Prof Simon Chesterman named as inaugural Dean of NUS College

Professor Simon Chesterman has been appointed the Dean of NUS College, Singapore’s first honours college, formed by the merger of the University Scholars Programme (USP) and Yale-NUS College.

Commencing the role from 1 July, Prof Chesterman will be concurrently appointed Vice Provost (Educational Innovation) at NUS, and in that capacity, be responsible for extending educational best practices across the University. 

Having served as the Dean of NUS Law since 2012, Prof Chesterman will continue in that role for the time being while a global search is conducted for a suitable successor to lead the law school.

“I am humbled and deeply honoured to serve as the inaugural Dean of NUS College,” said Prof Chesterman.

“Attending university is about more than just studies and preparing for a career. It should do that, of course, but it is also a time of self-exploration and growth, pursuing one’s passion while working alongside those from different backgrounds,” he stressed.

Prof Chesterman expressed his excitement at the myriad opportunities NUS College offers, and the chance to work with colleagues and students to build NUS College into Singapore’s first true honours college.

“It will be a new educational journey that transcends disciplinary and geographical boundaries — education without limits.”

A key role in transforming legal education

Prof Chesterman brings a wealth of pedagogical and professional experience to the table, having played a key role in transforming legal education, increasing Asian and civil law content, and enhancing experiential learning opportunities through a Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education.

Under his leadership, diversity is now a key pillar of education at NUS Law. He spearheaded initiatives to broaden student diversity at the faculty and introduce more technology and business-related modules to ensure that students stay relevant in the legal profession.

“A strong advocate for interdisciplinary education, Simon is an inspirational and collaborative leader who has contributed much to the higher education landscape in Singapore and internationally. He is an accomplished scholar and passionate educator. Under his stewardship, NUS Law is today the leading law school in Asia and is consistently ranked among the best in the world,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

“I am confident that under Simon’s leadership, our new NUS College will have a strong beginning.”

Professor Pericles Lewis, founding President of Yale-NUS, congratulated Prof Chesterman on his appointment as Dean of NUS College. 

“As Dean of NUS Law, Simon has worked closely with faculty and students at Yale-NUS College over the past decade. He is a distinguished scholar and dedicated educator and has a broad vision for undergraduate education at NUS,” added Prof Lewis, presently Vice President for Global Strategy and Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at Yale University.

“Simon has played a leading role in planning for NUS College as a new institution that will build on the legacy of Yale-NUS and the University Scholars Programme. Simon will provide outstanding leadership for the new honours college.”

A distinctive learning experience

This appointment follows news of bringing USP and Yale-NUS together in August 2021, with Yale-NUS ceasing new intakes and current students completing their educational journeys there, and existing students of USP transiting into NUS College in Academic Year 2022/23.

The merged entity, NUS College, will admit its first intake of up to 400 students in Academic Year 2022/23. Students applying for almost all undergraduate degree programmes at NUS are eligible, enjoying pathways to 50 majors – from Humanities and Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Business, Computer Science to Law.

Students will have a home college, faculty or school, and be concurrently enrolled in NUS College. The result: an “honours college” model, where motivated students from a diverse range of majors converge in the College for a holistic, interdisciplinary curriculum complementary to their chosen majors.

Students of NUS College can look forward to a cutting-edge educational experience of the 21st century, such as small class sizes; interactive, seminar-style teaching; on-campus residential living and learning in a close-knit community; vibrant student life and pastoral care; as well as diverse curated opportunities for global exposure, peer networking and character development.

Students will “live and learn as part of an intimate community united by curiosity, while also being plugged into all the opportunities offered by Singapore’s largest and oldest university,” said Prof Chesterman. They will also enjoy a residential experience in Singapore’s most beautiful campus along with priority access to NUS Overseas Colleges and leading partner institutions around the world, he added.

The educational experience will provide interdisciplinary competencies to equip students for life and the workplace, while also offering the perfect balance of academic breadth and depth and opportunities to delve into their areas of passion.

“Whether that’s graphene or Gauguin, non-fungible tokens or actual fungi, there’s a programme here for you,” said Prof Chesterman.  

At the same time, equitability continues to be an important factor for admissions. The University remains committed to its ‘needs-blind’ admission policy, ensuring that no deserving student will be denied the opportunity to study at NUS College because of financial difficulties.

To that end, students with financial concerns will have access to a suite of financial aid and scholarship programmes, including bursaries, loans, scholarships and work-study opportunities.

There are also no extra fees for studying at NUS College. Students will pay only the tuition fees of their home college, faculty or school.

Naming and developing the College

Representing the stimulating, unique experiences that it is set to offer its students, NUS College gained its name after the University’s consultation with various stakeholders such as employers, board members, counsellors, parents, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

“We are pleased that the development of NUS College is on track and progressing well. The Planning Committee and its many working groups have benefitted from the intense and rigorous discussions and debates,” said NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua, Chair of the NUS College Planning Committee. “I would like to thank everyone who has given of their time and creative energies to this important work.”

Close to 20 focus group sessions and in-depth interviews, led by a global independent research agency, were conducted throughout October 2021 as part of consultations on the naming of the college. These sessions and interviews gleaned the opinions of students, faculty, staff and alumni from USP and Yale-NUS, prospective local and international students, parents, industry partners and employers, and counsellors from junior colleges and polytechnics in Singapore.

Further consultations took place with the leadership of USP and Yale-NUS (including members of its Governing Board), as well as town hall presentations to USP and Yale-NUS students, and the NUS Board of Trustees.

See press release, or find out more at the NUS College website.