Monday, May 28, 2007

Education capitulation


How can a major University, and a prestigious one at that, close its campus only three months into its operations in Singapore? If this happened in a banana republic, we can understand it. But in Singapore, where anything and (almost) everything is done with due diligence and consideration, this is incomprehensible. Don't get me wrong. I am not implying that the powers that be, whether the EDB, MOE or any other government body involved in the setting up of the University of New South Wales in Singapore (UNSW-Asia), was negligent. But I did find Tharman Shanmugaratnam's, the Education Minister, comments a bit grating when he said that the problem was UNSW's - forgetting that Singapore actively courted the Institution to Singapore as early as 2004.

Yes, UNSW also didn't do its sums properly before recruiting faculty and students. It appears now that their plan B, just in case the numbers were not achieved, was to close the school. You wouldn't expect this from a prestigious University. First for getting their basic Math wrong, and second, for its ruthlessness. How else do you described their 'cut-and-run' approach? This is no different from what a 'fly-by-night' company usually does - run at the first sight of trouble! The most adversely affected must be the faculty, who may have resigned stable positions to take on their teaching/research positions at the University. Unlike the students, I am not aware that anything beyond a severance package (and that isn't assured) has been offered. This really calls for some mudslinging. But of course, academics will not stoop so low(?).

To be fair, students do have options, and the $10,000/$22,000 grant does help. But the damage is done. Who now will enrol into a foreign University on this island, even if it is set up with the EDB's blessings? While the reputation of UNSW has taken a bad knock, that of the EDB's mantra of authority and certainty in attracting local and foreign students to buy into any foreign educational institutions it helps to set up has suffered irreparable harm.


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2 comments :

Anonymous said...

So we now know how 'good' of 'clever' those in charge at the EDB are.

I listened to the ST podcast by Hlimer and Aw. The former sounds at least apologetic, if it is like crocodile tears, the latter spent the lion's share of her speech heartlessly extolling the virtues of the EDB. You get the very real feeling that the played-out students are no more than mere digits and dispensible lab animals for the EDB's various experiment. Absolutely, nothing was mentioned on how the EDB will be helping the students.

I am sure the lesson is not lost to intending and potential students, both local and foreign, of such foreign institutions establised in Singapore.

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