25 Oct 2005

University plays down fears about Singapore offshoot

It is a story about playing down fears while at the same time openly admitting that those fears are real and that they exist. Yes the big monster is in the cupboard but lets forget about it and get on with the business of making money. After all that is what our business is... said the university management team.

By Kelly Burke Higher Education Reporter
October 26, 2005

The University of NSW has moved to allay fears about academic freedom and human rights at its planned $200 million-plus Singapore campus.

But university management has conceded it cannot guarantee protection of its academic staff in Singapore, given the city-state's harsh laws governing public comment and defamation.

UNSW is one of only two foreign universities granted special status by the Singaporean Government to set up fully fledged independent teaching and research institutions offering undergraduate degrees.

It expects to open the doors of its Changi campus, to be called UNSW Asia, to up to 15,000 students from early 2007.

Yesterday it said its dean of commerce and economics, Professor Greg Whittred would be the Singapore campus's first president (vice-chancellor).

However, the other overseas institution approved by Singapore, the University of Warwick in England, said last week it would not proceed with a full-scale $354 million university campus because of concerns about academic freedom and financial risk.

According to the student newspaper, the Warwick Boar, the university also had concerns about Singapore's ban on homosexuality and certain religious practices and about possible legal reprisals against academic-related comments "that might be seen as being outside the boundaries of political debate".

Under Singapore law, foreign institutions are not allowed to criticise local politics.

UNSW has already secured a State Government-endorsed bank loan of $113 million for the Singapore campus. But it will also receive about $80 million in capital works funding from the Singapore Government, a figure the university's deputy vice-chancellor (international and development), John Ingleson, has refused to confirm or deny, on the grounds that it is commercial-in-confidence.

Speaking from Singapore yesterday, Professor Ingleson said he had been assured by the Government there that students and academics would enjoy complete academic freedom on campus. [so when is the first edition of 'Gay Rights' due off the presses?]He dismissed concerns raised by the Warwick pull-out, arguing that UNSW had "a more nuanced view of how Singapore and [its] society worked". [Nuanced - Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, US State Department... Nuanced]

He conceded, however, that the university would be powerless to protect its academics should they fall foul of the Government over issues of public comment.

"There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech in any country … in that sense, our staff and our students will be subject … off-campus to the laws of Singapore like anyone else," he said.

Professor Ingleson believed Warwick's decision was based on financial risk rather than concern about academic freedom. [sorry to burst your bubble but it clearly stated fears related to academic freedom]

He said UNSW was not exposed to the same risk as Warwick because the Australian university had closer ties with the region and a more firmly established brand name. [And we have a tighter grip on our academics.]


LuckySingaporean said...

from my blog : http://happycitizen.blogspot.com

The bottomline is Warwick is NOT ready for Singapore!!!!

To the person who wrote this forum letter today. PLEASE WAKE UP YOUR IDEA!!!! She has got all the facts reversed.

In the 1970s, NUS was the hotbed of political activities. Students were actively championing worker's rights, human rights and urging the government to be more open. They were like any other campus of other democratic countries. ...that was our university education more than 30 years ago!!!

Of course the government of Singapore has to ensure that there is progress from what it was 30 years ago. For their own good, students are made more and more to focus on their academic work and spend less time on politics. Look when you go to a multinational company, they will pay you higher if you score more A's. So concerned for the financial well-being of students, the govt step in to clamp down on time wasting political activities. Student activists were arrested under the ISA and some like the very harmful notorious Tan Wah Piao had to escape to England. He is now a well known lawyer and helping the under-privileged there. Thank goodness, we got rid of him otherwise an evil person like him would have harmed our society.

So NUS/NTU students are very much focussed on their academic studies and ECAs. They understand the importance of studying hard getting good honours so they can get high paying jobs so they have alot of money to buy cars, condos and do lots of shopping during their lifetime. ...see how meaningful it is.

Warwick has alot to learn from Singapore, they are like 30 years behind us...and still doing what we did 30+ years ago with student activism. We must wait for Warwick to catch up and learn from the Singapore system, before they are ready to set up here. Otherwise, Singaporeans enrolled in Warwick will be taught not to use their time optimally to increase their economic buying power after they graduate. If they spend time fighting world hunger, Iraq war, poverty and the rights of taxi drivers ....their grades will suffer and they will have less money for shopping and tours

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky man

Oh, it's sad to see that majority of the Singaporeans nowadays after receiving so many years of education and becoming more and more indivisualistic and materialistic people. No doubt, we need to work and survive but money is not always the main thing in our lives. Obviously, something has gone wrong in education or in culture or both. If you do not receive any love from your parents, friends and relatives, do you think you're a happy and lucky person? Can you buy love or health with money? If so, then why do so many famous celebrities, who had some much fame and money, still committed suicide or died of diseases? With money, why couldn't any of the renowned doctors cured them? With money, why couldn't all the material things and pleasure make them satisfied and happy so that they did not have to commit sucide and to die? Suggest to think harder what can really make live more meaningful - fame and money or love and compassion!

Think Singaporean

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans are indivisualistic and materialistic? Well i think that Singapore is merely being realistic. Sure you can do plenty of stuff without money. It can't buy you health, it can't buy you love. But be realistic! Isn't this what the world is all about now? It's about certs, about diplomas , it's about doctorates. Sad i know, but it's a fact. There's nothing wrong with being practical. At the very least, we learn to stay on the safe side. Because you and I both know that without all these education, you'd be nothing. It is with all these... that allows Singapore to take a step closer for being a developed country. And so if you don't like the education system here, i'm sure there're plenty of other choices for you.

Anonymous said...

It's nothing with system, it's more on the individual's side.

soci said...

Have you ever heard of the rational choice argument, that human choices are derived from purely rational or return maximising decision plans.

This is a fallacy,saying that every decision is a rational choice it denies us or other and just as valid human qualities. In fact you will be hard pressed to find an economist who will argue that a decision is 100% rational.

Some even argue that 'reason' is itself one of our emotions, meaning it is one of many emotions or passions. Resist the Rational choice argument and read a book.

"Rational Choice Theory" Resisting colonisation Edited by M. Archer and J. Tritter. From Warwick university of course.

soci said...

Oh and by the way, this idea that Sg is moving towards becoming a developed country is incorrect. According to the UN index Singapore IS a developed country. IS...

Anonymous said...

The A grades that increasing numbers of Singaporean students have been scoring over the past 2 decades is a consequence of grade inflation -- the lowering of the marking curve so that more students qualify for entry into university so as to achieve the country's future technological manpower needs. The problem with this policy however is threefold:

1. The intellectual quality of the students has not improved to any great extent. Many polytechnic and local university lecturers constantly remark on the very poor spoken English of their students, far poorer than a generation earlier (when there were indeed standards). A poor grasp of English is then reflected in even poorer analytical abilities.
2. Employers have wised up to the situation and, wherever possible, have tended to favour graduates educated overseas over locally-educated graduates. By and large, employers want thinking individuals, not people who mark time by toe-ing the line without even a squeak.
3. However, there is one good consequence arising out of this situation: the quality of the pool of cab-drivers has improved markedly. These are some of your locally educated grade A types who either failed to snare the jobs of their choice or who were recently retrenched, all due to point 2 above.

The value of a local certificate with a list of straight As is essentially this: it is looked upon by their holders with a degree of nostalgia on what was the high point in their lives (at age 18-24), after which it has been all downhill for them.

Anonymous said...

Reply to anonymous 6.28pm

Qualification is just like a "passport" to allow one to enter the job market and command for a certain salary. Once started to work, one has to prove oneself in his performance. This is practical and realistic, i know.

However, if one has alot of money and materials but lack love and compassion for your family members, friends and other surrounding people, I can imagine what is the society going to be....chaotic and barbaric. Would anyone like to live in this sort of society - stealing, killing, murdering, etc? Wouldn't this practical and realistic in live too?

Think Singaporean

Anonymous said...

So this, in turn, falls back on the point to educate the citizens. Therefore, the institution of EDUCATION has to play an important role in the society. Not only to provide academic qualification but also to develop ethics and human values, which ultimately is......to develop love and compassion for each other, irrespective of race, language and religion. Oh, don't forget to include foreigners as well because Singapore wants to be a "global city" and NOT merely a "local city-state".

Think Singaporean

Anonymous said...

Singapore is a developing country...