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Cablegate: Singapore's "Global Schoolhouse" Project

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RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHGH RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGP #2036/01 3170708
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 130708Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4392
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2025
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0494
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1866
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4127
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5750
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1370

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 002036

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB OEXC PGOV SCUL SN
SUBJECT: SINGAPORE'S "GLOBAL SCHOOLHOUSE" PROJECT

1. (SBU) Summary: Singapore seeks to establish itself as a
regional and global education hub through its "Global
Schoolhouse" project. The project has had mixed results. It
was dealt a blow in July when the University of New South
Wales (UNSW) Asia precipitously closed its local campus, but
it received a boost from the October opening of New York
University's (NYU's) Tisch Asia campus here. Some foreign
universities have been reluctant to come to Singapore due to
concerns over restrictions on academic freedom, although the
GOS demonstrated increased flexibility in this area in order
to attract NYU. End Summary.

Singapore Aims High...
----------------------

2. (U) Some of the same factors that make Singapore an
attractive regional business center make it a logical
regional education hub: its reputation for quality primary
and secondary education, clean and safe living conditions,
widespread use of English, and a central location. GOS
officials want to attract a total of 150,000 international
students by 2015 (up from approximately 60,000 in 2007), in
line with plans to attract more foreign talent and
multinational companies. They estimate that the additional
campuses needed to attract this number of students will
create 22,000 new jobs. Dr. Hellmut Schutte, former dean and
professor at the INSEAD Asia campus, told us that INSEAD
chose Singapore over twelve other Asian contenders because of
Singapore's easy access to other major Asian economies, its
research subsidies, and its cosmopolitan environment.

3. (U) Nearly twenty established international universities
from the United States, Europe, and Asia have branch campuses
in Singapore. Singapore Economic and Development Board (EDB)
officials hope that these "brand name" universities will
attract more international students. They estimate that each
foreign student spends between $3,000 and $8,000 a year on
living expenses, on top of tuition fees. They predict that
some of these international students will choose to stay in
Singapore, boosting Singapore's labor force and stimulating
economic growth.

...But Faces Obstacles
----------------------

4. (U) In April 2004, the GOS selected the University of New
South Wales to spearhead the "Global Schoolhouse" project by
establishing the first full-scale foreign university campus
in Singapore. The business plan called for an eventual
enrollment of 15,000. However, following a change in its
Australia-based management, UNSW closed in July 2007, after
operating for only one semester, citing low enrollment and
projected financial losses.

5. (SBU) EDB provided USD 32.3 million to support the opening
of UNSW's Singapore campus (USD 17.3 million in grants and
USD 15 million in loans). EDB officials assert that UNSW
Asia left because it had underestimated the cost of setting
up and running the campus. These officials admit that UNSW's
pullout hurt Singapore's reputation as an education hub.

6. (SBU) Some foreign universities have decided against
setting up in Singapore due to concerns over restrictions on
freedom of expression and academic freedom. In October 2005,
Britain's Warwick University abandoned plans to set up a full
campus here, citing academic freedom concerns. The same
issue weighed heavily with the University of Chicago's
faculty, and the final vote to establish an executive MBA
program in Singapore passed by a narrow margin, according to
Beth Bader, managing director of Chicago's executive MBA
program. Chicago appears to be comfortable with its
decision, however; officials from the university's Harris
School of Public Policy Studies recently visited, in part to
assess prospects for establishing a graduate and/or executive
program here. Katherine Drummond, Director of Administration
for NYU's Tisch Asia, told us that they carefully considered
academic and artistic freedom issues when deciding to
establish a Singapore campus in October. NYU's agreement
with the GOS reportedly permits freedom of expression for
on-campus activities. It also allows NYU to maintain a film
library of uncensored works. However, these can only be used
on campus for instructional activities.

Comment

SINGAPORE 00002036 002 OF 002


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7. (SBU) The GOS is keen to attract universities with
name-brand recognition and has shown some flexibility in
meeting universities' requirements on issues such as academic
freedom. Maintaining such flexibility, along with an
operating environment that allows the programs to be
profitable, will be key to Singapore's achieving "Global
Schoolhouse" status. Over the long run it will be interesting
to see whether foreign schools and students have a liberating
influence on Singaporean society or whether they have to
learn to adapt to its more restrictive environment.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
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