Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Warwick say 'No'.

From ST:

Warwick says 'No'

But UK university to continue discussions on alternative plan
By Ho Ai Li and Sandra Davie

AFTER deliberating for more than a year, Britain's Warwick University has decided against setting up a branch campus in Singapore, at least for now.

The 33-member university council, its executive governing body, voted against the expansion plan yesterday, deciding it could not proceed against academic opposition underlined by a 'nay' vote from the university senate a week ago.

The senate, composed of academic staff and a few students, voted 27 to 13 against the move. Its key concerns were the question of academic freedom and the financial viability of the Singapore branch.

Though not binding on the university council, the vote was expected to put pressure on the governing body's decision.

Yesterday, the university said it could not proceed 'in the absence of a positive commitment from the academic community', though a feasibility study released two weeks ago had pointed out several advantages of opening a branch here. It had concluded that Singapore is 'the only credible Asian location for a Warwick branch campus of truly international character'.

But in a statement, Warwick spokesman Peter Dunn said the council plans to continue discussions to bring forth 'an alternative plan' for development that would command the support of the senate and the council.
he plan had been to set up here by 2008, attracting 10,000 students by 2022. It would have offered courses from the life sciences to performing arts, with fees at around £12,000 (S$36,000) a year.

But the issue of academic freedom was such an overriding concern that the university invited human rights expert Dr Thio Li-ann from the National University of Singapore to speak to about 80 staff and students last month.

Among other things, they had wanted to know what were the limits on what could be said or taught here.

Warwick has been weighing a move here since it received an invitation to do so from the Economic Development Board (EDB) last year.

It would have been the second foreign tertiary institution, after Australia's University of New South Wales, to set up here.

The Warwick rejection means that EDB will now have to find another partner to set up a second comprehensive university. It is also a defeat for Warwick vice-chancellor David VandeLinde, who has been a strong champion of the project.

From Financial Times:

Warwick votes against Singapore campus
By John Burton in Singapore
Published: October 14 2005 11:57 | Last updated: October 14 2005 11:57

Senior lecturers at Warwick University in the UK have voted against setting up a branch campus in Singapore due to worries about limits on academic freedom, dealing a possible setback to the city-state's ambitions to become a regional hub for higher education.

Singapore requires international educational institutions operating in the city-state to agree not to conduct activities seen as interference in domestic affairs.
The lopsided 27-13 “no” vote by Warwick's senate this week is believed to be the first time a foreign university has rejected the conditions set by Singapore.

Although the vote is non-binding, it is likely to put pressure on the university council to abandon the Singapore plan when it makes a final decision on October 18.
Warwick and Australia's University of New South Wales are the only two foreign universities selected by Singapore's Economic Development Board to set up a full-scale campus.

The city-state has succeeded in attracting smaller schools operated by several top institutions, including Insead and the University of Chicago Graduate Business School, in an effort to triple the number of university students to 150,000 in the next decade.

The Warwick vote came as the outgoing US ambassador to Singapore warned in a farewell speech that Singapore's limits on expression might cause the government to “pay an increasing price for not allowing full participation of its citizens”.

Faculty and students at Warwick have questioned the costs of the nearly £300m ($525m)
project and the university's ability to attract quality students and staff to the Singapore campus. But much of the criticism has focused on limits on academic freedom and civil liberties, including curbs on gay rights and high execution rates for criminals.

Warwick recently sent a letter to EDB asking that its students in Singapore be exempt from strict laws limiting freedom of assembly, speech and the press, and the removal of bans on homosexuality and certain religious practices on campus.

It also sought guarantees that staff and students would not be punished by the Singapore government for making academic-related comments that might be seen “as being outside the boundaries of political debate”. EDB said it would not comment.

The demand that the Singapore campus enjoy the same degree of academic freedom as in the UK came in response to an advisory report by Thio Li-ann, a law professor at the National University of Singapore, which said freedom of “speech is permissible as long as it does not threaten real political change or to alter the status quo”.

She warned that “the government will intervene if academic reports cast a negative light on their policies” but said the presence of Warwick in Singapore could “serve as an impetus for continued liberalisation”.

I noticed that there is a marked difference on how the same event is being reported by ST and FT. ST did not really goes into why Warwick's academics rejected the proposal but FT did. I hope this is not an attempt to cover up the real reasons on why the ventured is rejected.

Anyway the fact that Warwick was warned that “the government will intervene if academic reports cast a negative light on their policies” pretty much said it all. Academic freedom is an illusion, period.


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