Creating a Collegiate History

By Mark Ryan

The educational advantages of a residential college flower out of the sense of community among its members; through engaged participation in an ongoing society, conversations blossom and inquiries deepen. Colleges enhance that sense of community, surely, when they tell their own story—and ideally, when they publish their own histories. 

Loyalists of Jonathan Edwards College like to think of theirs as the oldest residential college at the Yale: seven of the University’s fourteen colleges opened simultaneously in 1933, but JE’s original master was the first appointed, and its fellowship the first gathered. Like other such institutions in the US, however, Yale’s colleges are short on individual histories, and despite its pretentions to primogeniture, JE has been no exception. The University, of course, has had a noble succession of historians to tell its tale, but accounts of individual colleges have been limited to a handful of pamphlets and brochures.

Prior to this year, the last such brochure featuring JE was published in 1978. Since then, successive heads of college aimed to create a new one, but in the press of daily business and more urgent concerns, the project dragged on. Some advances were made, in collecting data and materials, and in generating a few short accounts intended for inclusion, on subjects such as the college’s architecture and the life of Rev. Edwards himself. But there the project seemed to stand, year after year; neither heads of college nor fellows were in a position to drop other endeavors to write JE’s story.

Rescue came from the Jonathan Edwards Trust. Unique among Yale’s colleges, JE has had, since the 1960s, a supportive, private foundation of fellows and alumni, whose aim is to promote the educational and cultural life of the college. It has a modest endowment for the purpose, and perhaps more importantly, a board composed of devoted trustees. Among the dozen or so trustees currently in office are three past faculty administrators of the College with a penchant for writing, and a book designer of international repute. They took up the project, initially intending to update the 1978 brochure, but finding their ambitions growing along the way.

The resulting historical narrative integrates the writing of the three principal authors, along with shorter accounts written by others. A major decision was, in essence, to crowdsource a second part of the volume. An invitation went out to the College’s alumni, inviting reminiscences, which add vivid slices of life to the more institutional history that forms the core of the text. The ninety accounts selected, chronologically arranged, bring to life figures from the college’s past, in tales of mentorship, escapades, inspiration, collegiality, friendship, memorable artistic and athletic endeavors, and the origin of college traditions. Elegantly presented with historical and contemporary photographs depicting the college’s social life and its setting, The Spider’s Way: An Introduction to Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University, has now been published, sporting nearly 150 pages. (The primary title is a reference to the College’s mascot and to early writings of its eponym.)

Yale’s “oldest” college can now lay claim to a worthy historical review. An illustrative preview and the book itself are available through the website of the JE Trust: <>.


“What’s the first thing you will do?”

Macau Business asked Macau’s local community and business leaders to talk about their plans once the Covid-19 crisis has ended. Here’s what Collegiate Way International’s own Kit Thompson said:

“Whilst recognizing a heartfelt, desperate need to return to some sense of normality, and to see students again — how we miss them — this period has created space and time to think through a sustainable world post-Covid 19. In essence, what we would wish to do post Covid-19 is to commingle experiential and digital learning into a seamless whole.”

You can read more responses, starting on pages 66-67 of the 1 June 2020 issue of the magazine; here is the link:


Patricia Thompson, Knight Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques

Dr. Patricia Thompson, the Supernumerary Fellow of Moon Chun Memorial College, University of Macau, was bestowed the title and the rank of Knight Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by decree of the Minister of Education of the French Republic. This distinction, conferred in January, was bestowed “in recognition of her tireless commitment to music and art education, as well as her deep appreciation of France and constant support to build privileged cultural relationships between Macau and France.” (You can read more about her career, and this prestigious distinction, here.) Congratulations, Dr. Thompson! 

Kit Thompson elected to the European Academy of Arts and Sciences

Congratulations to Kit Thompson on his election to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA)! Professor Thompson, the founding Master of the University of Macau (UM) Moon Chun Memorial College, was elected “for his outstanding contributions in promoting arts, cultural exchange, the development of creative industries and the international business community, as well as music and administrative management.” The formal bestowal of membership, delayed due to the pandemic, will be held in March 2021. Please click here for more information about Professor Thompson and this extraordinary honor.

Town and gown: connective communities or a wrong turn on the collegiate expressway?

Professor Kit Thompson, Diretor do Colégio, Universidade de Macau

 The early years in setting out on the Macau challenge have felt like propitious and opportune moments. They have brought forth the opportunity to embed a living and learning community of teachers and scholars freely sharing their knowledge and doing so, not inside monastic walls, but resolutely alongside Macau business, professional and cultural communities. What has since developed has been rapid, extensive, verging on the audacious. Realising the largest collegiate system in Asia with colleges in a state of becoming, represents an ambitious challenge in itself.

Prior to experiencing the Colleges, visitors from all walks of life – business to academe and the arts – may perhaps be in something of a quandary: whether such a quest is naïve to the enormity of the task ahead, and which in England began with Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1284, or, unburdened by the weight of collegiate history, shrewdly propitious? Meeting the challenge of moving to a collegiate system – for system is what it is rather than constituent, loosely federated colleges – will make the University, its Colleges – and Macau itself – quite unlike anywhere else.

China’s, until recently, unbroken rise has changed people’s lives fundamentally. In Guangzhou, workshop of the world – manufacturing everything from smart phones to supercars – migrant, formerly destitute farm workers live cheek-by-jowl in dormitories alongside the capacious starchitecture apartments of billionaire yacht owners. Magnet to migrant, lives determined by wherewithal are unceasingly itinerant.

Chinese New Year sees the largest migration in human history with some 2.48 billion journeys[1] undertaken over the annual Spring Festival. Universities across China have therefore to tolerate some elasticity in the academic year for departing and returning travellers.

Issues of migrant elasticity, just what the future holds for migrant workers, has yet to be played out but there are books on self-improvement within their Guangzhou dormitories 5-6 people in a room, the flip side of a collegiate way. Yet their dormitory books and dreams of better lives lend validation and meaning to their environments, places of labour. What money is made, often working a 7-day week as Saturday and Sunday there is overtime, is spent on children’s education or saved for health care.

Parents in Asia and Mexico are most likely to be willing to go into debt to fund their child’s university education: 81% in China, 74% in Mexico, 71% in India, and 67% in Hong Kong. Parents in the UK (43%), Australia (44%) and France (46%) are least likely to be willing to incur debt. The principal obligation, it seems, for funding university education resides with parents: 84% of them contributing towards the cost (Foundations for the Future[2])

In Macao, constructive measures are being put in place to help address some of the territory’s social responsibilities, economic inequalities and exigencies of city life. Yet wide disparities of incomes remain. With economic divides come questions of balancing the social mobility equation.

Regardless of its reputation as one of the world’s wealthiest territories, for many of Macau’s 600,000 permanent residents who have witnessed the social realities and cultural consequences of economic vicissitudes, the financial reserves accumulated have yet to translate across-the-board into an improved quality of everyday life, health care, social development and equality of opportunity.

Several of the city’s major infrastructure projects stand in medias res, requiring careful project management if time from construction to completion is to be reduced. This is not to play the denier to so much positive progress, rather to point up that moments of latency are sometimes synonymous with lost opportunity. Poignantly, these could also be defining moments for the city.

In the greater Pearl River Delta, emergent, radically modern cities spring up – seemingly overnight. They share similar degrees of societal angst, affective excess and environmental concern. In this sense next generation leaders – particularly those working on the cusp and hinterlands of some of the world’s largest metropolitan areas – will need to become seismic detectors of social and environmental fault lines, some of the most pressing issues of the day. They will need to address knock-on effects caused by rapidity of social change, bring forward timely, agenda-setting initiatives, be they those of infrastructure and logistics, integrated transport systems, environmental protection and sustainability. World cities – by definition – are those in which everything ties up and functions with some consistency and regularity of service.

Reasoned approaches will be needed for what is in store for future towns, cities and urban conurbations, if large groups of people are to coexist in harmony and shared mutuality. Ian McEwan, in his novel Nutshell, argues that the world has become such a complex place that people are progressively looking for irrationally simplistic solutions to endemic societal challenges. ‘It’s dusk, he says, in the second Age of Reason’. If we do live in an age of unreason, how might collegiate living and learning effect reasoned approaches, untie some of the tangled Gordian knots of urban life and enable livable, breathable and creative cities?

Charles Landry’s The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators[3], has, as inferred, become something of a manual for city-makers. In conversation with Nicholas Keynon[4] recently, Landry, Beijing DeTao Masters Academy, talked of five essentials of city-making starting with anchorage in the past, a sense of tradition, of heritage, and of the familiar.

These, he says, are combined with a sense of possibility, of a willingness in which there are options and choices. He talks of the importance of connection – between neighbours, friends and communities, across the city as a whole, and vital, extensive networks so people are both locally anchored and some familiarity with the world at large.

A fourth essential, he avers, is a sense that people are able to grow and to learn – the essence of all our work in education – that the city can become more than was once thought possible. Fifthly, with an aspirational trajectory in play, he adds a sense of inspiration – something more than is already present. In this sense, ‘inspiration historically might have been the Church’, Landry says. ‘Today it might be a gallery, a museum, or a person. Ideally, the city itself which inspires’. These five essentials might also be appropriated as keys to college development and to collegiate development.

Perhaps it appears to be overvaluing the influence of collegiate living and learning – and that alone providing vital inspiration to the large, amorphous conurbations and communities which surround our campuses. Smart campuses, smart cities, intuitively sounds all too glib. Yet one has only to look to examples where this is patently the case. Cities and collegiate ways of living and learning where the community engages with, takes pride in a quality of shared campus life. These bring not generic gentrification, nor simply detached academic spectators with little impact on the community around them, but the propinquity of research and development locally grounded and communitarian. There is a sense of shared ownership and mutuality forging links across town and gown. They provide a powerful rationale for collaborations seeking to improve the quality of everyday engagement and everyday life in the world about us.

With those in mind, how confident can we be about the formative rôles collegiate life can play with a city’s progress? Of the rôle of colleges and a collegiate approach to university education being valued in business and wider community at large, with city shapers and town planners? What rôle can collegiate life play in enabling urban communities to develop and adapt as conducive, enriched places to live, work and play?

One indication may reside in the experience of Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies at LSE, who has has looked at Medellín, and Bogotá Columbia, and seen how they have responded to challenges of inequality and overcrowding with perceptive and intelligent resourcefulness. They have found new ways of moving people around their cities, new forms of stakeholder engagement with the districts, neighbourhoods and hitherto discrete societies. They have thought through placement of schools, colleges and libraries, sited them where they are most needed, in favelas and barrios. We may cite El Sistema, publicly-financed music education in Venezuela as another example of insightful inventiveness. Perhaps resourcefulness of this order alone is reason enough for feeling positive about the rôle living and learning can play in reconceiving and re-appropriating urban spaces, in developing conducive cities and ways forward[5].

Naturally, it means meeting head on some of the exigencies and compound challenges facing cities today: environmental threats, rampant urban expansion, gridlock congestion, excessive pollution and attendant social issues – long working hours and excessive overtime on which so many family economies throughout the world are predicated. More and more people, it seems, are subsisting in conditions without viable infrastructure.

Whist the correspondence between creative cities and collegiate learning and living may appear somewhat one-dimensional, it is legion in its implications. Colleges, like the best planned cities, bring people together. They are place makers and makers of ritual.

Ancient collegiate universities where worlds of academe, civic and commerce are physically coterminous, stand today, together with newer incarnations – especially those in developing countries – like medieval cities reinvented’[6]. Buildings tightly inserted in narrowed spaces evoke times when city and scholastic guild, were intricately entwined. Civic guilds and academe – universitas, were interdependent.

As essentially dynamic places full of bright young students eager to engage in a world in and outside of the quod, colleges can be liminal yet connective spaces for people to voice their feelings, provide rational structures for constructive intervention, become a locus for rethinking relationships with the built environment, and enable much needed dialogue to occur, democratising power, balancing vying sets of interests, underpinning planning with local and grounded scholarship.

Through shared fora, through actively deploying arts-based practices of dérive and reminiscence[7], story-telling and narrative, together city communities and colleges layer living histories brought into being by the relationships between people and place[8].

Through collegiate discourse the possibility exists of bringing a critical communal dimension to say, architectural purity – leavened by social imperatives, to making coherent and pragmatic choices in terms of urban development, bringing together a city’s ‘collections of communities’, as architect Eric Parry terms them.

Parry underlines the importance of cities as collections of communities, of bringing ‘humanity into the heart of a great social city: a celebration of a poetic art dimension of life and a stimulus: theatre, music, film and galleries – these are the great stimulae. It is the way one can reckon the life of a city, says Parry, part of the mythopoetic dimension to the city which seems, to be absolutely essential to its well-being.

Perhaps living a collegiate way of life itself can assist cities to survive, thrive and adapt to the complexities which have to be faced, imbue spaces with meaning, myth, rite and ritual, in Parry’s words, add perhaps, a poetic art dimension to life, and enable a sense of well being.

To any inferred ellipsis we may, perhaps, supplement Parry’s great stimulae. with the stimulus of libraries, museums, and of colleges enlivened by public-facing intelligent undergrads, and by their engagement with the genius loci.

The history of mankind is in cities, in libraries, galleries, museums, and colleges. From ancient seats of learning, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and St Andrews, to modern-day university towns, for as long as colleges and collegiate universities are located within reach of urban conurbations, the strength, connectivity and relevance of their town and gown, community, civic and business interactions will remain a purposeful benchmark. No more so, perhaps, than in a vibrant, precipitously transforming China.

In facilitating the process of development, two initiatives, Mainland and Macao: ‘One belt, one road’; and ‘one centre, one platform’, may be seen as synergistic. The former, a 21c Silk Road and maritime economic belt focuses on connectivity across Mainland and Eurasia. The latter, looks to sustainable, integrated solutions, and to Macau – within the Pearl River Delta – as a centre of tourism and leisure. Whilst just 4% of Chinese own passports – unrequired for visits to Hong Kong and Macau – the expectation is that Mainland tourist numbers will continue to grow worldwide, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, to increase c.2.5 times to 130m in 2025, from 50m in 2015.

In a year which saw the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, will cities of the future beget bonfires of vanities after taking a wrong turn on the collegiate expressway? Or will cities meet essential challenges not yet sufficiently embraced, look to sustainable, integrated solutions[9] and, enabled by their local collegiate partners, their ways of communal living and engagement with the genius loci, bring forth an urban renaissance? Cities which exude positive energy, light and well-being.

[1] 2.48 billion journeys by road, 332 million by railway, 54.55 million trips by air and 42.8 million by water during this period, according to official 2016 estimates. International Business Times February 2016

[2] A survey of over 6,200 parents in 15 countries. A report in The Value of Education series: Three in five parents would take on debt to fund their children’s education, HSBC June 2016.

[3] Earthscan, ISBN: 978-1-84407-598-0

[4] Cities from the Ashes, aural documentary source presented by Nicholas Kenyon, 4 September 2016, BBC

[5] cf, Literature associated with:

Le CRESSON (Centre de recherche sur l’espace sonore & l’environnement urbain)

[6] Nick Keynon, ibid 2016

[7] Böhme 2013, talks of the ‘theatricalisation’ of everyday life’. The art of the stage set as a paradigm for an aesthetics of atmospheres, Ambiances 315 1-8

[8] Creating ambiances, co-constructing place: a poetic transect across the city, Jones & Jam RGS Area 2016, 317-324

[9] For example, to water, waste management and biodiversity.

Student-Faculty Interaction Matters, But What Matters for Student-Faculty Interaction

Kate Baier, Ed.D. and Kerri Smith, Ed.D.

New York University

The benefits of student-faculty interaction are well documented. A quick Internet search returns results from researchers such as Aston, Chickering, Kuh, Pascarella and Terenzini, and Tinto. They suggest that student-faculty engagement results in increased student satisfaction, improved student perception about the college experience, higher rates of academic persistence, and increased motivation. This is promising, indeed, and one of the reasons that colleges and universities create campus housing structures that formalize faculty involvement.

At New York University, we have 30 faculty members, who we call Faculty Fellows-in-Residence (FFIR), who live with their families in our undergraduate residence halls. The FFIR establish a presence in the building, serve as role models, coordinate events and activities with students and, most generally, establish the faculty as accessible people.

Inspired by an article by Cox and Orhovec (2007), we set out to learn what types of interaction our students are having with our FFIR. The article described an interaction typology that ranges from disengagement to mentoring. We utilized an annual student satisfaction survey and asked students to categorize their interaction with the FFIR in their building using the Cox-Orhevoc descriptions: disengagement, incidental contact, functional interaction, personal interaction, and mentoring.

We were interested in exploring what the faculty members did to create interactions with students. So, we also asked students to describe a memorable interaction with a residential faculty member and asked what the faculty member did to foster those interactions.

When prompted to describe a memorable interaction, students were most likely to recount an interesting event or program, share an interaction they had with the faculty member’s pet or child, describe elevator niceties or other superficial conversation, or talk about the specific food at a program.

It was evident from the students’ responses that the affect of the faculty member is very important. When asked what the faculty member did to foster interactions, the students mostly described behaviors related to friendliness — the faculty member had a warm disposition, the faculty member initiated conversation in the elevator, hallways or lobby, or the faculty member was simply present in student spaces in the residence hall.

During the last round of identifying new Faculty Fellows-in-Residence, we jokingly suggested that we would appoint the new faculty members and then give them a puppy when they moved into the apartment. But, pets and kids aside, we can draw other practical strategies from the data. First, students frequently note that an interesting event or program created an opportunity for interaction. The student-friendly events the faculty members sponsor create opportunities for casual or more personal conversation. Simply being friendly, saying hello and especially initiating conversation, is important to students. Faculty members can also be present in student spaces. This not only creates an opportunity for interaction with the student, it also establishes the faculty member as part of the residence hall community. Faculty presence in student spaces creates more opportunity for engagement, and is a strategy that could be utilize regardless of whether or not a faculty members lives in the space.

We were surprised at the relationship between student-faculty interaction and other areas of student satisfaction. The group of students who indicated any level of interaction with faculty, ranging from incidental contact to a deeper mentoring relationship, reported higher overall satisfaction with their residence hall experience.

Cox and Orhovec wrote, “Our study suggests that virtually every type of interaction between faculty members and student can have positive effects” (p 359). Our findings support this, in ways that were even surprising to us. And, the behaviors students noticed from their faculty in residence are simple — be a friendly presence in the building. It seems good things flow from that.

Cox, B. E., & Orehovec, E. (2007). Faculty-student interaction outside the classroom: A typology from a residential college. The Review of Higher Education, 30(4), 343-362.


Visits to four collegiate universities

Professor Martyn Evans

Principal, Trevelyan College, Durham University


Last September I briefly visited four collegiate universities, in Singapore (both National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS), New Zealand (University of Otago) and Macau (University of Macau), in each case staying in residential colleges.

The visits arose like this. During 2014 I was invited by University of Otago to serve on a panel reviewing Te Rangi Hiroa College, its newest college. The review was scheduled for September 2015.

However, back in November 2014 we held the inaugural Collegiate Conference in Durham, at which all four of these universities were represented. General invitations abounded among the delegates to visit one another’s colleges when opportunities arose. The planned visit to Otago meant that travel plans could easily incorporate Singapore and Macau, since both Singapore and Hong Kong are used as refuelling stops for major airlines flying between New Zealand and the UK.

Tembusu College, National University of Singapore, 4th-6th September 2015

Late in the institution’s maturity, residential colleges arrived in the National University of Singapore (NUS) two-by-two: Tembusu was one of the first pair along with neighbouring Cinnamon College (established five years ago), and two later colleges bring the current total to four. The tembusu is a deciduous tree native to SE Asia, and the original choice of having native trees as names for the new colleges perhaps reflects aspirant notions of stability, authenticity, belonging, a sense of place, literally-organic growth and flourishing; altogether fittingly, a stately tembusu tree is to be found a few metres away from the college.

In a country with an exuberant economy but well under a thousand square kilometres of land area, land prices are simply astronomical: cost-effective new building obviously has to be vertical, and Tembusu consists of a 21-storey accommodation tower, a dining hall shared with Cinnamon College, a basement complex supporting offices, recreational, social and seminar spaces, and an adjoining two-storey teaching block.

Itself a part of ‘U-Town’ (a largely-collegiate expansion of NUS built on an old golf course donated to the University), Tembusu’s tower overlooks a central green oval around which are grouped the colleges, other student residence halls, Faculty teaching buildings, shared common services, a sports hall and abundant retail student ‘eateries’ in food-court style.

The green spaces, thoroughfares and decked footways are fringed everywhere with tropical trees and shrubs (and are constantly hand-swept of fallen leaves by maintenance staff), amid rectilinear water features and canopies. The impression is of a large, integrated plan that has been undertaken unswervingly – but with the game-changing benefit of real investment in the sort of quality design (one that is not shy of graceful sweeping curved structures) and the sort of top-class construction, finishes and material appointment that come from serious capital investment and a determination to see the vision through. Let me add here that I assume that U-Town’s conception and construction will have at some point coincided with NUS’s centenary; banners everywhere announce that it’s presently in its 110th year.

Tembusu’s student members are all resident, and all are on a fully-catered package – the tower shares its very large and airy dining hall and servery with neighbouring Cinnamon College, to whose own tower Tembusu is thereby physically attached. As with the other three colleges, for the first two years of studies residence is automatic for student members (since those who leave residence leave college membership as well), and options exist for third- and fourth-year students to return as seniors after ‘graduating’ from the College at the end of second year. To be a student at NUS does not entail being a member of a college, but for those students who are, their degree studies include college-specific programmes as a component of a larger Faculty-based complete degree. This component – the ‘University Town College Programme’ (UTCP) – combines a range of topic-based seminars taught by resident College Fellows (recruited for their subject expertise as well as for their collegiate aspirations) with a communications and critical skills course delivered in association with the campus’s English language centre. It is from this UTC Programme that Tembusu – like the other U-Town colleges – ‘graduates’ its second-year students.

Professor Greg Clancey, a historian specialising in science and technology studies, is the founding Master of Tembusu and was handpicked for the role (he was also a delegate at Collegiate Way 2014 and co-presented there an overview of the U-Town campus). Greg developed the Tembusu vision of opportunity amid self-discovery in community, in concert with the assembled team of Fellows and a group of existing U-Town students who volunteered to think through ‘the collegiate way’ as it might emerge at NUS – many of these students then going on to become actual foundation student members of the resultant college. In the college’s second year of operation, applications exceeded available places and the college’s sustained life had begun.

Tembusu is divided into ‘Houses’ each spanning three floors of the college’s tower under the supervision of a resident College Fellow, sharing in both pastoral and teaching responsibilities under the UTCP programme. The programme is delivered to mixed-discipline groups drawn from various Houses – the intention being to place each student into as many different groupings as are practicable, presenting correspondingly many opportunities for personal development and discovery.

Straddling all of the College’s subdivisions both physical and scholarly are the many concerns and shared interests of ‘tribal’ student life – societies, clubs, sports teams and so forth – and these are the customarily self-organised affairs that might be found in any collegiate setting. Greg would understandably would like to have additional distinct social spaces for these groups, noting how much each would like to customise a dedicated social space. In reality, a music room, a fitness suite and a really rather dauntingly-civilised lounge are the spaces available for students to colonise; in the two teaching ‘lobes’ (one of which is in the separate small building, the other in the basement of the tower) multi-purpose rooms are faculty-orientated.

The Master’s accommodation is a flat on the second floor of the tower, on which floor can also be found a Fellow’s flat, a very comfortable Visitor’s flat (in which I stayed), a splendid lounge known as the Master’s Common Room, and elegant garden constructions similar to rooftop gardens with abundant tropical foliage and an impressively well-stocked water feature in which students run experiments in ecology.

Complications in the travel arrangements meant that my stay was effectively confined to a short weekend and sadly I was not able to observe or engage in substantive College events with students, either academic or cultural. Notwithstanding, Greg gave me a very generous amount of his own time in valuable and enjoyable personal conversations chiefly comparing our collegiate systems, and introducing me to some of the resident Fellows and other academics.

In the course of this very brief visit I also renewed my acquaintance with Professor Tan Tai Yong who, in his earlier role as Vice-Provost (Student Life) had steered the development of U-Town and the collegiate system and had brought Greg to the role of Master. Tai Yong has since transferred to a new position of Vice-Rector in the Yale-NUS development within the NUS campus – effectively one collegiate university within the precincts of another – and on the second morning of my visit I toured Yale-NUS with him, as I shall now describe.

Yale-NUS, morning of 6th September 2015

This new liberal arts college represents a commingling of part of NUS with what is ordinarily a competitor institution, Yale University, of North America’s Ivy League! Like other premium universities (predominantly in the States), Yale lures away some of Singapore’s brightest and best young minds for a similarly-premium quality liberal university education; although many return to Singapore, many others do not. Singapore’s answer? – to bring the process back home. Thus Yale was invited to establish a joint venture, and manifestly not a franchise or a subordinate satellite, in NUS to deliver a joint programme satisfying the standards of both universities and the aspirations of the city-state. After what one imagines to have been a suitably-coy courtship, the deal was sealed: Yale-NUS would teach degree programmes that both universities could legitimately validate, and on Singaporean soil – indeed, as it turns out, part of the very tranche of land made available to the U-Town development.

Thus Yale-NUS was born, assuming the local phenotype of twinned-tower-block developments for each of its three component colleges, planted together in an organic ground-plan and embracing also some modestly-proportioned administrative and executive blocks that successfully echo the colonial style of the whole, complete with echoes of New England clapboard fascias. The effect of the whole, in luxuriantly-planted landscaping and grounds, is, frankly, lovely.

The project is materially more or less complete; but as an institution it is still somewhat under construction; faculty are still be recruited, and half of the intended student body are now  in residence, pursuing a curriculum that is coming on stream as students progress in their degree programs. The overall impression, nonetheless, is of no expense being spared – either materially or in the calibre of appointments. I was slightly surprised that the wonderfully-conceived space given over to the Library was not more heavily stocked with books; e-resources are presumably an increasing emphasis. Cultural spaces were quite stunning, including a truly superb art studio. The senior common rooms and in particular the airy dining rooms, with their opulent mahogany panelling and cornicing on the ceilings, were simply splendid and, one imagines, somewhat redolent of originals to be found at Yale itself.

Student accommodation is again essentially a matter of tower blocks with, on each floor, a number of six-bedroom cluster flats with shared bathrooms, kitchenettes and lounges. These are of a very high standard – in all senses: I was a little taken aback by the waist-level railings on shared external balconies twenty-something floors up, which clearly rely on students’ sensible and temperate conduct at all times!

Owing both to time constraints and to the still-nascent stage of development, this lightning-quick visit was essentially a tour of buildings and grounds – but one that built up into a picture of an ambitious project of great vision and the resources needed to realise it, with the collegiate ethos at its heart.

Arana College and Te Rangi Hiroa College, University of Otago, New Zealand, 7th-15th September 2015

The core of this visit was the University’s Review of its newest college, Te Rangi Hiroa College (opened 2013), for which a panel was convened in the period 9th-11th September; I was the appointed external member. Either side of that period I was occupied with engagements in the Otago Bioethics Centre (at which I am a visiting professor) including two seminars and a public lecture in relation to my work on wonder, music and embodiment; and occupied also with renewing contacts with colleagues both there and in the Department of Music. During the period as a whole I stayed in Arana College, renewing cordial collegial relations with staff there under the leadership of Warden Jamie Gilbertson; Arana has an informal ‘twinning’ arrangement with Trevelyan, arrangements that we plan to intensify (the visit included discussions to that end). Jamie, along with Dr Charles Tustin (Warden of Abbey College) and James Lindsay, Director of Accommodation for the University of Otago, formed the Otago delegation to the Collegiate Way 2014 conference in Durham.

The review’s Report is a confidential document and I will not here include any details that would prejudice that confidentiality. Like all the Otago colleges, Te Rangi Hiroa provides membership only to residents; their membership ceases when they move out of college. Te Rangi Hiroa’s advent increases the number of Otago students who can be offered college accommodation, which it provides to a very high standard in a location that is closer to the city’s CBD than it is to the rest of the University. This drawback is mitigated both by the enormously skilled and experienced leadership, and by a number of practical arrangements with its nearest-neighbouring colleges with whom it shares some facilities and operations, including some co-run tutorial and other academic ventures.

As might any college in its formative years, Te Rangi Hiroa is in the business of defining its identity, which may well include greater and more visible emphasis on aspects of Māori heritage that were influential in its founding and naming (Te Rangi Hiroa himself was more widely known as the eminent anthropologist Sir Peter Buck, of Irish and Māori descent, and the first Māori graduate of Otago’s medical school precisely a century ago). The college also faces a slightly paradoxical challenge, and certainly an illuminating one: the very virtues of its spacious en-suite rooms, arranged as they are around the structure of the hotel that was the building’s former incarnation, make it tempting for residents to remain in comfortable isolation rather than engage in collegiate activities! This challenge, and the stratagems that the College must develop to overcome it, may well turn out to be helpfully instructive to the further development of the collegiate system in the Otago colleges as a whole. One aspect of this is particularly interesting from a Durham perspective. The University of Otago is, I think, now actively considering a possible role for college bars as social spaces in which students’ relationship with alcohol can be managed in safe environments much as we arrange things in Durham, rather than – as presently in Dunedin – eschewing this and ‘devolving’ student drinking onto the abundant clubs and pubs in town.

This was the second time I’ve been involved as an external member of a review panel concerned with collegiate matters in Otago. Notwithstanding the confidentiality of the details of the review, I would record that on both occasions the conduct, openness, thoroughness, maturity, insightfulness and sheer collegiality of the review process was exemplary – a compelling model to others for how reviews can be thoroughly constructive and even uplifting experiences for reviewees and reviewers alike, and an enduring credit to the University of Otago.

In between whiles I had the opportunity to experience something of college life at Arana, where I was accommodated throughout. Arana is one of the most established of the colleges though not the oldest. It is fully-catered, has a very strong identity that is fiercely defended in the sporting arena, and deservedly enjoys a reputation for scholarly endeavour and success: its subject-specific tutorial system stands out alongside that of neighbouring St Margaret’s College as perhaps the best-developed to be found in the Otago colleges.

College leadership is in the hands of the hugely experienced full-time Warden, a Deputy Warden, and a team of Assistant Wardens who are in fact senior students. The Residential Assistant system of senior students is widespread in Otago, and makes use of the relatively low number of returning students to be found in most of the colleges; Arana has proportionately more returners than average.

Other than my conversations with Jamie, most of my time at Arana was divided between my Edwardian-style Fellow’s flat – rather noisily-located above the College’s north entrance – and, more abundantly, the dining room where at virtually every mealtime that I spent there I was able to join the Warden with a reliably-large number of Assistant Wardens who collectively make use of the opportunity to exchange news, gossip, plans, sporting results, even the occasional welfare concern (in suitably generalised terms). Arana’s mid-sized dining room is a very welcoming, bustling place – and a very democratised incarnation of ‘the fellowship of the table.’

In Jamie and his team, the College has a Warden and leadership who are highly engaged with the students, seeming to know a bewilderingly large number of them not only by name but by interest, attainment, background and potential. I could only envy (indeed marvel at) the degree of involvement that is possible for a full-time head of college.

This is not the place to report in any detail the somewhat off-piste nature of my limited free time at Arana, beyond exulting in the privilege of a magnificent twenty-four hour trip at the weekend to the temperate rainforest abutting the south-western coast of the South Island, in the incomparable company of Warden Gilbertson and Director of Accommodation James Lindsay. Having received from them the instruction that ‘What happens on tour stays on tour,’ I propose to follow it to the letter…

Moon Chun Memorial College, University of Macau, 15th-17th September 2015

The final stop on this somewhat breathless tour was the University of Macau, the principal university of Macau itself. Macau was formerly a Portuguese enclave and since 1999 has been a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These details are important; while from its founding in 1988 the University originally occupied a site in the historical Portuguese district of Macau, in 2009 it began a wholesale physical transplantation to a new campus on Hengqin Island, Guangdong, in what is unambiguously Chinese territory. The PRC gave a square kilometre of this island to the University and allowed the Macau administration to hold jurisdiction over the campus – to put it perhaps fancifully, the University is a kind of academic ‘state within a state,’ surrounded on one side by the deep-water Pearl River estuary and on the other three by what is in effect an international frontier, albeit one that marks a somewhat-permeable boundary between what are ‘two systems within one country.’ The Campus is accessible only by a tunnel under the sea from Macau itself; staff, students and the residents of the islands of Macau, Taipa and Coloane can come and go freely by this means, but may not enter into China across the campus’s perimeter (the accoutrements of this border include a concrete wall and, where one end of the wall meets the sea, a command post).

If this sounds a little disconcerting, on arrival one’s reservations are dispelled at a glance by the scale and sheer bravura of the development, reflecting the literally billions of dollars’ investment that have been poured into the campus in material terms alone; one can only imagine the recurrent costs. It is a staggering, indeed grandiose, accomplishment incorporating eight brand-new high-rise colleges (including two already-extant colleges that made the transition from the old campus) as well as spectacular academic and administrative buildings and facilities, a concert hall, library, sports stadium and so forth, all in varying degrees of opulence and set in a comprehensive tapestry of planned grounds, courtyards and interconnecting roads. Ancillary staff are everywhere – loading, driving, sweeping, portering, guiding, directing, scrutinising, mending, painting, digging, weeding and doubtless much else. Students and more particularly academic staff are a little less conspicuous outdoors: the heat and hammer-blow humidity discourage walking between anything other than adjacent doorways. Virtually every journey I made among buildings none of which could have been more than a few hundred metres apart was by car or minibus, with a driver specifically detached to collect and deposit me. (My first engagement got off to a literally shaky start in my own case; I foolishly declined the offer of a car, took the half-kilometre walk to the main auditorium under the noon sun, and arrived feeling dismally faint.)

Although my actual overnight accommodation was in the separate Postgraduate Residence, my hosts in every other sense were Moon Chun Memorial College (MCMC), one of the first to be added to the University in its new campus home. MCMC’s Master is an eminent one: Professor Kit Thompson was formerly founding Director of the Birmingham Conservatoire and more recently Director of the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. As I was to learn, the new college Masters have been appointed from conspicuously prestigious backgrounds, all being formerly Vice-Chancellors or their very close equivalents – another illustration of the unswerving Macau ambition and commitment to succeed. Accordingly, MCMC’s conception and establishment runs in parallel with those of the other new colleges: Macau is simultaneously creating the collegiate student experience in up to eight incarnations. Initially this struck me as daunting to the point of impossibility, but further reflection suggested that the approach has its advantages – the colleges themselves constitute, after all, a kind of collective ‘learning cohort’ encouraging, instructing, and spurring one another onward through the challenges of their shared early years. One official forum for this sharing of practice and ideas is the Council of Masters; it is creatively underpinned of course by the regular spontaneous exchanges between Faculty and students of so many colleges in such physical proximity.

Kit led the Macau delegation to Collegiate Way 2014 (and I was delighted to meet again their other two members, Andy Ip and Kenneth Leung, during the visit). Kit and his wife, music educationalist Dr Patricia Thompson, exemplified Moon Chun Memorial College’s particular form of commitment to the collegiate way, combining warmth, energy, generosity, courtesy, imagination and sheer style in abundance, dispensed unstintingly to the benefit of students, faculty and visitors alike: they treated me royally, and their graciousness is clearly contagious and habit-forming, for the same graciousness was evident among the college as a whole. My abiding impression of the students was that of happy, polite and good-natured enthusiasm and dedication to a shared adventure. Courtesy might sometimes gently echo conformity, of course: for instance, alcohol was conspicuous by its absence, whereas in most other respects the visible and ceremonial trappings of colleges are inevitably those of the western traditional mould; the gowned Formals that I attended in two colleges were deferential to a fault, though at the same time strongly affirmative of community loyalties, and they showcased students’ really superb musical talents. The University is taking early steps in an important transition, and perhaps at this stage it’s crucial that the colleges’ student members ‘take on trust’ both the still-novel destination of the collegiate way, and the presumed reliability of the perhaps unfamiliar signposts along that way.

Of course the signposts and the scenery and in a way even the conception of the road itself varies with collegiate systems. Macau’s is distinct from the Oxbridge-style federal system, and distinct also from Durham’s, since the Macanese colleges engage in some academic teaching within a degree system that – somewhat like NUS’s – formally includes a curriculum element tied to collegiate life and to community and ‘peer education,’ an intriguing initiative whose development will be fascinating to follow. Appropriately, the different colleges pursue the University’s collegiate mission in their own styles. At Moon Chun, one clear pointer to the future is the high degree of town-and-gown engagement (Kit is enviably well-placed to facilitate such engagement with both cultural and business partners of national and international prominence); another is the stream of international visitors from Fulbright Scholars to notable authors, from Oxbridge College Masters to musicians from the Royal College of Music.

As a modestly-informed visitor myself with a desire both to observe and, in a small way participate, I was kept delightfully busy – my itinerary being continually added to both before and during the period of the stay! I cannot adequately convey the warmth and generosity of my reception, and of the interest shown in the Durham model. I had four public engagements and one formal private meeting, in addition to abundant informal conversations, all of them coordinated (I should really say ‘orchestrated’!) through Kit and his sterling team.

The first and largest event was an on-stage conversation with Kit, in front of a capacity audience of staff and Faculty from across the colleges and the University in a dismayingly large auditorium; the subject was collegiate learning in a social context, and the backdrop was the tongue-in-cheek question of how closely Hogwarts approaches a Durham college! The students’ intense interest, humbling in itself, was matched by their penetrating questions in an absorbing discussion session.

Subsequently I gave after-dinner speeches at Formals in MCMC and neighbouring Stanley Ho East Asia College on consecutive nights, and found myself the ‘castaway’ in a Desert-Island-Discs style event for students from the General Education (Music) class, with the ‘Kirsty Young’ role played to perfection by Dr Patricia Thompson. In addition I had a very encouraging discussion with Prof. Haydn Chen, the University’s Vice-Rector for Student Affairs, on the challenges of the collegiate style of university life and administration (including the challenge of devising formal assessments of the community and ‘peer education’ component of the Macau degrees). Prof. Chen was also a High Table guest at the MCMC Formal, part of an illustrious company that included other College Masters, the Chair of the University’s Council, and the Chair of the British Business Association of Macau – Durham alumnus Henry Brockman, sometime of Castle (University College)!

Informal engagements included an all-too-brief reunion with Prof. Kenneth Leung, Master of Shiu Pong College, and a lively question-and-answer session with students from Chao Kuang Piu College, whose Master, Prof. Lui Chuang Sheng (a world-renowned plasma physicist) delightedly revealed that he had just discovered that the ‘father’ of Chinese aviation was in fact a Durham Alumnus – Wong Tsu, who graduated BSc (Dunelm) in 1914, from what was then Armstrong College Durham.

Concluding remarks

It’s obviously impossible in a short summary report to do justice to even a fraction of the impressions, excitements, anxieties(!), courtesies and kindnesses encountered in a trip of this nature, let alone the warm esteem in which I hold the very, very, many collegiate friends and colleagues in the universities visited. It was uplifting and heartening to see the energy, commitment and enthusiasm being poured into the evolution of new colleges and new or rejuvenating college systems in those universities. I’m grateful for having had that opportunity, and returning home to my own college I find myself in the position of one who, as it were, feel moved to re-affirm his vows.

H M Evans

Trevelyan College

November 2015

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