Photo via Olivia Briggs.
This article originally appeared in NYU Local, the independent student publication of NYU, and is reposted here with permission.
In November of last year, Tisch Asia's 158 students gathered for an emergency meeting. After an email broke the news the night before, NYU administrators flew to Singapore from New York to explain that the school would cease to exist by 2015. It had fallen on hard times. NYU owed Singapore upwards of $9 million. Nothing could be done. A photographer at the meeting began snapping images of the moments that followed, capturing faces marked by shock, disappointment, and disbelief.
The campus had been mired in confusion and a sense of precariousness for some time. Almost exactly a year before, in November 2011, Tisch Asia was rocked by the removal of Pari Shirazi, the founder and president of the program. Shirazi was fired for alleged misuse of private funds and embezzlement, charges which she is now fighting in a lawsuit against NYU.
NYU students are well acquainted with the school's efforts to establish its international presence. Countries are added so regularly to NYU's 'Global Network University'–sites in Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Sydney and Shanghai all sprouted in the past five years alone–that university president John Sexton now encourages students to refer to the Greenwich Village campus as "NYU in New York." This rapid international expansion is the brunt of many jokes and plenty of sharp criticism. But buried beneath the ribbon-cuttings, there is a story of an NYU campus that failed, and a question as to why. So what happened in Singapore? It depends who you ask.
Tisch Asia opened in 2007 to much fanfare as NYU's first degree-granting program outside the US. Along with several other institutions, NYU was attracted to Singapore by the government's ambitious 'Global Schoolhouse' initiative, which sought to bring 150,000 international students to the country by 2015, and raise the portion of its GDP coming from education from 1.9% to 5%.
Tisch Asia's neighbors on the island nation included The University of New South Wales, which also opened its Singapore campus in 2007, but closed a month into its first semester due to under-enrollment. The University of Nevada Las Vegas' campus is set to close in a few years due to financial problems. Yale's Singapore campus, which faced delays due to significant pushback, is set to open August 2013.