The recent decision by the University of New South Wales Asia (UNSW Asia) to close its Singapore operations and half-built campus has definitely taken a toll on the Republic's aspiration to be an education hub.
There's been plenty of public debate and soul searching on what went wrong. The latest salvo came from Singapore's Economic Development Board, which blasted UNSW's chief Fred Hilmer's claim that he had a 'workable plan' for the Asian campus which was rejected by the board.
There's merit in EDB's argument. It's just unimaginable that EDB would simply pull the life line from the university project without valid reasons.
"By this you sought to lay the blame for the closure of the Singapore campus of UNSW on the EDB, rather than acknowledge that it was a business decision taken by UNSW after concluding that you would not be able to meet the deliverables expected under the support package from the EDB,' said EDB in its letter," the EDB letter said.
The EDB added it had 'always been keen' for UNSW's presence in Singapore as a 'comprehensive university on a permanent campus'.It's only fair to demand certain deliverables in order to grant the support package to UNSW as taxpayer's money is involved.
It's also unfathomable that the university will call it a day so soon -- even before its campus is ready. Wasn't there a back-up plan? Isn't the university aware of the plethora of financing instruments available in the market?
Did UNSW bail out too soon? In fact, EDB was earlier cited as saying that UNSW became concerned when student intake in March 2007 turned out to be 150 instead of the target 300 in UNSW's business plan.
It's amazing that the university made the closure decision due partly to the relatively small student shortfall, which could have been met with an aggressive recruiting campaign.
Did the university do proper homework for the project, taking into account the worst case scenario? Or did it expect overnight success?
Whatever the real excuse, I definitely won't enroll myself for the university's business degree or its MBA.