Friday, October 21, 2005

Warwick: Freedom of what, from what, for what?

Later, perhaps, Warwick?Singapore has been trying to woo reputable foreign Universities to set up shop on the island. It sees the education sector as a big money spinner, besides tourism and gambling. It also wants to ride atop its deserved reputation as the place to get a good education and earn genuine qualifications.

But alas, Britain's Univ of Warwick has decided not to set up shop here after more than a year's deliberations, the reason being the perceived lack of academic freedoms due to the country's laws. Readers will understand my sentiments regarding this in my earlier blog entries here. The other reason cited is that they are not certain if they can make money out of the venture. This is actually easily resolved by spreading the risk through a joint-venture arrangement. Singapore's A*star agency, I am sure, is prepared to co-share risks. The Univ. of New South Wales, on the other hand, has taken the plunge and will set up its foreign campus in Singapore come 2007. Doesn't it have similar concerns? Yes, but I think their response is more enlightened and certainly more enterpreneurial.

I think that it is more challenging to contribute to the development of education, culture and thought than to shy away from such an opportunity. Waiting for the ideal (political) atmosphere to appear before engaging seems to me to be taking the easy way out. By then, all the excitement and potential for enquiry would have died down? Is the Univ. here to agitate for greater freedoms or is it here to teach and learn? Is the support and recognition of gay practices fundamental to the education process? Being one of the top research universities in Britain, I think it has got its brains screwed on (sorry, no pun intended) in the wrong places.

Oops, there goes my scholarship to that haloed institution - or would they practice what they preach and not penalise a person for having different views?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

....American academic Dr Christopher Lingle fled Singapore in the 1990s after the Government charged him with criminal contempt of the court for an article Dr Lingle wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

Other cases of Government action against academics included Dr Bilveer Singh who had published comments in the Jakarta Post about Singaporeans living form hand to mouth. This drew a sharp response from the PAP and Dr Singh was forced to apologise and retract his claim.

More recently a team of economists had said that a majority of jobs in Singapore were going to foreigners. Again the Government made threatening counterattacks and again the academics were forced to withdraw their claims.

One professor at the NUS had complained that his head of department had censored his reading list for his students because some of the material had sought to discussion liberalism. He also complained that his students were asked to report to the police (presumably the ISD) on activities and lectures on campus.

Another group of lecturers, this time with one of the polytechnics, had made a film about J B Jeyaretnam and submitted the documentary to the Singapore International Film Festival. The Government threatened the lecturers that it would prosecute them unless they withdrew the film, raided the producers’ department and confiscated their equipment.

University students continue to be watched. Student activities are restricted to organising fund-raising parades for charity, jams and hops, and makan festivals. Political discussion is severely limited and political speakers have to be vetted by the universities’ administration.

The alumni NUS Society was warned about organising forums that invited opposition leaders. One of its publications was ceased after its editors felt that some of the articles were too critical of the Government.