local and international students. The admission timeline is similar to that of colleges and universities in the US.[37] Yale-NUS targeted a class size of around 250 students[38]; this threshold was met with the Class of 2022[39]. Application deadlines are typically in January and March.[40] At full capacity, the total expected student population will be 1,000 students.[41]

The College employs a holistic approach in evaluating applicants: while academic achievement as reflected in examinations grades is a primary consideration, interviews, recommendations, essays and extracurricular accomplishments are also given significant weight in the process.[42]

Inaugural class (Class of 2017)

In all, Yale-NUS attracted more than 11,400 applications from over 130 countries.[43] The acceptance rate of the inaugural class was under 4%.[43] making the admission process comparable in selectivity to both Yale University and the most competitive faculties of National University of Singapore, and making it one of the most selective colleges in the world, as compared to Harvard (5.9%), Stanford (5.1%) and Columbia (6.9%).[44]

According to a press-release by the Yale-NUS College Administration, the overall yield rate was 52%[43] comparable to top liberal arts colleges in the US such as Amherst (41%), Williams (45%), and Bowdoin (48%), as well as not far off from Ivy League schools and top universities like Brown (58%), Cornell (52%), Columbia (61%), Harvard (81%), Stanford (76%) and Princeton (65%).[45]

In the fall of 2012, the College began accepting application for the Batch of 2017 from Singapore and the rest of the world. The admissions staff began a series of international recruitment events, spanning North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Students were allowed to apply through the Common Application, Yale-NUS portal and those who chose to apply to Yale College also had the option to share their application with Yale-NUS.

Class profiles

Of the 157 students admitted to the class of 2017 (starting in 2013), 87 were female while 70 were male. The median SAT Score was 1440 (on the 1600 scale).[46] The 75th percentile for Critical Reading (CR) is 760/800 and the 75th percentile for Math is 780/800.

26 nationalities from six continents were represented in the first batch. 62% were Singaporean, while the rest were internationals, giving Yale-NUS one of largest international student populations in terms of percentage of total students. Thirty-two of the students were from Asia, Australia and New Zealand, while another 11 were from Europe, Africa, and South America. More than 10% of the student body came from North America with 13 students from the United States and 4 from Canada.

The Class of 2018 comprised 177 students from 35 countries. They came from 95 schools on six different continents. By nationality, Singaporeans comprise the majority in this intake, with a percentage similar to last year's inaugural class. For international students, the next biggest groups are 10% from the United States, 3% from India, and 3% from South Korea.[47]

The Class of 2019 comprised 198 students from 25 countries. Singaporeans continued to make up the largest pool of students in this year's intake, similar to the previous two cohorts. The College's international students came from 25 countries, including for the first time, students from El Salvador, Jamaica and Tunisia. The nationalities in the Class of 2019 that are most frequently represented are the United States, China and India.[48]

The Class of 2020 comprised more than 200 students from 40 countries, the highest diversity of student nationalities in a single intake. In 2016, the Yale-NUS student body comprises more than 700 students from 53 countries across 6 continents.[49] A more detailed class profile for the Class of 2020 has not been released,[50] however the admissions rate of 5% was eventually revealed to the Yale Daily News.[51]

The Class of 2021 comprised 248 students from 45 countries, its largest intake to date. Singaporeans continued to make up the largest pool of students hailing from 28 schools across Singapore. The College sees the strongest international representation from India, United States, China and South Korea. For the first time, students from Uzbekistan and Paraguay are also represented, amongst others.[41]

Acceptance rates have varied between 3 and 7% across the first six batches.[52]


The founding instruction committee decided to implement a common curriculum, a set of interlinked courses for all students. Similar to the core curricula at Columbia University and University of Chicago, students get to choose from a number of set courses in their first year of study. The common curriculum is reviewed every four years. Following its inaugural review, the common curriculum was reduced to 10 courses, with the removal of a science course.[53]

The Yale-NUS common curriculum is a set of interconnected courses designed to provide all students with a shared, intensive exploration of themes and topics ranging across all the academic disciplines, from science to the humanities.[54] In his book, titled "In Defense of a Liberal Education," Fareed Zakaria describes the Yale-NUS Curriculum Report as the 21st century version of the Yale Report of 1828, which set the agenda for the classical curriculum of the 19th century, and the Harvard Red Book of 1945, which set a similar agenda for the 20th.[55]


Students choose their majors at the end of their second year. Currently, there are 14 major fields of study. 31% of the courses are part of the common curriculum, 34% are required by the major, and 35% are electives and prerequisites for the major.[56]

The majors offered are[56]:

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Economics
  • Environmental Studies
  • Global Affairs
  • History
  • Life Sciences
  • Literature
  • Mathematics, Computational and Statistical Sciences
  • Philosophy
  • Physical Sciences
  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Psychology
  • Urban Studies


Students can declare their minors after the end of their second year. Currently, there are 13 minor fields of study. The fields correspond to Yale-NUS's existing majors, with the exception of Philosophy, Politics and Economics and the Double Degree Programme with Law. The College also offers two new interdisciplinary minors: Global Antiquity and Chinese Studies.[57] 42% of the inaugural two batches have declared minors.[58]

Joint and associated programs

Yale-NUS and Faculty of Law, NUS jointly offer a Double Degree program in Law and Liberal Arts for those seeking a broad liberal arts education in addition to their professional training in the law.[59]

Yale-NUS and the Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore's first US-style graduate-entry medical school, jointly offer the Liberal Arts and Medicine pathway, giving select Yale-NUS students a conditional admission offer from Duke-NUS to proceed to the MD program directly after the Yale-NUS bachelors program.[60] Duke-NUS has also expressed interest in admitting Yale-NUS graduates for their PhD and MD/PhD degree programs.[61]

Yale-NUS offers four Concurrent Degree Programs:

  • Concurrent Degree Program with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy: A five-year program designed for students who want a broad liberal arts education followed by careers in the field of public policy.[63]
  • Concurrent Degree Program with Yale School of Public Health: A five-year program designed for students who want a broad liberal arts education and a career in the field of public health.[64]
  • Concurrent Degree Program with NUS School of Computing: A five-year program designed for student who want to combine a broad liberal arts education with a strong theoretical and practical foundation in computing.[65][66]

In addition, students will receive special consideration to be admitted in the Silver Scholars Program of the Yale School of Management. The program provides the unique opportunity to enter the Yale MBA program immediately after undergraduate study to move more quickly toward career goals.[67]

Experiential learning

The Yale-NUS Centre for International and Professional Experience integrates traditionally separate and often silo-ed components of experience based learning (such as study abroad, summer sessions, internships, career services, leadership and service programming, research attachments) under one roof.[68]

The Week 7 program takes place in the seventh week of the first semester of the first year – a time when all freshers are enrolled in the same common curriculum courses. During Week 7, all first-year students participate in a faculty-generated initiative that brings student learning out into the world and connects to both faculty interests and themes of the common curriculum.[69]

At Yale-NUS, a term-time study abroad experience is the norm. Some 75 to 80 per cent of students spend a semester elsewhere.[70]

Campus life

Residential colleges

Yale-NUS's student life is modelled on the residential colleges of Yale. There are three residential colleges named Saga, Elm and Cendana, although there are plans to build a fourth.[71] Each has its own dining hall, courtyard, student suites, sky-gardens, faculty residences, study-spaces, intramural teams, and butteries, informal student-run eateries that are a Yale tradition. Students live in suites of six single rooms. These small-scale communities are arranged vertically in residential towers, which contain both student suites and faculty apartments. Floors are grouped into neighborhoods, each with its own skygarden, a landscaped outdoor space for high-rise buildings that was pioneered in Singapore.

The residential community includes a rector (equivalent to the position of a college master at Yale), a vice rector, faculty fellows, advisors, rector's aides, and distinguished visiting fellows. Students will expand their social and leadership skills while enjoying the support of "nested academic communities."

Kyle Farley, formerly Dean of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale, served as the first Dean of Students of the college. Brian McAdoo, a geologist and expert in environment studies, formerly of Vassar College, served as the inaugural Rector and was rector of Elm college, while Eduardo Lage-Otero, formerly of Trinity College, was named inaugural Vice-Rector and later served as Vice-Rector of Saga College.

As the first freshmen transitioned into the collegiate living experience, they were originally aided by Dean's Fellows [72], a group of recent college graduates picked from various higher educational backgrounds, including Amherst, Carleton, Princeton, Reed, Mt. Holyoke, Yale, and NUS. As of 2017, the Dean's Fellow role has shifted, with Student Residence Advisers providing pastoral care and programmatic organizing for smaller groups of first-years and Dean's Fellows providing this for upperclassmen alongside other institutional work.

Student organisations

In 2017, Yale-NUS had 54 student organisations recognised by the Dean of Students Office.[73]

The college has a number of student newspapers, magazines and journals. Publications include The Octant, Yale-NUS's most established publication, The Mocktant, its satirical counterpart, Tònes, a multilingual magazine, and the Yale-NUS Society for Academic Research, which publishes academic journals. While not a recognised student organisation, The Fox and Hedgehog, a current and global affairs review, was founded by Yale-NUS students.


The Yale-NUS campus is adjacent to NUS University Town[74] and the College moved to this permanent campus in July 2015.[75] It consists of a central campus green flanked by academic and administrative buildings. The campus was designed by architectural firms Pelli Clarke Pelli and Forum Architects (a Singaporean architecture studio), who state that "its architectural style blends the collegiate traditions of Yale with the Southeast Asian cultures through its modernist style ornamented by metalwork patterns inspired by southeast Asian textiles." Unlike the neighbouring University Town, Yale-NUS's campus is built on a grid system.[76]

The campus was designed to achieve the highest rating under the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark, Singapore's benchmark for sustainable design. In addition to visible sustainable design strategies such as the biofiltration pond and the frequent use of natural ventilation, the campus integrates advanced building systems for energy efficiency.[77] Yale-NUS's campus was awarded the Green Mark Platinum Award from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in 2013[78] and the International Architecture Award in 2016.[79]


Upon graduation, Yale-NUS alumni will receive alumni membership of National University of Singapore and will be international affiliates in the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), although not membership to the Yale Club of Singapore.[80] Yale-NUS has its own Alumni Affairs Council and is working to establish a Yale-NUS Club of Singapore.

Since graduating its first class in June 2017, Yale-NUS alumni have won several post-graduate awards, including its first Rhodes Scholar[81] and two Schwarzman Scholars.[82] They have also achieved an employment rate of 93.3%, with a median monthly salary of SGD3,500.[83].


Yale-NUS launched the College Mascot in 2017. The Yale-NUS College Mascot - 'Halcyon' - emerged as a representation of the blue-eared kingfisher species found rarely in Singapore. The orange-and-blue mascot, colours of Yale-NUS, found ready acceptance as it also encapsulates the core identity of a young academic institution in quick and confident ascension, ready to take on the world.[84]

The mascot was ratified by the student body on April 7, 2016 after three rounds of voting. Since ratification, the Yale-NUS Student Government held focus group discussions to gather feedback on the mascot design and name. The name Halcyon emerged from one of these student focus group discussions.[85]


Observers in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education see Yale's move as part of a larger movement of the globalization of higher education.[86][87] Yale faced criticism for its involvement in Singapore because of the government's restrictions on freedom of assembly and ban on homosexual activity.[88] Fareed Zakaria, a CNN host and fellow of the Yale Corporation at the time, supported the venture, saying that "Singapore has a great deal to learn from America, and NUS has a great deal to learn from Yale."[89] Tommy Koh, former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations, called it a "timely and visionary initiative" [90]

Faculty expressed themselves in the pages of Yale Daily News. Seyla Benhabib, a political philosopher at Yale, calling it a "naïve missionary sentiment," asked, "Do we need to go to Singapore to advance interdisciplinarity and a revival of the liberal arts?"[91] The chairs of the faculty search committee responded, "the new college will require faculty to rethink their pedagogical assumptions and to consider such innovations as integrated and interactive approaches to science; writing across the curriculum; computation, computer simulations and interpretation of large data sets; and the honing of quantitative, communication and other skills."[92] Howard Bloch, a Sterling Professor of French, said that "As a nexus between India, China and the West, Singapore’s location favors an important conceptual realignment of the humanities that will be a long time coming to the home campus in New Haven — that is, a synthesis of the ways that ideas and creative works of East and West intersect historically as well as conceptually with each other."[93]

A group of professors critical of the project characterize the endeavor of "globalizing" a "specious one," saying that the graduates "will have to be conformist, dissent-averse managers and executives who serve the global profit motive."[94] Marvin Chun, the master of Berkeley College and educated in South Korea, disagreed, asking "Will Yale-NUS be denied to numerous students around the world like me who lack the hyper-talent or mega-resources needed to study abroad at a place like Yale?"[95]

In response to concerns that Yale-NUS would dilute the Yale name, computer science professor Michael Fischer argued that since Yale-NUS will not be granting Yale degrees, the value of a degree from Yale will not be diminished, and that the joint governing board does not "make Yale-NUS a part of Yale any more than does [Yale President Richard] Levin's service on the board of directors for American Express make American Express a part of Yale."[96] Haun Saussy stated says that "It’s in the spirit of the motto "Lux et veritas" — my light is not diminished when my neighbor lights his candle at mine, and a truth becomes more powerful, not less, when it is shared." [97]

In spring 2012, the Yale College faculty passed a resolution stating, "We urge Yale-NUS to respect, protect and further principles of non-discrimination for all, including sexual minorities and migrant workers; and to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society".[98] In the summer, prompted by a Wall Street Journal report that students would not be allowed to stage protests or form political parties, Human Rights Watch stated that it disapproved such restrictions.[99][100] John Riady, an Associate Professor of Law at the Pelita Harapan University in Indonesia, defended the venture, stating that "Singapore and Asia are in the middle of great transitions, and Yale has an opportunity to shape that process and put its stamp on a rising continent. In fact, Yale would be doing the cause of liberty a disservice by dropping the project."[101] Since its founding Yale-NUS has hosted a number of controversial events on its campus, including screening banned documentaries and hosting conversations with activists.[102]

In 2015, Yale-NUS became the first higher education institution in Singapore to offer gender neutral housing to students. The move was in response to a push by the inaugural Yale-NUS Student Government.[103] The project, executed by government representatives David Chappell, Jay Lusk, and Ami Firdaus Bin Mohamed Ali, used a mixture of survey data, student testimonies and statements from student organisations to advocate for the policy change. The move was greeted favourably by students interviewed by the press[104][105] and in the pages of The Octant, one of the college's online student publications.[106]

The College received increased media scrutiny in response to student calls for the resignation of Chan Heng Chee, a Yale-NUS Governing Board Member and Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large. Chan defended Section 377A of the Singaporean Penal Code, a law forbidding sodomy, at the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in January 2016.[107] In February, The Octant published an op-ed by Nik Carverhill that called on Chan to either take a stand against Section 377A or relinquish her seat on the governing board.[108] The article received coverage in the Singaporean press.[109][110] In response, Chan attended a closed door dialogue in March, hosted by the Yale-NUS Student Government and The G Spot, a gender and sexuality alliance on campus, to discuss Singapore's approach to human-rights.[111] 87% of students surveyed by The Octant said that they did not think Chan should resign, although 62% of respondents supported the dialogue.[112] Chan remains a member of the Yale-NUS governing board.[113]

Reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Times Higher Education, Barron’s Magazine and Harvard Magazine on the new college, which started classes in August 2013, noted that lively discussions take place on campus. Barron's Magazine's article “Yale goes to Asia” highlighted how education experts such as Ben Nelson, CEO of the Minerva Project, particularly likes Yale-NUS’ emphasis on seminars and its requirement that all students in their first two years take pretty much the same core curriculum, including philosophy and political thought, literature and humanities, and modern social thought. In an article for The Atlantic, Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University and author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters write about how he was impressed by Yale-NUS’ decision to decline to institutionalize faculty within departments representing the academic disciplines. This has led to a re-conceptualization of majors as complements to a core curriculum, and, in turn, to the welcoming of faculty with diverse skill sets over those tethered to divisive academic specializations.[114]


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