By Michael Wilner
SINGAPORE: There will continue to be five Claremont Colleges in the visible future. After a year of negotiations, the Ministry of Education has decided to put off any plans to fund a liberal arts college in Singapore.
Claremont originally planned on submitting a joint proposal for a sixth college to the Ministry with the National University of Singapore. Those efforts fell apart when the two parties could not agree on issues of governance. Claremont wanted the president of the new college to be a member of the Council of Presidents, and for the college to be accredited as a Claremont College. NUS was skeptical of this model.
So in March, the two went their separate ways and Claremont submitted an independent proposal to the Ministry, leaving open the possibility of a future partnership. Numerous factors brought the Ministry to decide against going forward.
Singaporeans are very skeptical of the liberal arts college model, questioning the practicality of such a degree. The Ministry of Education has been afraid the college would not catch on in popularity, and the cost of the campus’ development would prove a huge financial risk. “We questioned the feasibility,” said one official.
But Bob Walton, CEO of the Claremont University Consortium, said the main reason, towering above all, is the economy. “Singapore has experienced a very severe economic downturn and, for the first time, experienced a fairly large increase in local unemployment,” Walton noted. The Ministry had hoped to woo a number of large gifts from Chinese-Singaporeans who had shown interest in the project. Almost all prospective donors backed away as the financial crisis worsened.
But President Gann remains keen on introducing Claremont’s presence to Singapore, and says the consortium has not ruled out future action. “The Claremont Colleges, I am sure, will be welcome in Singapore to consider alternative approaches,” said Gann. In the meantime, the Blaisdell Plan will have to be revisited. Claremont looks to remain at five, for now.